Count your blessings. Be thankful. The message about gratitude can be heard these days, loud and clear. Being thankful is such an important practice to hold onto in this fast-paced world in which we live…simply noticing the things we are thankful of.
However, it’s all well and good to know that gratitude ought to be a priority, but perhaps you are wondering about how to practice gratitude. Well, there is a vast number of ways in which to practically introduce more gratitude into our lives.
In this article, the overarching aim is to provide some clear, practical ways to bring gratitude to the forefront of our striving for well-being. I hope you find them helpful!
This article contains:
- How Can We Best Practice Gratitude?
- 8 Ways to Make Gratitude a Habit
- What Are Gratitude Messages?
- The Gratitude Ritual
- How To Write a Letter of Gratitude (Including a Sample Gratitude Letter).
- Keeping a Gratitude Box or List
- Writing Gratitude Cards
- How to Make a Gratitude Wall
- What are Gratitude Rocks and Stones?
- Ideas for Gratitude Glass Jars
- 23 Gratitude Exercises and Activities?
- 8 Group Activities to Practice Gratitude
- 5 Gratitude Games for Adults
- A Gratitude Icebreaker and 20 Conversation Starters
- 20 Inspiring Gratitude Statements
- Using Gratitude Affirmations (You Tube)
- A Take-Home Message
How Can We Best Practice Gratitude?
Although it may seem apparently straightforward, it is easier said than done to practice gratitude (Emmons & Stern, 2013). So, what does it even mean to engage in ‘gratitude practice?’ Well, according to the gratitude researchers Emmons and Stern (2013),
“gratitude practice is systematically paying attention to what is going right in one’s life, to see the contributions that others make in these good things, and then expressing gratitude verbally and behaviorally” (p. 853).
Thus, in order to practice gratitude, the first step is to pay attention (Emmons & Stern, 2013). This aspect of gratitude refers to ‘noticing and becoming aware of blessings that we normally take for granted’ (Emmons & Stern, 2013, p. 853).
Focusing our attention on the positives also prevents the proliferation of the sort of thoughts and perceptions that are contrary to the experience of gratitude – for example, perceiving oneself as a victim (Emmons & Stern, 2013).
Techniques that enable an individual to focus – e.g. mindfulness meditation – can, therefore, lead to increased appreciation of the aspects of life that are a blessing and to rid the consciousness of thoughts that are incompatible with gratitude.
Practicing gratitude is all about making an intentional shift from the negative to the positive (Emmons & Stern, 2013). Practicing gratitude sees a person accepting that even difficult, painful and otherwise challenging times can be learned from and that we can therefore be grateful for such experiences (Emmons & Stern, 2013).
So, that is a little about practicing gratitude…perhaps, however, you are wondering exactly HOW to best practice gratitude… Here are some tips, suggested by Derrick Carpenter (n.d.), as to how to maximize the benefits of gratitude practice:
- Try and focus on being aware of different things you’re grateful for each day – i.e. don’t always notice the same things. Even though you may always feel grateful for the same things – for example, your family – looking for ‘fresh’ grateful moments helps in the practice of gratitude.
- Be aware of looking for specific things that you are grateful for – e.g. ‘today my husband cooked my favorite meal for dinner because he knew that I’d had a tough day’. Being specific really maximizes the benefits of gratitude practice.
- Look beyond the things that you are grateful for that may be immediately apparent. Looking for new things can help us best practice gratitude. Be creative! Enjoy the process!
- Be kind to yourself and be realistic about gratitude practice. Be aware of obstacles that might hinder your efforts to practice gratitude. So, if you are likely to feel extremely tired at night-time and you are trying to schedule in time to practice gratitude, it may be best to set aside some time in the morning. Be a little flexible with yourself and don’t put undue pressure on yourself to practice gratitude in a way that is simply not working for you!
- Keep gratitude fun! Try new and creative ways to keep track of your moments of thankfulness.
- This next suggestion is an interesting one – to try and make your gratitude practice social. It makes sense to think of others in practicing gratitude because it is our relationships with other people that are the most significant determinant of our happiness. According to expert Robert Emmons, making the focus of our gratitude the people we are thankful for, rather than particular circumstances or material items, can enhance our practice of gratitude and maximize the benefits of gratitude practice. So, perhaps one idea you can use is to write a gratitude letter (this is explained in more detail later!) or share grateful moments from the day at the dinner table.
