Gratitude activities are exercises designed to encourage you to be more thankful in your day-to-day life.
Practising gratitude is now widely recognised as a fantastic way to improve your mindset as it pushes you to think more positively.
Negative thinking is part of our survival instinct; by thinking the worst, we often think that we’re protecting ourselves, but this isn’t actually the case. In fact, if we’re always negative, it’s more likely that we’ll attract negativity because we’re always looking for the worst in every situation.
By being grateful, we promote a more positive mindset and, in turn, attract more positive experiences and opportunities our way.
Sometimes, however, we need a little guidance when it comes to practising gratitude, as it doesn’t always come easily.
This is where practising gratitude activities and exercises come in.
Why should you practise gratitude activities?
Practising gratitude has been shown to help boost happiness, relieve stress, and improve your mindset overall.
It means focusing on what we do have and the positive side of life over what we don’t have and the negative.
With time (and practise), we can retrain our thought processes to go to a more positive place instead of a negative one.
However, for most people, feeling grateful for what we’ve got doesn’t come easily.
Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows and it’s absolutely okay to acknowledge this.
By practising gratitude exercises, we can encourage our minds to be thankful and embrace the good over the bad. We can coax that positivity out of the depths of our dark minds.
How do we do this?
#1. Repeat affirmations for gratitude
Affirmations are self-affirming statements – usually written and repeated in the present tense – that help solidify our self-belief, confidence and positivity.
When we repeat statements over-and-over again, our brain actually starts to believe them. Therefore, by repeating positive affirmations, we’re almost reprogramming our mindset to go to a more positive place.
Affirmations for gratitude are a great way to incorporate feeling grateful into your everyday life. They don’t involve any equipment (unless you want to write them down in a journal as well) and only take a couple of seconds to repeat in your head.
Some gratitude affirmations you might like to try are:
- I’m so grateful to get to wake up and experience a new day
- I’m thankful that the universe has my back
- I’m grateful for my body and what it can do
- I invite gratitude, happiness, and abundance into my life
- I’m thankful for how powerful I am
Times you might want to repeat one or two of these affirmations are:
- In the morning as soon as you wake up so that you get the day started on a positive note.
- Before bed in order to reflect on the day.
- Any time in between where you’re feeling negative or as if you need a bit of a boost. (This is the most important time as actively combatting negative self-talk is what teaches your brain to think more positively.)
#2. Write gratitude lists in your journal
If you’re new to practising gratitude, writing daily gratitude lists is a great place to start.
Firstly, it gets you in the habit of being more grateful and helps you incorporate it into your everyday life. Practising gratitude every day or even only a few times a week has been shown to be great for your mindset.
Secondly, after a few days, you tend to run out of the most obvious, ‘bigger’ things to write. For example, a roof over your head and food on the table. Soon, you have to really dig deep to get down to the smaller things that really make you thankful.
I invite you to write down five things you’re grateful for every morning or evening – whichever feels best for you and is easiest for you to stick to.
You can write your gratitude list down in a simple notepad, or incorporate it into your journal practise.
This is actually the first step I teach in my Master Your Mindset With Journaling course and workbook, as it can be so beneficial for our way of thinking.
#3. Redirect negative self-talk
A lot of the time, we can be our own biggest bullies.
Negative self-talk is toxic for our mindset and only leads to more negative thinking.
No good can come from beating yourself up, often for simply being human.
A way to combat this is with practising gratitude.
A gratitude activity you can try to get into the habit of doing, is to combat negative thinking with gratitude.
This takes some self-awareness, but gets easier with time, especially if you combine it with meditation and journaling.
Whenever you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk, I invite you to do three things:
- Recognise the negative self-talk. Acknowledge the thought and forgive yourself for thinking this way. You’re only human.
- Rationalise. Realise that the negative thought most likely isn’t true. Remember, other people’s opinions of you aren’t ‘evidence’; their opinion is their own business and often a reflection of them, not you.
- Replace the negative thought with gratitude. Now that you realise the negative thought for what it is – unhelpful and untrue – you can work on replacing it with a positive thought. In this case, try thinking of something that you’re grateful for that counter-acts the negativity.
With time and practise, you can rewire negative thought patterns with gratitude.
#4. Make a gratitude jar
If you struggle to think of things to be grateful for regularly, why not try make a gratitude jar?
This can be a 2D jar drawn in a bullet journal or a physical jar, usually a mason jar, filled to the top of bits of paper. Written on these bits of paper are things you’re grateful for.
This is a great gratitude activity because it puts intention behind your practise and also makes practising gratitude easier in general as you don’t have to think of new stuff every day. You simply pick out a piece of paper, read it and focus on the feeling that whatever’s written on that piece of paper brings.
Making a gratitude jar is also pretty easier and budget-friendly.
- Buy a mason jar, like this one off of Amazon.
- Decorate the mason jar however you like. Some people like to use stickers, twine, and even fabric to make their jars look pretty, although you don’t have to decorate it at all if you don’t want to. (These battery-powered fairy lights are really cute.)
- Write down loads of things you’re grateful for on a piece (or pieces) of paper, then cut or tear them up.
- Put the pieces of paper in the jar and do it up.
- Take a piece of paper from the jar each day to remind yourself to feel gratitude.
There are tons of videos on YouTube on how to make gratitude jars if you want a little extra guidance.
#5. Practise saying ‘thank you’
Getting into the habit of saying ‘thank you’ to yourself and others can be really uplifting.
Not only is it polite, but it puts good vibes out there so that you can receive them in return.
