“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” —William Arthur Ward
You’ve noticed something in your life worthy of gratitude, you’ve shifted your mindset to expand your view of the things around you, you’ve savored the feelings the thing/gift brought to you…now what?
Notice Think Feel
Say Thank you!
This page is divided into two main sections:
- Expressing gratitude with others — where you express your appreciation to another person by way of saying ‘thank you’ or giving a gift.
- Expressing gratitude by yourself — where you journal or think about all that you are grateful for, whether that be people, gifts, or experiences in your life.
Need a quick fix? Jump to: 20 Ways to Express Gratitude
For a longer fix, you can also jump straight to the in-depth Practice and Exercises page.
Or, want to deepen your knowledge of gratitude expression and form your own practice that works for you? Read on…!
Expressing Gratitude With Others
“If taking each other for granted is the poison, then gratitude might be the antidote.” – Amie M. Gordon
Practicing gratitude often asks us to recognize our dependence on others, which can be a challenging part of having a grateful attitude. As gratitude expert and researcher Robert Emmons says, part of expressing gratitude is acknowledgment of the role other people play in bringing goodness into our life (Emmons, 2007).
Practicing gratitude often asks us to recognize our dependence on others, which can be a challenging part of having a grateful attitude — it requires vulnerability!
Gratitude relating to others can be split into two categories:
Appreciation for actions/things (Gratitude TO Others)
In the moment, I can be grateful for people around me and the actions/goodness they bring into my life.
For example, appreciation of the stranger holding the door, a team member having a great idea, or a partner for cleaning up the house.
“Thank you for the gift you gave me”
Gratitude for the person specifically (Gratitude FOR others)
In listing things I am grateful for, I recall people that have served me in the past and I am grateful those people exist in my life.
For example, close friends and family who may not have done things for you recently but whom you are grateful to have around.
“I am grateful to have such a reliable friend around me.”
The Power of Appreciation
Expressing Appreciation: Kate MacAleavey at TEDxClaremontColleges
Appreciation is one of the most desired psychological variables in work and in everyday life.
Instead of simply saying “thank you,” MacAleavey suggests taking the time and effort to make a genuine and specific connection with somebody to let them know they are appreciated, such as giving them a gratitude letter. Researchers have found genuine interactions of gratitude to have a longer-lasting effect than a simple “thank you.”
A Moving Story About Gratitude
In this short film, a boy draws a helping hand that he is grateful for and shows appreciation to his teacher. The message of the film reads: Let us be grateful. Not for the material things given to us, but the small ways that we give something to others.
Giving Unexpected Gratitude to Those Who Need It Most | Ryan Duffy | TEDxUF
Ryan Duffy tells a story of gratitude and giving it to those who may not be obvious recipients (i.e. a teacher thanking students rather than the students thanking the teacher). Citing research, he shows people on average show a 16% higher level of self worth when given unexpected gratitude.
Types of Appreciation
As outlined on the Types of Gratitude page, there are 3 main types of appreciation — verbal, concrete, and connective gratitude. Below, review these types of gratitude that can be expressed to others.
Expressing verbal gratitude is probably the easiest way to express since it requires little time or money investment and can happen immediately. “Verbal” can refer to spoken gratitude, but letters, texts, emails, signs, etc.. also fall into the category of verbal gratitude.
While mailing a thank you note or writing appreciation in an email may be easier than talking to the person, research shows face to face or on a call has longer lasting effects and is the way to go (Lomas et al., 2014). Expressing gratitude to the actual person is far more beneficial to your emotional and physical health – not to mention, your relationship with said person!
7 unique examples of ‘Verbal’ Gratitude:
|Idea||Example / Inspiration|
Write a letter, then call or visit the person and read them your letter.
|An Experiment in Gratitude | The Science of Happiness|
Make a video saying “Thank you” to a person, group, or organization
|Non Profit Organization says Thanks|
Write a song of thanks.
|‘Thank U Frontline’|
|Thank You Signs
Make signs to show thanks in public places.
|Ann Arbor woman’s idea to make thank you signs for first responders catches on|
|Thank You Post Card
Turn a memorable photo into a postcard and mail it to a friend.
|Personalised Postcards – PostSnap
OR Send an E-card
|Thank You Scavenger Hunt
Make the clues things you appreciate about the person like “I love how we read together every night, find your next clue in our favorite book!”
|Mother’s Day Scavenger Hunt Ideas!|
Write down messages of gratitude to a specific person. You can also reach out to other people to add their notes for this person. Collect all the messages and put them in a notebook, scrapbook, or box and give it to the person as a special gift.
|NoteCube helps you write messages, and allows family and friends to contribute messages as well — then compiles them on cards in a cute box!|
*For more ideas on how to say ‘thank you’ without saying it, see the Types of Gratitude page*
The more specific verbal gratitude is, the more it may land and feel genuine. “Thank you for being you” has a much different impact than “I appreciate the positive outlook you have on life, you always light up the room when I am with you!”
