Practicing gratitude is more than simply being grateful for what you have. Gratitude involves maintaining a deep appreciation for the things in your life, even when it may be challenging to do so. Gratitude is beneficial for your mental health and learning how to put it into practice can go a long way.
What Is a Gratitude Practice?
Gratitude practice utilizes exercises to connect people with positive emotions that help them focus on acknowledging the good things they experience in life. It involves appreciating every win, no matter how small. These daily practices take observation to a new level by encouraging someone to hone in one positive emotions and actions.
One way to begin practicing gratitude is by noticing the kindness of others. It takes more intention to recognize this in our daily lives, especially in a fast-paced culture. However, doing so can improve your mood drastically. You can also get started by bringing attention to any aches and pains you might have. Taking time to do a mental body scan can help you understand where these originate and find ways to mitigate them. Sometimes, we all need to take a minute to slow down and recognize our feelings.1
Benefits of Gratitude Practice
Practicing gratitude can do wonders for a person mentally, physically and spiritually. It can help increase mindfulness, encourage healthy stress management skills, and improve our relationships with loved ones. When you make efforts to appreciate the little things, life can seem brighter, more hopeful, and exciting.
Additional benefits of practicing gratitude may include:2
- Improved physical and mental health
- Lower aggression
- Improved sleep
- Increased confidence
- Increased happiness
- Improved relationships
- More resilience
- Healthier relationships
- Reduced stress
23 Gratitude Exercises to Try
There are a number of exercises you can practice that each target a unique way of developing a gratitude practice. Utilizing these methods can help equip you with the tools necessary to better understand yourself and start improving your outlook on life.
The following is a list of 23 gratitude activities to try:
1. Make a List
Start tracking everything you’re thankful for. Writing down and appreciating all of the wins in your life can help put things into a better perspective. Sometimes, when we get caught up in the bustle of our everyday routines, we fail to recognize the positive events or interactions we encounter. Creating a physical list of these can help you visualize the tiny blessings that make you smile.
2. Thank Your Loved Ones
We may not always acknowledge our friends and family for the ways in which they show us love. Making an effort to extend kindness and affection can vastly improve both their day and yours.
3. Reframe Your Thoughts
There are ways to rewire your thoughts–often referred to as cognitive restructuring– that teach you to look at information from a different lens. Allowing yourself to revisit a negative situation and weave out the positives from it can be both productive and cathartic.
4. Appreciate Your Community
Showing strangers that they’re valued not only brightens their days, but makes you feel better, too. It’s important to consider the people that you encounter in passing and recognize the impact they have on your life. Community and service workers do so much for us. Bus drivers, grocery store clerks, waiters, and baristas spend their days making sure that ours go smoothly.
5. Give Thanks Before Meals
Thanking whomever you believe in, whether that be the universe, spiritual guides, or even yourself for a meal can shift your focus. Sometimes, we can forget how important food is to our bodies, cultures, and traditions. Having the ability to buy groceries and cook a meal that we enjoy is a gift we should cherish.
6. Savor Your Morning Routine
Take time to appreciate your morning cup of coffee, tea, or whatever beverage you choose to start your morning with, reciting positive affirmations with each sip. Similar to giving thanks before a meal, being grateful for your daily cup of Joe and the time you have to savor it is powerful. For some of us, the first few minutes after we wake up is the only time we have to sit down and think. If you begin your day with a positive outlook of life, you’ll reap the benefits throughout the morning, afternoon, and evening.
7. Focus on Self-Reflection
Recognize what you may take for granted; take inventory of the things you have; and reminisce on the past with affection, not longing. Learning to practice gratitude requires some heavy self-reflection in order to control your focus on what positives you have in your life currently and not what you’re missing or want.
8. Journal with Intention
Gratitude journaling is a wonderful way to take stock of the positives in your life. Writing down something different each day that you’re thankful for can help you see the highlights of each moment. Try buying a journal with prompts if you struggle with finding where to start.
9. Take a Walk
Spending time in nature connects us with the environment and stimulates our senses. Being outside allows us to see, smell, hear, and touch in ways that aren’t possible when indoors. Nature encourages us to slow down and take in the moment.
