What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is the state, feeling, trait, or disposition of being thankful for something positive done to us. The Latin word gratus, which means to be thankful or appreciative, is the root word of gratitude.
Advocated and preached for more than millennia by world religions and moral philosophies, the many benefits of gratitude practice are only the side effects of its moral implications.
Gratitude is the easiest and yet the most powerful way to transform your life and mindset.
Moreover, modern neuroscience and positive psychology have proven that gratitude can be deliberately practiced through gratitude exercises and gratitude journal writing.
But there are endless ways to practice gratitude apart from journaling and gratitude letter writing.
We express our gratitude to a benefactor, who might be our colleague or a friend, for a favor that they have bestowed upon us, or we can be grateful for the various fruits of life that some higher power has showered upon us through endless blessings.
Either way, gratitude is expressed for something that we have gained due to outside help, and that we feel that we did not deserve somehow.
How Do You Start Practicing Gratitude?
Can gratitude practice be deliberate? Can we become more grateful beings by incorporating gratitude exercises in our lives?
Modern positive psychology not only believes that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude – thanks to the power of brain neuroplasticity – but that gratitude is a prerequisite positive emotion that can enrich our lives, and therefore, a daily dose of gratitude is vital for a healthy life.
Our default state is far from grateful. We are prone to sliding into negative thinking.
This means that any attempt at cultivating gratitude will not only take time and effort but a heavy dose of commitment.
The benefits of gratitude practice can only be realized when we intentionally strive to put ourselves in a grateful state.
As unbelievable as it may sound, even a simple thank you suffices to put you in a more optimistic mindset.
Thanking people through your words, in speech or writing, cherishing their presence, being present with them, savoring food, and breathing air, the possibilities to practice gratitude are endless.
What is Gratitude Exercise?
To flex and strengthen your gratitude muscle you need to incorporate a regimen of gratitude exercises.
Keeping a gratitude journal and writing about the things you are grateful for is one of the most commonly used gratitude exercises.
However, experts advise that we should mix up our gratitude exercises frequently to keep on getting results from our gratitude practice.
The idea behind these exercises is to shift our thinking from negativity and toxicity towards positivity and optimism.
All the other gratitude exercises mentioned here will uplift areas of our lives from professional and social to mental and individual et cetera.
50 Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude
There are many ways to practice gratitude. Some of these ways can be practiced individually, while others can be practiced along with a group or family. Here is a list of ways that gratitude can be practiced in our lives.
There may be some slight overlap, but the focus is on the ideas and not to follow each tip as a rulebook.
Journaling is a practice that has many benefits.
One of those benefits is that it is an excellent way to practice gratitude. Ideally, morning as well as evening journaling exercise works great.
2. Gratitude Letters
Writing gratitude letters to people in your life who have helped you in some way or another is another powerful way to practice gratitude.
Recollect the things, people, and events of each day to your mind before going to sleep to remind yourself of all the wonderful things you are taking for granted.
4. Pause for a Moment
Pause and consciously look at everything that surrounds you. Take time to do it a few times a day.
5. Practice Staying Present
There is so much joy to be experienced in the present. So to deepen your gratitude practice, try to stay present.
This is similar to pausing for a moment during the day.
6. Write Three Things Each Day
Psychologists commonly advise people to write down three things each day that they feel the most grateful for.
This exercise deliberately puts the mind in a more optimistic state, priming it to receive the benefits of practicing gratitude.
7. Zen-Like Mindfulness
Zen-like mindfulness and gratitude. When Zen monks are doing something, they are completely present doing only that specific thing.
It is a great way to avoid the trap of multitasking, which can cause stress and lowers our productivity.
Watch a Zen tea ceremony to see what I mean.
8. Notice Little Things
Next time when you are on the way to the office, try to notice the little things. You will be surprised to see how much of life is happening each waking moment.
Stop, and take in the beauty of a stunning view.
Disclaimer: Make it in time for the office, though, and plan accordingly.
9. Thank Someone Each Day
Thank someone each day for something as simple as holding the door when you enter.
10. Gratitude Triggers
Create gratitude triggers throughout the day.
This could be a simple phone reminder that lets you know to start thinking grateful thoughts.
It is a fun way to practice gratitude and catch ungrateful thoughts.
11. Watch Ungrateful Thoughts
Ungrateful thoughts are like the debris of wood and dirt that can block a free-flowing stream.
So you need to be constantly on the watch for these intruding thoughts, weeding them out as and when they pop up. Catch at least one ungrateful thought a day.
12. Consciously Think Positive
Consciously think positive thoughts. Positivity will always breed more positivity.
13. Watch the Complaints
Catch yourself complaining once a day. Complaining is the opposite of gratefulness.
When you are grateful you are appreciative.
14. Thank Nature
Thank nature the next time you sit to have your meal.
The vegetables and fruits produced by nature are a bounty that we rarely give thanks for.
15. Plant Something
Oxygen is such an abundant resource that we take for granted.
When was the last time you planted a tree as a way of thanking nature?
16. Pay-It-Forward Act of Kindness
Do a pay-it-forward act of kindness. If someone does something nice for you, pay it forward and do something good for someone else.
17. Don’t Be Stingy in Praise
When someone does something nice, appreciate it. Don’t be stingy in praising someone.
18. Leave a Nice Review
If you received a service that was exceptional, leave a nice review for them.
19. Be Grateful to Those That Respect You
Be grateful to the people who respect you for no reason.
They admire you and you should be grateful.
20. Cherish Friendships
Cherish your friendships and don’t be afraid to show your love and appreciation for your friends.
21. Reinterpret Facts
In steering away from negative thinking, try to reinterpret the facts and maybe look for something positive and worth learning from any experience.
