2020 has been a difficult year. There are so many things wrong in our society at this moment that need fixing. But if we want to keep up the energy and motivation to do that important work long-term, we also have to make space for the things in our lives that are wonderful. We have to choose to form a gratitude practice.
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is a conscious practice, and is a habit that has to be built up over time. It’s worth it, though, because a continuous gratitude practice has numerous benefits, including feeling more optimistic, less stressed, and achieving more of your goals.
Gratitude can be simple. It doesn’t need to center around a huge occasion or milestone like paying off debt. It can be about feeling thankful for the little things like being able to walk or eating a cookie guilt-free.
Gratitude also allows connections to form because by practicing it, we are fostering appreciation and awareness. It’s these two qualities that are the bedrock of human connections.
Whether you are looking to improve your life as a whole or simply get a better night’s sleep, a gratitude practice of your own making can benefit your life. If you’re unsure of how to get started, or want some new ideas for your current practice, here are 20 of our best suggestions.
20 Ways to Practice Gratitude
1 – Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal
One of the most common suggestions for gratitude practice is keeping a journal. This is an effective practice, too, because the act of writing something down has a lasting impact on our brain. You can either buy a journal with prompts or use an inexpensive blank notebook and make your own list each day.
2 – Include An Act of Kindness in your Life Each Day
You don’t need to write it down, but make it a goal to do one act of kindness each day for a set period of time. I did this last September for one week and taped a sticky note to my steering wheel as a reminder. Every act of kindness brought me so much joy.
3 – Post or Tweet about “One Good Thing”
One of my favorite authors and people on Twitter, Emily Guy Birken, regularly shares one good thing she experiences each day. Sometimes it’s a big thing while other days it’s small. Her shares bring a smile to my face, and if you want to make your gratitude practice public and do the same, just tweet yours and use #onegoodthing.
The way 9yo gives me bear hugs and 6yo twines his fingers with mine when I lie down with him at bedtime.
What’s your #OneGoodThing today?
— Emily Guy Birken (@EmilyGuyBirken) June 24, 2020
4 – Remove Gossip from your Life
Gossip is inherently negative and serves no purpose for your own progress or goals. Remove gossip from your daily life, especially online. Dump all of that and keep it positive and fresh.
5 – Give Thanks for Meals
I don’t mean recite a scripted prayer before the meal, but if that’s your thing, then go ahead. If it’s not, take the time to think about all the people who made your meal possible. From the farmer who grew the food to the truck driver who delivered it to the grocery store, many people were involved in that meal.
The extra thought towards them cultivates thankfulness and awareness.
6 – Write a Letter
Write a handwritten letter to someone you love and actually mail it. It will feel good to reflect and reach out. Plus, think how happy that person will be to find a real letter in their mailbox rather than bills or junk mail.
7 – Mark on an Appreciation Calendar
This practice is similar to the gratitude journal. You write one thing you are grateful for each day on the calendar hanging in your kitchen or office. Easy and accessible. And you can combine it with your #onegoodthing tweet!
8 – Create a 1 Second Every Day Video
There is an app called ‘1 Second Every Day’ that allows you to take a short video clip each day. It will send you reminders as well. A clip of happy hour, your cat in the sun, the purchase of fresh fruit. At the end of the month watch it, post it , share it.
I love this practice because it also fosters creativity.
9 – Create a Countdown
Do you have a trip coming up? A special event like graduation or a wedding? Put a countdown app on your phone or in your reminders for an event or trip, and every time you look at it, take a moment to be thankful for that special event or trip.
10 – Give Yourself Mirror Advice
Look in your mirror and tell yourself you are grateful for you. Keep a sticky note with an affirming statement on your mirror in the bathroom. Say this to yourself everyday. It can be your favorite empowering song lyric or quote, or it could be something as simple as “I accept myself exactly as I am now.”
11 – Reach Out and Thank Those Who Inspire You
Send a heartfelt shout-out on Twitter to someone who inspires you. Or if that’s not your thing, write a thank you email (or letter!) to a content creator (author, blogger, podcaster, YouTuber, etc) who has inspired you. I promise it’ll put a smile on their face as well as yours.
12 – Stop Comparing Yourself
Remove anyone social media who makes you feel inadequate. Comparison is the thief of joy and removes gratitude just as quickly. Deleting the individual’s accounts and profiles is just the start. The practice of self-acceptance must follow.
This a good place to use your mirror affirmations.
13 – Meditate
If you have a meditation practice, intentionally meditate on things you are grateful for. If you do not have a meditation practice but want to get started, the app Headspace has a “Gratitude Pack” of meditations.
It’s easy to get started with the app. The meditations start at five minutes and gradually increase in time as you get used to the practice of meditating.
14 – Sincerely Compliment Others
Did you notice that your co-worker excelled at a presentation or made a really cool graphic? Tell them. Try to compliment strengths and accomplishments, not physical appearance. This way, the focus shifts to the person rather than their looks.
15 – Volunteer Your Time
This can look like volunteering at an organization you believe in or it can be helping your grandmother or elderly neighbor weed their garden. Time is valuable and others will appreciate you spending yours on them.
16 – Move Intentionally
In my yoga class, we set intentions before each practice. It makes the practice more purposeful, and asks us to move with intention and gratefulness. You can apply this to any type of exercise, if yoga isn’t your thing. You can set intentions for spin class, boot camp, or even walking through your neighborhood.
17 – Make a Phone Call
Call a friend, loved one, or relative that you miss or have been disconnected from. Tell them how much you appreciate having them in your life.
18 – Write a Positive Review
Did you try a local cafe and love their scones? Share it online and put some love out there for small businesses. Supporting your community fosters gratitude like no other. Not to mention how appreciative small businesses are, as glowing reviews are one of the best ways for them to get new customers!
19 – Purchase the Coffee
If you’re in line or at the drive-thru, pay for the person behind you. It is an act of kindness that will make their day. My friend does this so often, her son now reminds her to do it when they go to Starbucks.
This sets a great example for her son, and makes her gratitude practice bigger than herself.
20 – Thank Everyone Who Helps You
Thank everyone. Not just the person holding the door for you, but the waitress from lunch, the cashier at the convenience store, the person who collects your shopping cart in the parking lot. It’s a small, inexpensive gesture that goes a long way.
Consistency is Key. So is Being True to You.
Writing in a gratitude journal may not be your thing. You might not be able to stick with it, or you might even forget about it (like I did). Instead of writing in my journal, I would read or binge-watch Law and Order. While I’m certainly grateful for those, it didn’t really help me cultivate my practice. So I found some other things, like yoga, that did.
Finding a system that works for you is part of the process. There’s no shame if you meditating isn’t for you. But you have to be honest with yourself about what you want to do, what you are able to do, and what you are willing to do.
Your gratitude practice needs to look like no one’s except your own. Your practice could be public on Twitter, social at meal times, or private in a journal. Whatever you choose for your gratitude practice, the benefits will still be present, and so will your mind.
My yoga teacher closes each practice by saying “May our practice be of benefit to all beings.” And in that spirit, I leave this post hoping your practice of gratitude will benefit you and all beings.
Tell us, how do you make gratitude a regular practice in your life?