10 Simple Ideas for Starting a Gratitude Practice

By UB therapist Laura Kelly, LPC

Have you thought about incorporating gratitude into your life, but aren’t sure how to start? Or, have you heard about gratitude, but aren’t sure how it could benefit you?

Practicing gratitude has been shown to decrease stress, increase optimism, and improve physical and mental well-being.

Here are some simple gratitude exercises. Pick one or two to try each day, and by the end of a week you will have created your very own gratitude practice!

  1. Start with Yourself:

Think of something that you appreciate about yourself! In other words, give yourself a compliment. Be specific and positive (no criticism disguised as a compliment here). Here are some examples to get you started:

  •             I am grateful for my strong body that allows me to play sports.
  •             I am thankful that I am patient with my family.
  •             I am grateful for my organizational skills.
  1. Make Someone’s Day:

Think of a way to thank or express appreciation to someone who you don’t know well. This could be a barista, cashier at a store, or someone at work. Remember, it will be more impactful for them and you if you are specific and genuine.

This exercise will help you notice the little (or big) things that others do to make the world a better place. In today’s social and political climate it is easy to get caught up in negativity. Expressing gratitude helps us remember that in general, people are good!

  1. Share a Compliment:

Thank or compliment someone in your inner circle. That could be a partner, child, good friend, or other family member.

It’s often easy to grumble and complain about the people closest to us. Let’s be honest, partners, kids, and other family members know how to push our buttons! By expressing what we appreciate about them we can shift from a negative mindset to one of gratitude.

For this exercise try to make your expression of gratitude authentic and specific. “You’re a great dad” sounds rote. What specifically did the person do that you appreciate, or what is it about them and their character that you are grateful for?

  1. Avoid Gossip:

This exercise is simple, yet can be difficult to implement. For one entire day, try to avoid gossip and criticism (of yourself and others). By avoiding gossip and criticism you will be forced to focus your attention and your words on the positive things in your day. This will help build your appreciation for the things that are going well in your life.

  1. Gratitude Reminders:

Think of a way to remind yourself to practice gratitude throughout the day. Some ideas include: put a sticky note on your mirror or fridge, wear a rubber band on your wrist, or carry a small stone or other item in your pocket. You can also use technology to remind you: schedule an alarm on your phone, or change your computer or phone wallpaper to include a reminder such as “take a moment for gratitude.”

  1. Gratitude Prompts:

Prompts are a great way to start, expand, or reinvigorate your gratitude practice. You can use colors, your senses, or other categories such as things in your home. It’s great way to challenge yourself to think outside of the box.

For example, on the 4th of July you may decide to use the following prompts:

  • I am grateful for these three red things:
  • I am grateful for these three white things:
  • I am grateful for these three blue things:
  1. Take a Gratitude Walk:

The speed, duration, and location of the walk are all up to you. As you walk, really focus on your surroundings and identify things you are grateful for. It may be animals, buildings, flowers, or anything you see.

You may choose to express your gratitude by thinking or saying “thank you for….” or “I am grateful for….” the things you are seeing. If you are spiritual you can address your thanks to the Universe, God, or your higher power.

  1. Start a Gratitude Alphabet:

List letters A-Z and try to find one person/place/thing you are grateful for to go with each letter.

You don’t have to do it all in one sitting. In fact, it can be fun to start the alphabet, then revisit it from time to time and fill in more letters.

This would be a great exercise to try with your partner, kids, or with a group of friends.

  1. Challenging Times:

It can be difficult to feel grateful during difficult times. However, it is especially important to find ways to be grateful when you don’t feel like doing so. Whether it be a minor annoyance or something more major, being able to practice gratitude will help you get through these situations and will build your resilience.

Think of a challenging situation you are dealing with or have experienced in the past. While still honoring your other feelings about the situation, try to identify one thing in that situation that you are grateful for.

  1. Keep it Going:

Now that you’ve learned and practiced several gratitude exercises, you can begin incorporating a daily gratitude habit. Some people like to keep a gratitude journal to record what they are grateful for.

Another idea is to make a “gratitude jar.” Every day, write down one thing you are grateful for on a slip of paper, and add it to the jar. From time to time, such as at the end of the year, or during a difficult time, open the jar and read through the slips of paper. Doing this is sure to leave you feeling less stressed, less anxious, and better able to appreciate the good things in your life.




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