Putting these simple strategies into action can really help us begin to best practice gratitude.
8 Ways to Make Gratitude a Habit
So, you have started to practice gratitude. How can you make it part of your regular routine? The following suggestions were put forward by Janet Miller (2016) and implementing them can help to make gratitude a habit…
1. Appreciate every good thing in life, not just the “big” things.
To develop a habit of being grateful, appreciate everything, and be aware of the fact that there is nothing too small to be thankful for. Even if your gratitude is for simple things, such as pleasant weather, it is important to recognize everything and not leave anything out when practicing gratitude.
2. Find gratitude in your challenges.
It is not the case that gratitude is being thankful only for positive experiences. Actually, sometimes considering challenging situations with an open mind can help you to become aware of what you are truly thankful for. By being thankful even for negative or difficult situations, it is possible to appreciate how such challenges have helped you to develop into the person you are today!
3. Practice mindfulness.
Make time each day to consider 5 – 10 things you are grateful for – really visualize it in your mind and notice the feelings of gratitude in your body. Being mindful helps re-wire the brain to be naturally more grateful and as such you will feel happier every time you practice gratitude. All it takes is 8 weeks of practicing gratitude for people to start showing different brain patterns that result in enhanced empathy and happiness. Training the brain towards gratitude plays a part in making gratitude come more easily.
4. Keep a gratitude journal.
Record your positive thoughts after each mindfulness session. Keeping a journal of all the things that you are grateful for can help you keep track of them and also serves as something you can look back at to note the positive things in your life. Making a note of positive thoughts helps you to pay attention to the positive aspects of life – and, the act of writing means that you have to pay attentions to what you are writing and consciously think about what you are grateful for without being disturbed by other distracting, ungrateful thoughts. You may choose to write in the gratitude journal each day after your gratitude practice, or, at other regular intervals. Do what works best for you, as this will maximize the benefits to be found!
Giving back to others in the community has been shown to help individuals have more gratitude for things that they perhaps otherwise may take for granted. It can help promote gratitude and, at the same time, increase well-being which in turn helps foster even more gratitude! In “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being”, Professor Martin Seligman looked into a range of variables that contribute to well-being. His research showed that volunteering is the ‘single most reliable way to momentarily increase your well-being’.
6. Express yourself.
Instead of keeping your gratitude to yourself, you can actually increase your feelings of gratitude by expressing the gratefulness you have. One study conducted by a group which aims to find the “science of happiness” (Soul Pancake) showed that writing a letter to a person that participants were grateful for increased individuals’ happiness by 2 – 4%. Interestingly, however, when these same people expressed their gratitude directly by making a phone call to the person who they were thankful for, happiness increased from 4 – 19%! Furthermore, expressing gratitude can make someone else’s day better too!
7. Spend time with loved ones.
Spending time with friends and family not only gives you the opportunity to grow closer to them and strengthen your relationship, but it also enables you to share your gratitude. This may include supporting them, such as listening to them intently rather than waiting for your own chance to speak.
8. Improve your happiness in other areas of your life.
Being grateful can make you happy but, at the same time, being happy can also lead to feeling more grateful. Lifting mood – such as by taking part in your favorite pastime or exercising, makes it easier to show gratitude. When endorphins are increased, it will be simpler to list the things that you are grateful for.
By putting these 8 strategies into place, gradually gratitude can become a part of your every-day routine.
What are Gratitude Messages?
Gratitude messages are, put simply, expressions of appreciation. For example, one form of a gratitude message is simply saying ‘thank you’. Or, it may be an expression of recognition of something that another person has done for you.
One easy way to try out a gratitude message is to send an appreciation message to a friend: e.g. in a brief text message, state “You always know how to make me laugh and lift my spirits. Thanks so much for being my friend!”. Gratitude messages can have powerful effects for the grateful individual as well as the recipient!
The Gratitude Ritual
A gratitude ritual is a consistent time that is set aside to practice gratitude. Although rituals take commitment and effort in the beginning, with regular practice, the ritual will become second nature (Rider, 2017).
For example, perhaps the gratitude ritual you wish to implement is a routine of expressing your gratitude each night, just before bed. Use a small notebook – it’s important in rituals to use pen and paper rather than to type (Rider, 2017). Keep the notebook at a place that you return to at the same time every day. Every night (or morning – whatever time suits you best to put aside) – write the date at the top of the page. Then, set an intention by telling yourself that you will write for a fixed amount of time (Rider, 2017).