Quick List: How to say “Thank You” in common situations
Thank you for a gift:
- Thank you for the _____, I can’t wait to use it this week.
- ___ is exactly what I have been looking for, thank you for getting it for me.
- I know you spent a lot of time picking it out for me. I’m grateful to have such a thoughtful friend.
- Thank you for thinking of me.
- You brightened my day with your gift, thank you!
Thank you for a kind deed:
- Thank you for always stepping in when I need you most.
- Thank you for taking the time to help me, it really meant a lot.
- I really appreciate what you did.
- Thank you for your help, I couldn’t have done it without you.
- Thank you for meeting my need for ease tonight and taking your time to _____ for us.
- I appreciate you learning new things and developing your ____ skills.
Thank you for being a friend:
- I’m so grateful to have a friend like you in my life.
- I don’t say it enough: thank you for being there for me.
- Thank you for all your advice, I don’t know where I would be without you.
- I value and respect your opinion, thank you for sharing with me.
- Thank you for being brave and opening up to me.
- Thank you for reaching out, it was really nice to hear from you.
Thank you to a significant other:
- I appreciate all you do for me.
- I’m grateful every time I wake up with you.
- Thank you for supporting my dreams.
- I appreciate how you are constantly working to improve our relationship and help love grow.
- Thank you for trusting me.
Thank you to a boss or colleague:
- Thank you for meeting with me today.
- I appreciate your help on ___.
- Thank you for sharing your feedback with me.
- I appreciate your dedication to our team.
- I am grateful to be on such a hardworking team.
- Thank you for your time today.
- I appreciate you going above and beyond.
Gifts (tangible items beyond a written note) can be concrete representations of gratitude. In Western culture, gift giving is often an expression of caring and love towards another person. While some holidays and celebrations have customary gift giving expectations (Christmas, anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, etc…) spontaneous and out of the blue gifts can be a meaningful way to express gratitude and love.
By turning a feeling of gratitude into something tangible, it can be more validating for the receiver and therefore come off as more sincere than simply saying or writing thank you. In expressing gratitude with a gift, we are saying: “the thing you did for me was highly valuable, so I went out of my way to get you something to say thank you” which is very affirming.
Ideas for expressing concrete gratitude:
When a gift is non-tangible, it falls into the category of connective gratitude. Expressing connective gratitude offers something the receiver needs, like support or help.
Usually, connective gratitude has a time commitment involved instead of giving a concrete gift.
Connective gratitude can be the most genuine because it involves reflecting on what the receiver really wants or needs and acting upon that.
Examples of connective gratitude:
Acts of Service
- Helping a friend move
- Giving a ride
- Lending tools
- Babysitting or pet sitting
- Cooking* or cleaning
- Offering skills like building or plumbing
- Setting up a special experience like a bubble bath or picnic
Acts of Support
- Physical touch (hugs, massage)
- Playing a game
- Quality time
- Extending Friendship
- Going for a walk and chatting
- Planning a trip or scheduling an activity (not necessarily paying for it)
*The line between concrete and connective gratitude can be a gray area, for example cooking someone a meal could be an act of service or a tangible item, so some things could fall into both categories.
Gratitude and Relationships
“No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.” —Alfred North Whitehead
Expressing gratitude in a partnership or to close loved ones can be forgotten when we get caught up in daily routines.
Researcher and author Robert Emmons says:
“I see [gratitude] as a relationship-strengthening emotion, because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people (Emmons, 2010).”
Overall, gratitude has been associated with several relational and prosocial factors:
- Gratitude has been linked to activity in the oxytocin system, which contributes to our ability to appreciate positive feelings in relationships (Algoe 2014).
- Research has found when couples express gratitude for each other, they each become more satisfied within the relationship (Gordon, 2015).
- One Study found that participants’ reported feelings of gratitude towards a romantic partner predicted who would stay in their relationships and who would break up nine months later (Gordon, 2015).
- A lack of gratitude can impact dissatisfaction within partnerships in terms of the division of labor (Trethewey & Alberts 2007).
