How to Practice Gratitude in Your Daily Life

UPDATED: December 5, 2023
PUBLISHED: November 29, 2023
Woman at the beach with her eyes closed learning how to practice gratitude

Introducing the practice of gratitude into your daily routine can have a transformative impact on your well-being and outlook on life. Expressing what you’re most grateful for and appreciating life’s little things will positively shift your perspective on life. Gratitude is a simple and accessible tool you can use to bring a greater sense of thankfulness for life, even its challenges.

What is gratitude?

Simply put, gratitude is a positive emotion expressing thankfulness for one’s life and the kind actions of others. Gratitude means taking a moment to appreciate the big and small moments in life, accomplishments and relationships you cherish. Reflecting on your life reminds you of meaningful memories and aspirations that motivate you. Learning how to practice and show gratitude is a healthy habit you can utilize in your daily life. Regularly practicing gratitude is a conscious effort to remind yourself of the good in life and to show an internal appreciation for yourself and others. 

Why practicing gratitude is important

Like other positive emotions, engaging in daily gratitude exercises can go a long way, especially in improving your mental and physical health and general attitude toward life. Showing gratitude helps people connect with positive emotions and focus on acknowledging the good things they experience in life. It’s a great way to mentally shift focus to positive aspects of life instead of constantly falling into cycles of stress, anxiety, envy and cynicism. You’ll also reap the greatest health benefits of practicing gratitude when it becomes habitual and part of your thought process. Even just setting aside moments throughout some time each day or week to prioritize gratitude can be beneficial. Evidence has shown that engaging in gratitude practices can help people feel more satisfied in life and boost their self-esteem, according to psychological research

The impact of showing gratitude

According to UCLA Health, specific benefits linked to gratitude include:

  • Better sleep 
  • Improvements in mental health
  • Stronger relationships
  • Increased self-confidence
  • A boosted immune system
  • A greater sense of optimism about life
  • Reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression

Practicing gratitude daily and grounding yourself in a moment will allow you to deeply think about not only what you’re grateful for but also why you’re grateful for those things. This practice can make it noticeably harder for you to ruminate on negative experiences and emotions when you intentionally shift your frame of thinking. Mindfulness, the act of being aware of one’s feelings, emotions and environment in the present moment, goes hand in hand with gratitude. They both share the goal of acknowledging one’s feelings and sensations of goodness in life.

Activities to practice gratitude daily

What gratitude looks like will differ from person to person. There are a variety of ways to engage in and show gratitude. Whichever exercise you choose, it’s important to remember the key components of gratitude: awareness of the good things in life, paying attention to those things, expressing gratitude to yourself and giving thanks to people you’re grateful for. There are plenty of gratitude activities and exercises you can try.

1. Write a gratitude list

Create a gratitude list naming all the things that you are grateful for in your life. Taking the time to write down and appreciate all of the positive moments you experience can help put life into a better perspective. The hustle and bustle of life these days can get you so caught up, you may fail to recognize the positive events or interactions we encounter on a daily basis. The exercise of writing a physical gratitude list of these positive things can help you visualize the biggest and smallest moments that make you smile and feel grateful.

2. Keep a gratitude journal

Similar to writing a list, some find it helpful to take it a step further by regularly updating a gratitude journal. Establishing a daily routine of writing down good things makes it easier for you to notice good things in life as they happen. The purpose of this gratitude activity is to reflect on the past day, week or even month. Try to remember three to five things you’re especially grateful for. When you feel grateful for the good things that may come from a challenging situation, for example, write down how you were able to overcome these difficulties through resilience and forgiveness. Reading your own words of gratitude can help you feel better when you find yourself struggling to be positive.

Struggling to figure out what to write in your gratitude journal? Try using a gratitude prompt. Some notebooks created specifically for gratitude journaling even include daily or weekly prompts, questions or quotes as inspiration.

3. Share your gratitude with others

Outwardly sharing your gratitude with those you’re grateful for strengthens your relationship with them. Plus, bonding with family and friends is a simple act that can help you feel gratitude for these relationships and have a more thankful frame of mind. Look for reasons to thank people and be intentional and specific with why you’re thankful for them. Sharing kindness will make you feel happier and healthier, and those benefits get passed along to those you most care about. 

4. Make a gratitude jar

A fun activity to practice gratitude is to make a gratitude jar. Make it fun and personable by decorating the jar and placing it where you can always see it. Every day, write down what you’re grateful for on a slip of paper and put it in the jar. As you fill the jar, you’ll start to see just how much in life you’re grateful for, along with reminders of good times. Whenever there’s a moment of doubt or sadness, return to the jar and read a few notes to remind yourself of who and what is good in your life.

5. Try gratitude prompts and worksheets

If you find yourself struggling with how to put to words what exactly it is you’re grateful for, there are many gratitude books and online worksheets that can help you jump-start your gratitude practice. Examples include: 

  • What is the best gift that you have ever received?
  • Write about a movie that touched your heart and why.
  • Write about someone you really admire.
  • I’m grateful for three things I hear.
  • List five things in your bedroom that you’re grateful for.
  • Write about a recent improvement in your lifestyle.

Final thoughts

Learning how to practice gratitude is a wonderful way to improve your overall health, especially as it shifts your mentality around life and its circumstances. Consciously building your capacity for gratitude through various exercises and activities will strengthen your ability to notice the biggest and smallest goods in life. The goal of gratitude is to uplift your self-esteem and others around you to embrace happiness in life.

Photo by – Yuri A/