As the ritual becomes a habit, the amount of time required for the ritual is usually less. For the amount of time that you have set aside, write about what you are grateful for – anything that comes to mind, from big things like your health to much smaller things…like chai lattes! Most importantly, be specific. Write as many things as you can in the set amount of time.
In this era of smartphones and tablets, perhaps the most convenient way for you to develop a gratitude ritual is setting aside a particular time to use a gratitude ‘app’. Such apps, including ‘Feed Your Happy’ and ‘Gratitude Journal’ can really help with keeping a gratitude journal. (Libby, 2016). Research has also shown that regular gratitude journaling can boost mood and extend the feeling of gratitude for weeks or even months.
One more example of a gratitude ritual is to show appreciation for a meal…each evening, at the dinner table before you begin eating, have each person share something in their lives that they’re thankful for (Libby, 2016). This ritual can also foster meaning and stability within the family, and set the scene for a positive meal-time (Libby, 2016). Gratitude rituals can be a wonderful way to cultivate thankfulness.
How To Write a Letter of Gratitude (Including a Sample Gratitude Letter)
Showing gratefulness to colleagues and friends lets them know that their efforts or acts of kindness have been noticed. Furthermore, people are likely to remember this gesture and therefore have a more favorable impression of you! (Hertzberg, 2018).
It is not especially difficult to write a letter of appreciation. It doesn’t need to be lengthy – focus on keeping the letter simple and sincere (Hertzberg, 2018). To begin with, consider the appropriate format for the letter… is it a letter to a friend, and therefore casual, or are you writing to a potential employer following a job interview? This will set the tone for your letter.
Start with a greeting. Generally, ‘Hi there [name]’ is appropriate but in the case of a more formal letter write ‘Dear [name]’ or if it is a very formal letter – such as after a job interview – write ‘Dear Ms/Mr [surname]’ (Hertzberg, 2018).
In the body of the letter, outline what the recipient has helped you with. While expressing general gratitude is generally ok (such as “thanks for always being there for me”) referring to specifics is even more effective (e.g. “thanks for being there for me last Thursday afternoon when my car broke down”) (Hertzberg, 2018). Include a couple of specific details – such as, the things that the person did that were especially helpful, or give an example of a certain time that the person truly went above and beyond. Including specific details really shows the recipient of the letter that you noticed their efforts (Hertzberg, 2018).
To close the letter, end with a closing line – such as ‘thanks again’, and sign your letter (Hertzberg, 2018). The following is a sample letter, written in the context of expressing appreciation for a close friend:
Hi there Fiona,
I know that I don’t say this nearly as often as I should, but I really wanted to thank you for being such a good friend. If I ever need you, you’re there for me and are happy to listen when I need to talk. We’ve both shared the highs and lows of life together, and I never could have got through it all without you!
You are one of the most important people in my life. When I count my blessings, I always think of you. I don’t think that I could have got through the last few years without you…remember the day last year that I turned up at your place in a sobbing mess, and together we hugged and cried at the unfairness of life? Through all the stressors of life, you have always helped me get through. I appreciate this more than you know!
Thank you again – you’re a fabulous person and a wonderful friend. I feel lucky to have you in my life.
Keeping a Gratitude Box or List
Something as simple as a box can help in the practice of gratitude. Choose a box, and make it appealing by decorating it or adding other personal touches. If a box really isn’t your ‘thing’ perhaps you can write a list…use special paper. The idea is to make the box or list special. Keep the box or list somewhere where you can see it so that you can use it easily and also so you don’t forget about it when life gets busy! (Thornton, 2016). Put a pen and paper close by, too, so you’re all set up to make entries. Perhaps you could even put a special pen in the box itself.
Then, record the good things that happen on small pieces of paper and either put the paper in your box, or write the good thing that has happened on your special paper (Thornton, 2016). Spend time regularly reflecting on whoever, or whatever, makes you feel appreciative and grateful (Thornton, 2016). Record the date on the piece of paper, and write about what you are grateful for that day – for example, perhaps you have had a pleasant surprise such as a gift, or maybe you accomplished one of your goals. It doesn’t have to be something significant – you may simply record a fun or memorable moment (Thornton, 2016).