22. Eat Mindfully
Eat mindfully. The purpose of this is to get acquainted with the taste and texture of food.
It will also build a greater appreciation for what a huge blessing food is for us.
23. Practice a Week of Austerity
In Letters from A Stoic, Seneca advises his student to practice a week of austerity to gain a greater appreciation for the things we take for granted.
This is one of the harsher gratitude exercises.
24. Feed the Hungry and Poor
Feed the hungry and poor.
Doing so will make us aware of the plight the unfortunate go through every day, thereby, making us more grateful.
25. Buy Spouse a Gift
Make your spouse feel appreciated by buying him/her a gift.
26. Further a Cause
Work in your capacity to further a cause that you are passionate about and that has impacted you most in your life.
It could be the climate, education, health et cetera it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you show that you are grateful for it.
27. Reflect Upon Death
Reflecting upon death is also a powerful method to practice gratitude for being alive.
The ancient philosophies and religions advise their adherents to keep remembering death.
28. Lend a Helping Hand
Lend people a helping hand. The next time your colleague asks for help, regardless of whether they have been of help to you lately or not, you should jump at the opportunity.
29. Recall Everything You Have and Have Had
Whenever you feel stressed because of your financial condition, recall all the things and money that you have right now, be thankful, and watch your stress just dissipate.
30. Read and Watch Gratitude Material
Read and watch gratitude literature and content. This will make you learn from others’ experiences and, hopefully, inspire change.
An example could be from speakers such as Tony Robbins:
31. Keep a Soft Count
Keep a count when someone does something nice for you. I don’t mean that literally, though.
Just be sure to recognize others’ kind efforts towards you and intend to reciprocate in kind in the future.
32. Thank Those Who Serve You
Every once in a while, stop by to think about how your neighborhood is made up of all the people who are busy doing things for the community.
A gratitude example in this context would be thanking your grocers for all the effort they put into getting the food to your neighborhood.
33. Be Grateful for Those Who Oppose You
Remembering your friends is fine and contributes a great deal towards your gratitude practice, but if you want to take it to the next level consider being grateful to your enemies.
Yes, even our enemies or the people we generally don’t get along with having a lot of things to teach us about life.
34. Viral Gratitude
How about viral gratitude?
Yes, a fun way to share your gratitude practice with your friends and followers on social media is by posting about things you are grateful for.
Use Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, it doesn’t matter.
35. Savor Time With Family
Make sure that you savor your time with your family.
Your mom, dad, spouse, siblings, and grandparents are all the relations that need to be cherished while they are still here.
36. Remember Bad Times are Temporary
Never forget that bad times are temporary.
Always remember that when you are going through a rough patch, “this too shall pass.”
37. We Don’t Know Light Without Darkness
As bad times should remind us that good times are near, so should good times remind us that bad times don’t come knocking.
A little gratitude here and there will come in handy in good times as well as bad.
38. Growth Mindset
Adopt a growth mindset. Identify your weaknesses as opportunities for improvement.
39. Thank Those Who Teach You
Thank the person who teaches you something.
40. Call a Family Member
Call a family member for each day of the week or month.
41. Watch a Video That Makes You Feel Good
Watch a video that makes you feel good about the world, i.e. random acts of kindness et cetera.
Here’s an example:
42. Visual Reminders
Set yourself visual reminders around the house.
These could be quotes or images that inspire you to be more grateful, pin them to your fridge or wall so that you could be reminded frequently throughout the day to practice gratitude deliberately.
In time, through frequent deliberate repetitions, gratitude will become a habit.
43. Share Learnings With Others
Teach or preach gratitude.
Share your gratitude experiences with others and inspire them to be more optimistic and grateful for the things in life.
44. Refuse Materialism
Next time you catch yourself throwing money around on useless things, remind yourself of all the things you have in life that you are grateful for.
This will fill the empty hole that you are trying to fill with shopping and materialism.
45. Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations are a powerful way to gain perspective.
Build a gratitude practice alongside positive affirmations so that you can reap the best of both worlds at one time.
46. Avoid Toxicity
Avoid situations that breed toxicity. Some people like to gossip endlessly.
Save your energy to work on your gratitude practice rather than spending it on mindless gossiping and backbiting.
47. Care for Your Garden/Home
Water the plants at your home.
Caring for a garden or even just a few plants is an awesome gratitude exercise that can boost your happiness exponentially.
48. Recognize the Good Someone Has Done For You
Remind yourself of all the good that someone has done for you when you get annoyed, angry, or irritated with someone.
Do not focus solely on the negative and recognize the good that they have done in their life.
49. Forgive Others
We all make mistakes. To err is to be human, right?
Why not practice forgiveness towards your fellow human beings.
There is nothing more powerful in bringing you closer to someone after you have had a row than forgiving them wholeheartedly.
50. Call Home More Often
Call home more often, video call with your people every day, and express your gratitude to the people without whom you wouldn’t be where you are right now.
Gratitude is a simple and easily accessible way to gain greater meaning, happiness, and joy in your life.
These gratitude exercises merely scratch the surface. You can practice gratitude every waking hour.
Each second of your life has been made possible by billions of cells, trillions of molecules of oxygen, and an endless number of other micro and macro factors and elements, all of which you take for granted.
So a little gratitude is not only healthy, but it is also the right thing to do.
Sikandar is opinionated on a diverse set of topics that include, but are not limited to, Productivity, Health, Fitness, Motivation, and Career. He is in love with the written word and writes mainly to help others on their self-actualizing journeys. A journalist by education, getting to the bottom of things is his modus operandi. Often, he finds himself moonlighting as a life coach to his family, friends, and colleagues. He can be reached at his LinkedIn for collaboration.