When you saying ‘thank you’ to yourself, you also improve your self-worth.
It’s good to take a second out of your day to just say ‘thank you’.
#6. Do something kind for someone else
Doing something kind for someone else is a really simple but rewarding way to show your gratitude to not just them specifically, but the universe in general.
Doing something as simple as buying another person’s coffee, paying for their gas, or carrying their bags for them across a road can make their whole day and will most likely put a spring in your step as well.
Good deeds may sometimes go unnoticed, but as long as you know that you’re good in your own heart, this will help show you that there are decent people in the world – you’re one of them.
Be grateful for the good people in the world and make sure that if one of them does something kind for you, that you show your gratitude in return. Let’s create positive cycles and break negative ones.
#7. Stick notes of gratitude around your home
Sticking post-it or sticky notes around your house is a genius way to remind yourself to be grateful.
This is particularly handy for neurodivergent people, such as those who with ADHD, who struggle to remember to write gratitude lists or take a note out of their gratitude jar each day.
Simply write things you’re grateful for on sticky notes (like these ones on Amazon) and place these around your home in places you’ll have no choice but to see them.
- Around your mirror
- On your fridge
- On your work planner
- On your car keys
- In the cutlery drawer
You can even set something you’re grateful for as the background on your phone or computer.
#8. Take part in a gratitude challenge
One way to kickstart your journey with gratitude is to try a gratitude challenge.
By taking part in a challenge, you not only motivate yourself to start, but you also give yourself enough time to form a habit.
Taking part in a 30 days of gratitude challenge is perfect for this as 30 days is enough to get some of the benefits of practising being thankful, while also creating a positive habit that will be good for you in the long-run.
30 days is also a manageable amount of time – it doesn’t ask you to commit for the rest of your life or even a year. Therefore, it’s less daunting and you’re much more likely to start it rather than procrastinate.
#9. Make gratitude prompt cards
Similar to a gratitude jar, making gratitude flash or prompt cards is a great way to find inspiration when you’re not feeling particularly grateful.
Simply keep the deck next to your bed or in a safe place where you’ll be reminded to use them, give them a shuffle, and pick out a prompt card with something you’re grateful for written on it.
They may help jog your memory so that you can think of more things for your gratitude list, or simply help you feel even the smallest hint of gratitude for that day.
They’re also really simply to make.
- Get some card or thick paper
- Write a rough list of things you’re grateful for
- Design how you want your prompt cards to look – you can take a look on Pinterest for inspiration
- Create your prompt cards either by hand or using a tool on the computer, such as Canva
- Print out your prompt cards if you designed them on a computer
- Cut out your prompt cards
Then, all that’s left to do is shuffle.
If you’re strapped for time, you can also buy affordable, pre-made prompt cards.
Affirmicious are an awesome company that make prompt cards for affirmations so that you don’t have to make your own.
#10. Leave ‘thank you’ notes for people
A cute way to express gratitude is to leave ‘thank you’ notes for people.
While saying ‘thank you’ is good, writing a genuine, heart-felt thank you note can be even better.
It’s super-thoughtful and a lovely way to put out some good energy into the universe.
Write thank you notes for the people in your life who have really helped you or taken the time out of their day to be kind to you. These can even be strangers.
It’ll make their day.
#11. Do guided gratitude meditations
Meditation is an effective way to improve mindfulness and self-awareness, which can encourage you to realise what you’ve got and help you focus on that.
It can also help calm you down and ease stress, which is always amazing for our mindset and mental health overall.
There are lots of guided meditations on YouTube that focus on gratitude – here’s one of my favourites.
#12. Take a break to be thankful
Sometimes, practising gratitude means doing nothing.
Forget writing lists, making gratitude jars, and journaling. Simply sit back and take a moment to yourself to really appreciate your life.
Taking a step back to think about what you’re thankful for helps you take a breather from your day.
I invite you to put down your phone and just enjoy BEING and appreciating, if only for a few minutes.
#13. Make a gratitude tree or flower
Making a gratitude tree or flower is a crafty gratitude activity that’s perfect for children, as well as adults.
The idea behind the gratitude tree (or flower) is to create the trunk and brunches of the tree, then add leaves.
Each leaf or petal has something you’re grateful for written on it.
With time, your tree is lush and full of leaves – aka things you’re grateful for – which provides a beautiful visual representation of your life.
As the tree or flower fills, you realise how full your life is and how much you have to live for.
You can choose to draw a gratitude tree in your bullet journal where you write on the petals/leaves (and trunk as well, if you like), or make a physical one where you hang you leaves using card and string.
#14. Set reminders to feel grateful
This might sound a little out-there for those who are neuro-typical, but for those who aren’t and/or those who deal from mental health issues, simply remembering to be grateful is a tough task.
Setting reminders on your phone to practise gratitude is a good way to jog your memory and remind you to take a moment to be thankful.
#15. Practise self-care
While self-care isn’t a gratitude activity in itself, it does show your body and mind how grateful you are to have it.
By practising self-care and therefore looking after your mental, emotional and physical well-being, you also get into the habit of doing something positive for yourself every day.
It makes appreciating your life much easier and also helps improve your mindset, which, when combined with gratitude, can be really transformative.
This is why I teach both gratitude and scheduling self-care in my Master Your Mindset With Journaling course and workbook – they’re so important.
I also teach goal-setting, repeating affirmations, and using journal prompts to completely overhaul your mindset and improve how you tackle life.
The course is currently open for enrolment.