Then, choose a special day (such as New Year’s Eve, or your next birthday). Open your box, or sit down with your list, and read over all the great things that have happened over the year that you are truly grateful for (Thornton, 2016). This is an easy and fun activity that helps you to reflect on happy memories.
Writing Gratitude Cards
Taking the time to write a card of thanks or appreciation can benefit both the writer and the recipient. While it is lovely to write and receive gratitude letters, what is even more special is to write a card. You can take the time to make a special card, using your favorite paper-craft materials or perhaps utilizing a template that can be found online. Decorate the card – enjoy the creative process! If you really are too busy to make a card, there are many commercially available thank-you cards that are lovely too.
Write a simple but meaningful message in the card. It need not be lengthy or wordy, keep it to the point. Then, either send the card via the post or, even better, hand-deliver it. The recipient of the gratitude card will be so touched that you not only took the time to express your appreciation, but that you went to the effort to make a card.
How to Make a Gratitude Wall
A gratitude wall is an effective way to express appreciation, either at home or in the workplace, by displaying your gratitude visually (Morin, 2018a). To make a gratitude wall, write down the things that you are grateful for on sticky notes (Morin, 2018b).
Then, stick the notes to a designated area either on a wall, or a door, or a mirror to provide visual reminders of all the good things that you have in your life (Morin, 2018b). You could even use a bulletin board on which to create a visual representation of the things you are thankful for (Morin, 2018a).
You can also include brief notes, such as simple words (“summer”, “Mum”) to remind you of the things and people who you are grateful for (Morin, 2018a).
What are Gratitude Rocks and Stones?
Gratitude rocks (or stones) act as reminders to be thankful. For example, one use of a gratitude rock is to keep it in your pocket to remind yourself to be grateful. Melody Beattie (n.d.) explained that this idea was portrayed in the movie called ‘The Secret’ – Lee Bower describes that every time he touched the small rock, he would identify something, or someone, he was grateful for. In the morning when he places the rock in his pocket, he thinks about what he is thankful for, and then in the evening when he empties his pocket and takes out the rock, he reflects on those things that he is grateful for once again.
Alternatively, you could place the gratitude rock around the area in which you work and, every time you notice it, take the time to pick up the rock and think of one thing in your life that you are grateful for (Beattie, n.d.).
The best thing is, gratitude rocks are free! Or, if you chose to, you could even buy a special crystal. The rocks can help people to be present ‘in the moment’, and can also be used as a reminder to be grateful for something immediately around you – e.g. the drink you are having (Beattie, n.d.). A gratitude rock can also serve to help you switch to more positive ways of thinking – so, if you’re just in a neutral mood, it can lift your spirits by reflecting on something you’re grateful for. Or, if you’re feeling upset or negative, it can help you to ‘snap out’ of the mood by taking time to be grateful.
Ideas for Gratitude Glass Jars
Gratitude glass jars are used similarly to the gratitude box described earlier in this article… you write down what you are grateful for (or, the things that you wish for) on small pieces of paper and then review them at a later time. Have your wishes come true?! There are some commercially available glass jars that can be used…. The following are ideas for different gratitude glass jars as available from here:
- Wedding wishes glass jar
- ‘Wish’ glass jar
- Baby wishes glass jar
- Baby boy wishes jar
- Baby girl wishes jar
- Christmas wishes jar
- Memories glass jar
- Thanksgiving glass jar
- Love glass jar
- Let it go glass jar
- Acts of kindness glass jar
- New Year Resolution’s glass jar
These jars provide a special place to harness the power of positive thinking and to capture wishes for all sorts of special moments in life.
23 Gratitude Exercises and Activities
Marelina Fabrega (n.d.) and Tchiki Davis (2017) have suggested the following gratitude exercises to foster gratefulness:
1. Morning coffee gratitude
Begin the day thinking of all the things you are grateful for.
If you think you won’t find the time, or that you will simply forget, perhaps you can tie your gratitude practice with your first cup of coffee in the morning. To develop a sense of gratitude, begin by reflecting on what you’re thankful for in regards to your coffee routine. Notice and appreciate:
- The warmth and texture of the cup
- The smell of the coffee
- Tasting the first sip of coffee
- Embracing the beautiful morning
- Celebrate a new day
- Take pleasure in the peace and quiet before the day officially begins.