- Gratitude supports the process of making new friends. An Australian study found recipients of expressions of gratitude were more likely to extend the effort to start a new relationship with the novel peer (Williams & Bartlett, 2015).
- Gratitude encourages empathy and sensitivity and decreases aggression towards peers (Ziegler, 2011).
Offering Gratitude in a Relationship
- Say thank you for the little things your loved ones do for you, things you normally take for granted.
- Like Love Languages, people have different ways in which they prefer to be thanked. If your partner values acts of service over words of affirmation, connective gratitude may speak louder than verbal, for example helping with a chore that is typically theirs to do, or having dinner ready for them when they get home from work.
Receiving Gratitude in a Relationship
- Sometimes, gratitude needs to be decoded to find the intention behind the thanks. Make an effort to find the meaning behind the offering so you can better connect.
- Offering gratitude can feel vulnerable to some people because they are acknowledging dependence on another person or admitting they needed help in that moment. Honor this vulnerability with your partner to foster a deeper connection.
When offering verbal gratitude, specificity can help with authenticity. Try this formula:
This is what you did;
This is what I feel;
This is my need (desire/value/super important thing I needed help with) that was met.
By structuring your appreciation in such a way, you are offering a bigger opportunity for connection between yourself and the receiver.
“Celebratory love is when we see the awesomeness in someone else and celebrate it with them”. –Barbara Fredrickson
Since “thank you” is said so often, it can lack authenticity. When we really connect and think about why we feel gratitude for something, a helpful exercise is to get very specific with how we express that gratitude.
For example, if your partner cleans and puts away the dishes, you could simply say “thank you.” Since you have likely said thank you to your partner before, it may not feel that special to express your gratitude in this way — for you or for your partner.
Instead, you could try offering a specific explanation of how you felt when your partner did the dishes, like, “When you did the dishes, it really met my need for ease and relaxation, and I feel grateful that you take pride in our home and keep our kitchen tidy.”
Fred Luskin: Forgiveness Requires Gratitude
Fred Luskin explains why gratitude and compassion help people look beyond themselves to enable forgiveness.
Three key points he says:
- “I teach forgiveness, but at the heart of forgiveness, I see that most of us have issues with gratitude and compassion.”
- “We make unforgiveness seem normal.”
- “If we practice every single day: ‘thank you’ and ‘I appreciate you’ … you’d have almost no grudges … because you would be creating a mind-body experience that is healthy.”
How Does Gratitude Affect Romantic Relationships?
Sara B. Algoe of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, describes her research into how gratitude affects romantic partners’ feelings for one another, as well as their style of relating to each other.
Three key points she says:
- Sometimes we don’t notice the thing the person did for us because we are so used to them doing it.
- Moments of gratitude within relationships are important because they remind us just how important specific other people are in our lives, for example when her partner went for a run with her after work to keep her company. “It showed me he understood me and he cared.”
- Gratitude motivates us to make gestures that bind us more closely with our romantic partner
Philip Watkins: The Social Benefits of Gratitude
In a presentation for the Greater Good Science Center, Eastern Washington University professor Philip Watkins explains how gratitude improves relationships and cognitive processes. His research found:
- Gratitude develops happiness by helping you:
- Notice the good
- Make positive interpretations of good events
- Reflect more positively on your past
- People tend to like grateful people and gratitude enhances:
- Our desire to affiliate with others
- Our tendency to include others
- Prosocial behavior
Try This: Practice Gratitude with a Partner
Further down this page, exercises and practices for doing gratitude on your own are outlined. Partnered gratitude rituals can strengthen relationships and help us feel more connected to our partner.
With a partner, explore these exercises and open to a gratitude journey together.
- Journal Together — You can share journal entries or keep them private, but in committing to journaling together, you will keep each other motivated and excited about the task and it will naturally lead to moments of sharing.
- Gratitude Jar — Spend a date night writing gratitudes to fill up the jar. Keep the jar in an open place so anyone can add a note or take out a note to read it whenever they need.
- Take a Savoring Walk Together — Help each other notice the small things like the smell of some flowers or a funny shaped cloud. Savor the joy of the little things and savor the positive experience together.
- Write Letters to Eachother — Take some time apart to write out a gratitude letter to read to the other person. When we get the time to sit down and write something out, we can process what we really want to say whereas we may forget in the moment.
- Create a Gratitude Photo Album — Choose moments from the past you are grateful for and put them into the album together.
The Relational Love section also has a section on gratitude rituals with a partner:
You can turn just about any gratitude practice into a partner ritual. See below for even more ideas!