10. Create Gratitude Rituals
Establish a specific time to set aside for gratitude to help hold yourself accountable for maintaining an appreciative attitude. We all have our various skincare, bedtime, and exercise routines. However, many of us haven’t considered introducing gratitude into all of our other important daily rituals.
11. Identify a Gratitude Object
If you have certain objects with sentimental value, they can be strategically used to help bring you joy throughout your day. Placing them in spaces that you frequent can be a reminder to slow down and be grateful.
12. Spend Time With Those Less Fortunate
Research shows that getting involved in volunteer opportunities can help improve someone’s mood. While volunteering isn’t supposed to be self-serving, the undeniable benefits should still be considered.
13. Create a Thankful Tree
A thankful tree can be a visual and artistic expression of the things you are grateful for and the ways in which they impact your life. Start by drawing the trunk of your tree with branches extending from it; you can add as little or as many as you’d like. Cut out leaves from a piece of paper and write things or people that you’re thankful for on them. Add these to your branches with tape or glue and take a step back to appreciate everything you’ve included. What’s fun about this activity is that you can always add more as you go.
14. Read Inspiring Testimonies
Reading memoirs and stories about people who have gone through adversity can be inspiring and encouraging. Acknowledging the many blessings you have that others may not can be both humbling and uplifting.
15. Involve Your Family and Friends
Creating new rituals and habits with loved ones is a great way to improve your relationships. It’s healthy and fun to create traditions that allow you to relate to one another and practice kindness, acceptance, and understanding. Try hosting a dinner party where the evening begins with guests sharing what they’re thankful for. Or, set up a picnic at the park and make sandwiches with your friends.
16. Engage in Mindful Meditation
Mindful meditation is a great way to relax and focus on the present. When you are able to do this, practicing gratitude becomes much easier, as you learn to pinpoint and get rid of negative thoughts.
17. Try Yoga
Yoga can work wonders in a number of ways. Different poses can elicit types of awareness and encourage you to savor the present. Acknowledging your body’s strengths and appreciating your surroundings are both great ways to practice gratitude.
18. Create a Gratitude Jar
Gratitude jars work similarly to a piggy bank or coin box. Start by writing down things you’re thankful for and placing them individually inside of your container. When you’re feeling down or in need of motivation, you can pull one out to revisit. It can be a powerful reminder of how blessed you are.
19. Count Flower Petals
One way to practice gratitude is to pick a flower and count its petals. For each petal, think of a person, object, or gift you’re thankful for. Not only can you appreciate the beauty of the flower, but also the gifts you’ve associated it with.
20. Write a Letter
Writing letters to people you may not know, but appreciate–soldiers overseas, medical workers, authoritative figures– is a simple way to show gratitude for others. You can brighten someone else’s day and bring a smile to both yours and their face.
21. Express Gratitude Through Art
Using arts and crafts to express gratitude for what you have or what you’ve accomplished can be a healing experience. Having the ability to be creative and articulate your thoughts in tangible ways can calm your mind and encourage positivity.
22. Track Daily Positive Actions
Taking time every day before bed to write down all of the positive actions you engaged in beforehand can show you the highlights of personal interactions, work related victories, or new experiences. Even if you’re having a bad day, making note of events that encouraged you can leave you feeling more grateful and content.
23. Practice Guided Meditations
Like mindful meditations, guided meditations help alleviate the stress and structure of our everyday lives. As the guides tell you what to think and do, you can work on tuning out the thoughts that are impacting you in a negative way. Additionally, this practice can help you recognize how important your body and health are.
How to Practice Gratitude Daily
Pursuing a lifestyle change can be intimidating. You may not know where to start, but making small changes are a step in a positive direction. Introducing an entirely new way of thinking takes time and you shouldn’t expect perfection right away. Allow yourself time to truly understand which methods of practicing gratitude work well for you and your life. Also, trying out apps to assist you on your journey can help provide a way to ease into a new routine. In addition, you can find plenty of online communities with like-minded individuals who are setting similar goals as you.
Practicing gratitude is great for improving your overall mental health. It can be a difficult exercise to embrace at first, but you’re not alone. Gratitude rituals can be as small as flashing a smile to a stranger on the street; or as big as throwing a surprise birthday party for a loved one. No matter how you choose to introduce gratitude in your life, you’re bound to reap the benefits of increased positivity and kindness.