Professor of the Practice of Law University of Denver Sturm College of Law


Gratitude, Apr. 16, 2020

Research that surveyed over 24,000 attorneys from all 50 states, examining the characteristics that make a new lawyer effective, found that optimism was one of the important qualities of success.  Lawyers utilize critical thinking and worst-case scenarios to identify and solve problems for clients.  These pessimistic processes can be ameliorated by practices that enhance optimism.  One of the most powerful ways to cultivate optimism is with a gratitude practice, such as these:

  • Gratitude Journal: List three things you are grateful for each day or all the people you count on for help, mentoring, or support;
  • Gratitude Reflection: Simply reflect on what you are grateful for, what is going well, or what opportunities you enjoy;
  • Small Slices of Joy: Notice the little things that delight you; and
  • Anticipate Joy: Early in the day, ask yourself, “How can I enjoy today?” or “What can I enjoy today?”

It may be the perfect time to launch a gratitude practice.  Recent research by a neuromarketing company revealed what messaging is engaging people during the pandemic crisis.  Participants in the study connected most with messages of hope and encouragement. 

In more than 100 studies, research shows that people with a gratitude practice feel more alert, energetic, enthusiastic, and optimistic; sleep better; have lower blood pressure; and live an average of 7 to 9 years longer than people without a gratitude practice.  And optimism may be the superpower of the super-agers (older people who are vigorous and dynamic, with high cognitive function), allowing them to be resilient and thrive.  These positive individuals may be especially effective at counteracting the damage of toxic stress, which can slow the aging process.  To age well, researchers suggest exercise and meditation, as well as embracing aging with a positive attitude and limiting negativity.

Takeaway: Cultivate optimism with a gratitude practice.  Put a post-it note on your bathroom mirror or the edge of your computer screen to remind you to take a few minutes each day to build positivity skills.


Alli Gerkman and Logan Cornett, Foundations for Practice: The Whole Lawyer and the Character Quotient at 16 (listed in the report as Positivity), IAALS, July 26, 2016,

Debra S. Austin, Windmills of Your Mind: Understanding the Neurobiology of Emotion, 54 Wake Forest L. Rev. 931, 969 (2019)

Brain Scientific, Neuroscience Study Finds Consumers Engage Most with “Hopeful” & Encouraging Messaging about COVID-19, Apr. 9, 2020,

Mary Pipher, Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as we Age, 202 (the practice of anticipating joy) (2019),

Adam Piore, The Mysteries of the Super-Ager Revealed, Neuroscience News, Jan. 4, 2019,

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