2. Grace before meals
Give thanks for your food, and all the work that was necessary in order for you to be able to eat it. Pause before you begin to eat, and be mindful.
3. Things you take for granted
This exercise involves picturing what it would be like to lose some of the things that you take for granted – such as your senses, your home, and so on. Then, imagine that you get these things back and think about how grateful you would be for each of these things.
4. Put things in perspective
Use gratitude to deal with challenges such as failure, a setback, or some other sort of difficulty. Remind yourself that even difficulties present us with things of benefit – so, when dealing with adversity, consider the positives: e.g. is there something good in this situation? Can you learn something?
5. Gratitude charm bracelet
Buy a charm bracelet and choose charms or trinkets that are meaningful to you personally and that can serve as a reminder of something you are thankful for – for example, you may select a heart to symbolize your romantic relationship. Then, every time that you notice your bracelet, you can be reminded of those things you are grateful for.
6. Gratitude stroll
Go for a walk, and set yourself the task of finding how many positive things that you can notice.
7. Gratitude trigger
Use an object that can serve as a reminder to feel grateful when you see it – for example, you could put a small sign next to your desk that says “thank you”, or perhaps you can put a ‘welcome’ doormat at the front-door to remind you to be thankful of your home.
8. Gratitude partner
Spend time with another person sharing what both of you are grateful for – you can both feed off each other’s ideas, and if you know one another well you can even remind each other of things that you may have forgotten!
9. The ‘rampage’ of appreciation
This is an exercise about noticing positive feelings. Look around you, and find something that pleases you. Then, focus your attention on the object, and think about its’ positive qualities. The more you think about it, the more that positive feelings will increase. Then, notice that shift in your feelings and appreciate it. Once you begin to really experience the good feeling, choose another pleasing object in your environment to pay attention to.
10. Through the eyes of another
Occasionally, we begin taking the good things in our life for granted. Choose to try and see things, people, and places that you love in the way that another person would see them. Look at the ordinary aspects of your life through the eyes of another, and re-discover your appreciation for these things.
11. Gratitude for objects and tools
Spend some time considering all the various gadgets, devices and appliances you have that make life easier and more enjoyable. Take a moment to appreciate these things in your home and feel grateful for all the people who made it possible to have these things that make life so much more convenient.
12. Thankful tree
More so an appropriate activity for the Thanksgiving/Christmas season, this involves each person choosing a paper leaf, and writing something on it that they’re grateful for. Then, the colored paper leaves are hung from some tree branches.
13. Four questions
In order to reflect on the things that you’re grateful for, ask yourself these questions at the end of the day:
- What touched me today?
- Who, or what, inspired me today?
- What made me smile today?
- What’s the best thing that happened today?
14. Gratitude lookout
Choose a particular day on which you’re actively going to notice people you can thank. Keep an eye out for things that others do on that day that are kind, helpful, or considerate…don’t be afraid to use ‘thank you’!
15. Gratitude inventory
Write a list of 100 things that you are grateful for. If you wish, you can distinguish between different categories – assets, people, experiences, for example.
16. 365 Thank you notes
This activity is not for the faint-hearted! It involves setting about to write one thank you note for each day of the year. You will need to be on the lookout for people you can thank…your child’s preschool teacher, the cashier at your local grocer, the post-man…
17. Going around the table
This activity is great for group/family dinners. Set the table, and put an index card and pen at each place setting. Then, each person writes the name of the person sitting to their left at the top of the card, and then writes something about that person for which they are thankful. Then, the card is passed to the right and that person can then continue the list on the index card. Every card will eventually get back to the person that the list was for. After the activity, read the ‘thank yous’ aloud.
18. Appreciation chair
Choose one chair to be the ‘appreciation chair’. In turn, each person sits in the appreciation chair and everyone tells that person why they appreciate them and to express gratitude – for example, for kindness the person in the appreciation chair has showed, or help that they have given.
19. Ungrateful thought
Notice one ungrateful thought each day to choose to transform into a grateful one…e.g. “what a rotten day at work, so stressful! I hate my job” could be transformed to “I am tired at the end of this day but I feel lucky to have my job that pays the bills”.
20. Gratitude notes
Write one or two things that you appreciate about people who you are thankful for on sticky notes, and stick the note on their desk, on their car, or on their bag.