Gratitude and Community
Prosocial behavior often calls us to pay it forward. When we feel grateful for what we have, we have a tendency to give back either to those less fortunate or return the favor to those who helped us.
Gratitude can lead to altruism and philanthropy because of the neural link between the behaviors (Smith, et al., 2020). When we feel grateful for what we have, we have a yearning to give back either to those less fortunate or return the favor to those who helped us.
“I believe gratitude is the foundation of personal happiness—and a community’s happiness as well, as the two aren’t easily separated.” —Christine Carter (Happiness Expert)
How gratitude accidentally connected a community | Geoff Welch | TEDxAnchorage
The owner of a small printing business decided to give away free thank you notes to inspire his community to say thank you.
Ways to practice gratitude in your community
Say Thank You to everyone who helps you — see below for inspiration!
See more on Community in the Friendship Section:
Gratitude at Work
Research shows gratitude boosts productivity at work and helps employees feel more valued and satisfied with their workplace:
- In one study of gratitude in the workplace, researchers found those in the gratitude condition increased in positive affect by 9.8% over the course of the trial while the control group increased only 2% (Kaplan et al., 2013).
- A survey by Glassdoor found 81% of employees surveyed would work harder for a boss who is appreciative rather than demanding (Glassdoor, 2019).
- A study of faculty members at a school of nursing found gratitude practices to increase job satisfaction by 17.9% (Stegen & Wankier, 2018)
How Full is Your Bucket?
Some jobs have a culture of only hearing feedback when something goes wrong. When we stop to recognize when things go right, we can create a more positive working experience for everyone. By extending your appreciation to your co-workers, you may find yourself experiencing closer connections as well as a work environment based on positivity rather than negativity.
How Full Is Your Bucket? By Tom Rath reveals how even the briefest interactions affect your relationships, productivity, health, and longevity. Organized around a simple metaphor of a dipper and a bucket, and grounded in 50 years of research, this book will show you how to greatly increase the positive moments in your work and your life — while reducing the negative.
Try it out — Ideas for Creating a Culture of Gratitude at work
Start Meetings with Gratitude
In the midst of a stressful workday, take a moment to have everyone express one thing they are grateful for. This will build connections as people share things from their personal lives that they appreciate, and will create a grounding moment before jumping into the meeting.
Express Verbal Gratitude Frequently
Write a sticky note, add a line in an email, or tell the person face to face:
- Thank you for meeting with me today.
- I appreciate your help on this project.
- Thank you for sharing your feedback with me.
- I appreciate your dedication to this team.
- I am grateful to be on such a hardworking team.
- Thank you for your time today.
- I appreciate how hard you have been working on this project.
Warm Fuzzy Mail Boxes
Warm fuzzies are positive notes pointing out the good one co-worker notices in another. Having paper and pens near mailboxes or having an envelope on the wall for each person makes it easy for someone to quickly write a note of appreciation and put it in the person’s mailbox.
At a meeting, pass around a cup or bucket and have each person write a note of appreciation anonymously. Read them out to acknowledge the person and their contributions.
Gratitude Wall in the Break Room
Write notes of appreciation on sticky notes and stick them to the wall in the break room. People can read notes about themselves and others as a way to brighten everyone’s day.
Gratitude Whip Around
Every morning, start the day by whipping around the room and having everyone share 1 thing they are grateful for. The purpose of it being quick is so that people will think of something ahead of time, allowing each person to have a moment of gratitude each day before they start work.
Ready to make the change to a grateful culture at your workplace?
Check out this printable “menu” to bring to your team and inspire change:
How to Express Gratitude by Yourself
Expressing gratitude to/for others is really only half of a healthy gratitude practice. There are hundreds of things in life that may not be able to be attributed to a specific person.
Can you be grateful when there is no one to thank? Absolutely!
Read on for exercises you can practice by yourself, or with others, to enjoy moments of reflection and savor the feelings of joy gratitude can bring.
- Seek quiet — take a time out from social media and find a quiet place away from focusing on what we don’t have.
- Savor a memory — Think about a time when you felt grateful and what prompted your gratitude. Hussong says “By practicing on a memory, we get better at noticing in the present.”
- Don’t do it alone — use gratitude time as a way to connect to your friends/partner/family — share what you are grateful for over a meal, and not just at Thanksgiving!
- Do it by rote — repetition and practice until you get the hang of things. If the think and feel parts seemed forced, focus on the noticing and doing first, and the thinking and feeling will follow.
- Prompt it — Use stop signs, journal prompts, or daily reminders to trigger a moment of gratitude throughout your day.
