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8 Ways to Start Practicing the Art of Gratitude

A man with arms outstretched overlooking a canyon.

It can be difficult to conjure feelings of gratitude when times are tough. However, research has shown that being grateful can make you happier, and who couldn’t use that? Below are a few ways to help you ease into a more grateful frame of mind.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to fall into a pattern of focusing on the obstacles in life, or the things you don’t have. The ideas below, however, can help you remember to be thankful for what you do have, as well as everything you’ve achieved thus far.

And hey, we all made it through 2020, which is a feat for which we can all be grateful!

Start a Gratitude Journal

Someone holding the "Good Days Start with Gratitude Journal" and a woman writing in a journal at a pub.
Pretty Simple Press/GaudiLab/Shutterstock

Physically writing down the things you’re grateful for each day is the easiest way to be reminded of all the good things in your life. This gratitude journal serves as a 52-week guide to help you make daily thankfulness a habit.

Each day, you’ll be prompted to write down three things you’re happy to have in your life. You’ll also get a new inspirational quote and prompt for reflection each week. You’ll be amazed at how much of a difference this can make in just a year.


A young girl at an animal shelter holding a cat.
Evgeny Bakhchev/Shutterstock

It’s easy to forget the good things you have if you never look outside your own bubble. Volunteering to help at a food bank if you’ve never gone hungry can give you a new perspective on what other people have to go through. It’ll give you a new perspective on your own life and make you more grateful for what you have.

If there’s a cause you’re passionate about, see how you can get involved in your local community. If you love animals, volunteer at a pet shelter. If you can’t volunteer in person right now due to the pandemic, there are many ways you can help online.

Just type “how to volunteer online,” and you’ll find everything from tutoring remotely, writing letters to people in need, and calling folks to raise funds for a charity. Always be sure to verify that an organization is legitimate before you give them anything, though.

Send Thank You Cards to Your Loved Ones

A smiling woman reading a Thank You card at a mailbox.
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock/Papyrus

Thank You cards don’t have to be reserved for birthdays and holidays. Take a few minutes to write someone you love and tell them all the reasons you’re thankful to have them in your life.

This will be especially meaningful to anyone who lives alone or hasn’t been able to be around family during the pandemic.


The cover of "Sunrise Gratitude" meditation book and a man meditating at a desk.
Rock Point/fizkes/Shutterstock

There are tons of guided meditations that focus on gratitude. The purpose of meditation is to slow down and get more in tune with yourself and your feelings. It’s a healthy way to work through all of your emotions, but meditating on gratitude will make it a more natural response for you in the future. The longer you work on it, the more positive benefits you’ll see.

Sunrise Gratitude by Emily Silva offers 365 morning meditations that prompt you to be thankful every day of the year. It’s perfect for beginners either to use on its own, or as a companion to guided mediations.

There are also tons of meditation apps and videos online to help you get started.

Don’t Ignore the Bad

A woman deep in thought staring out a window while holding her phone.

Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean you have to pretend that bad things don’t happen or exist in your life. Completely disregarding negative experiences only leads to bitterness and/or pent-up emotions.

You can acknowledge the bad, while still being grateful for the good. The idea is not to get so caught up in the bad stuff that you’re too stressed out to see the good.

Address any disappointing or disheartening situations that come up, solve what you can, then let go of anything outside your control. Most importantly, though, never forget to give a situation some perspective by remembering what’s going well.

Leave Yourself Reminders

sign that reads "gratitude"
Creative Home & Garden

Gratitude is a habit, and like all habits, it takes a bit of practice. To make it a more organic part of your life, try placing reminders like this sign around your home or workspace. If the message is always in front of you, you’ll be less likely to forget.

You can also put up some artwork, or set phone reminders throughout the day to ensure you never forget to be thankful.

Read Inspirational Books

There are endless numbers of books on the topic of gratitude. However, Louise Hay is renowned for her inspirational work on the power of positive affirmations. In her classic book, Gratitude: A Way of Life, Hay interviews dozens of people about the importance of expressing thanks.

The high ratings of the book speak for themselves.

Another title worth checking out is The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan. After making a new year’s resolution, to be more grateful, Kaplan found that she was able to transform almost every area of her life. You’ll completely relate to her journey and be inspired by the results!

Start a Gratitude Jar

Five Bormioli Rocco jars containing various foods, and a gratitude jar next to some Post-Its and a pen.
Bormioli Rocco/Ana-Maria Tegzes/Shutterstock

This is similar to the gratitude journal, but a bit more fun! Whenever you think of something you’re grateful for, write it down on a piece of paper and place it in your gratitude jar. Then, whenever you’re feeling low, just pull out one of the pieces of paper to remind yourself of something you’re thankful for.

This 50 oz. jar by Bormioli Rocco is large enough to last all year and also features a chalk label for easy labeling.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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