21. Gratitude letter
Write a letter to someone describing how thankful you are for someone who did something special for you. Explain how it made you feel and how grateful you are (n.b. this was explored previously in the article! Plus, a sample letter is provided!).
22. Track 3 good things
Every day, note down three good things about the day. As the week comes to an end, look at your list to remember that you have a lot to be thankful for.
23. Gratitude drawing
Create a picture of the people and things that you are most grateful for. Display it, such as put it on the fridge, which will help you recall what you’re grateful for and be encouraged to continue practicing gratitude.
8 Group Activities to Practice Gratitude
Rick Kiley (2017) put forward the following activities to be carried out in the workplace – however, it could also be used in other group situations as well.
- Take a gratitude break: during meetings, set aside time for individuals to show appreciation. It can be for simple things – try not to overthink it! Rather than being grateful for THINGS, instead show appreciation for others and their actions. An example could be “I am very thankful to Rachel today for making us all coffee”.
- Give gifts to share: both giving and receiving gifts in in itself rewarding. Share the happiness of giving and receiving by providing small gifts (like gift certificates) for members of the group to give one another as a symbol of recognition, or as a ‘thank you’.
- Put up a thankful tree: during the holiday season, put up a holiday tree (this has been described earlier in the article too). Supply paper cut-out ornaments. Encourage members of the group to write what they’re thankful for on the paper cut-out and hang it on the tree.
- Play appreciation ‘hot seat’ (another idea previously covered): this game involves each person taking a turn to sit in the ‘hot seat’. Everyone else in the group then tells the person in the ‘hot seat’ why they appreciate them or are grateful for something they have done.
- Participate in a gratitude challenge: the group can either arrange their own challenge, or participate in a community-wide program. For example, the business OpenIDEO ran a challenge for workplace teams investigating “How might we inspire experiences and expressions of gratitude in the workplace?”.
- Write little thank you notes: writing short thank you notes, of only 2 – 3 sentences, is a great group activity to foster gratitude.
- Volunteer in the community: as a team, giving back is a natural way to boost gratitude. Volunteering together also helps teams to bond – particularly when the voluntary work requires teamwork.
- Celebrate World Gratitude Day! This occurs annually on September 21st.
5 Gratitude Games for Adults
These suggestions come from Megan Anderson (2012) …
1. “This just in”: Reporting your blessings
Select someone to be a ‘reporter’ and someone else to be ‘cameraman’ (or, note-taker if there is no video camera available). The reporter’s task is to find out from guests what they are most thankful for. The reporter can be as creative as they like with their questions! If it is possible, you can even actually video-record the ‘interview’ and play it to the group later. Or, alternatively, the reporter(s) and scribe can give a “live” report of what they found.
2. “Gratitude Pictionary”
This game is just like the traditional version of Pictionary – all of the same rules apply (i.e. no words, letters or numbers, 60 second time limit, once a word is guessed play goes to the other team, and so on). However, instead of drawing the usual Pictionary tasks, each person has a turn drawing something that they are grateful for. You can actually use the board game that comes with the usual Pictionary set, or otherwise you can simply enjoy drawing and guessing.
3. Gratitude Tree
This is popular during the festive season. As has been described in this article, you allow individuals to record something they’re grateful for on paper cut-out ornaments and hang them on the tree. If you are hosting a gathering or party, the guests can either take their ‘ornaments’ home or they can leave them on the tree.
4. “Gratitude Guess Who”
This is a fun game for groups. Ask individuals to write down something that they’re grateful for, and their name, on a piece of paper and them put them (folded up…no peeking!) into a bowl or basket. Then, everyone can take turns picking out the strips of paper and reading the item – but without reading the person’s name. The other members of the group can guess who wrote it! If there are just a few members of the group, you could play “rounds” whereby each person writes according to a ‘theme’ – e.g. seasonal blessings, something about a person in the group, something you can see right now, etc.
5. “Gratitude Gab”
Find a jar or bowl and in it place a few questions or topics on folded up pieces of colored paper. Have everyone pass around the jar and take turns taking out a piece of paper. The purpose of this game is, rather than someone just stating one thing they are grateful for and then moving on, to provide conversations and stories that will enhance the group members’ lives, develop feelings of gratitude, and ‘nourish the heart’. Here are a few sample topics to write on the slips of paper:
- Describe something lucky that happened to you last year and how your life improved
- Describe a special favor you received, how it helped you, and how it touched you
- Name someone you know who makes your life better and why
- Think of something you used today that other people may take for granted
- What do you appreciate most about the person sitting next to you?
- Describe something that you do often that makes you happy and why
- Describe something that happened this past week that you are grateful for and why
- Describe something you have done that you are particularly proud of and why
A Gratitude Icebreaker and 20 Conversation Starters
The ‘attitude of gratitude’ icebreaker activity can be run face-to-face, or virtually. The face-to-face version involves asking each person, at the beginning of the meeting, to nominate three things they have been grateful for in the last 24 hours (Williams, 2008). Then, going around the room, ask everyone to read their list. In the virtual icebreaker activity, send a group email that describes 3 things you’ve been grateful for in the last day, and then ask each person to do the same (Williams, 2008).
Jayson Bradley (2015) has shared these 20 gratitude conversation starters about thankfulness:
- What memory always makes you smile?
- Do you typically think that you have more than you need, less than you need, or exactly what you need?
- Can you remember a time you received something that you totally didn’t deserve? How did that make you feel?
- What’s the best thing that happened to you today?
- What positive adjectives do you think that people would use to describe you?
- What do you hope that people will say about you at your funeral?
- What is something you have given away that you regret?
- Can you remember a time when you could have given something, but didn’t?
- If you could spend an entire day doing whatever you want, what would it be?
- Who is the most generous person you know? What makes them that way?
- What is your favorite season? What do you love about it?
- What’s the sickest you have ever been? How did you get better?
- What is the nicest thing a stranger has ever done for you?
- Do you have a story about a prayer that was answered? What happened?
- Is there a time that you had a prayer go unanswered and it turned out for the best?
- Imagine you’re being interviewed for a newspaper article and the interviewer asks “Who made you the person you are today?”. Whose names would you say?
- What do you like about your home? City? Country?
- What is the hardest thing you’ve ever learned to do?
- What is your greatest accomplishment?
- Who is the person you trust the most? What makes them so trustworthy?
20 Inspiring Gratitude Statements
The following are inspiring gratitude statements taken from Barrie Davenport’s appreciation messages (n.d.).
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things”
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow”
“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all”
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful”
“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see”
“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around”
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others”
Still looking for inspiration? Here are more statements from the same excellent source.
- Gratitude unlocks the unique treasures of life
- Gratitude is equal to riches. Complaints are equal to poverty
- Someone who feels appreciated will always do more than you expect them to do
- Upon waking, allow your first thought to be, “Thank you”.
- Be thankful for everything you have in your life, and know that you will always end up with more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.
- You have to stop and remind yourself that each moment is the only one you are positive you will have
- A little appreciation goes a long way, but I can never say enough how much I appreciate you
- Appreciation speaks louder in action than it does in words
- The more you are grateful for in your life, the more opportunities for gratitude you will have
- Each day is a new opportunity to be grateful for something new
- It is important to be mindful so you can learn how to appreciate the present moment
- You can choose to take things for granted or to take things with gratitude
- It is never too soon to show your appreciation
Using Gratitude Affirmations (You Tube)
Are you still keen on learning more about gratitude? Perhaps you are interested in what gratitude affirmations are… here are some gratitude videos you can watch!
1. Gratitude Affirmations:
2. Morning Gratitude Positive Affirmations:
3. 5 Minute Guided Meditation for Gratitude:
A Take Home Message
This article has explored a range of different ways to practically incorporate gratitude into your life. Hopefully you are realizing that there are many more fun things you can do to embrace being thankful, beyond writing down things that you are grateful for in a journal (although that, too, is powerful in its’ own right!). How will you choose to cultivate gratitude in your everyday life?
Perhaps, you might opt for a pretty glass jar and capture those moments of gratitude that occur on small pieces of paper which then create a BIG dose of thankfulness when you choose to re-read the blessings you have recorded. Or maybe, this week at work you could introduce a gratitude wall or even suggest playing a gratitude game with colleagues.
As you can see, the range of practical ways to harness the power of gratitude is vast. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic! What do you do to nurture your sense of gratitude? Have you tried any of the activities and games discussed here? Do you have others to share? Please share your thoughts!
For further reading, see: 5 Best Books on Gratitude + Oliver Sacks’ Gratitude Book
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