The Gratitude Journal
Keeping a gratitude journal is the most popular and most researched method of practicing habitual gratitude.
Multiple studies (1, 2, 3, Meta-analytic Review) have researched the benefits of a gratitude journaling practice/writing down positive things and found a positive correlation between writing about gratitude and overall positive affect.
What makes journaling effective?
According to Robert Emmons, the world’s leading gratitude expert and researcher, “Writing helps to organize thoughts, facilitate integration, and helps you accept your own experiences and put them in context,” he says. “In essence, it allows you to see the meaning of events going on around you and create meaning in your own life.”
Does the type of journal matter? Nope!
A gratitude practice should be a personal experience — which means finding what works well for you. There is no research suggesting journaling in the morning is more effective than journaling in the evening, and aesthetics do not really matter (Marsh 2011).
According to Emmons, “You don’t need to buy a fancy personal journal to record your entries in, or worry about spelling or grammar. The important thing is to establish the habit of paying attention to gratitude-inspiring events.”
Check out our Simple Gratitude Journal template for a great place to start.
Interested in purchasing a journal? See the chart below for our recommendations.
Tips for keeping a gratitude journal
- Be Intentional. Research shows those who make an intentional decision to become more joyful through the practice of journaling experienced higher levels of gratitude compared to those who were going through the motions
- Be Specific. Elaborating in detail on one thing has a bigger impact than a large list of surface level things.
- Be Personal. Acknowledging the people behind the things will have a bigger impact than simply acknowledging things (see gratitude for others above!).
- Be Positive. Frame your gratitude in a positive light and resist the urge to frame it around someone else lacking something “I’m grateful that my parents don’t yell at me like Sarah’s do.” vs. “I’m grateful for the relationship I have with my parents.” See the difference? The latter will feel better and cultivate a more uplifting and positive attitude.
- Don’t Overdo it. Research shows weekly journaling is actually more effective than daily or 3x per week journaling. See below for more Hindrances to Journaling
Helpful tip: Print this list and put it in your journal for a reminder when you are writing.
Oprah Talks about the Gratitude Journals
Oprah has kept a gratitude journal for over 16 years now, and she claims it is the single most important thing she has ever done. “What I know for sure is that no matter what is going on in your life, I believe if you concentrate on what you have, you’ll always end up having more…. If you focus on what you don’t have, you will never ever have enough.”
Not sure where to start? Prompt it!
Research shows gratitude is just as effective if it is prompted (vs. if you think of it organically).
Explore our worksheets to find the journal prompts that work well for you!
Notice, Think, Feel, Do Daily Template
Based on the NTFD model, take time in each writing section to specify about the things you noticed, why you think that gift exists, how you feel about the gift, and what you did to express gratitude.
30 Journal Prompts
30 unique prompts that go beyond ‘what are you grateful for today’ to act as inspiration if you can’t think of what to write about.
Counting Blessings and Burdens
This exercise follows a popular gratitude study of writing a list of gratitudes and writing a list of burdens and then reflecting after 10 days.
Gallery of Gratitude
A fun worksheet to try by yourself or with kids that involves drawing pictures of prompts to create a gallery of gratitude.
Simple Journal Template
A straightforward place to write ‘today I am grateful for…’ for people who would like more than a blank sheet and less than an entire gratitude journal.
A straightforward and simple template to get a week’s worth of gratitude on a single page.
Gratitude List for Kids
A fun list of prompts to get kids thinking about small and large things they may be grateful for.
Try Something Different — Gratitude Polaroids
365 grateful project | Hailey Bartholomew | TEDxQUT
Instead of a journal, Hailey took a polaroid each day of something she was grateful for. She realized there were so many small things in her life that she would never have noticed had she not been looking. It improved her relationship with her husband, her children, and herself.
Have a polaroid camera in your house, around the office, or community space. When you notice someone doing an action that you are grateful for, take a picture! Pin up the pictures on a board, on the fridge, or another communal space where you can all see the reminders of your greatness!
Can you journal in the back of an old notebook? Totally.
As stated above, what matters is the method works and feels good to you.
Explore the resources below if your practice would benefit from something more than a piece of paper and a pen — for example prompts, inspiring quotes, or daily reminders sent to your phone/email.
THNX4 is the online gratitude journal created by the Greater Good Science Center. Create a free account and then you have the option to start a 10 or 30 day challenge, join a team or community, or simply write for your own reflection. With built in prompts the platform is quick and easy to use and has a public forum where you can read what other people are grateful for.
Gratitude: Self-Care Journal
Gratitude journal, affirmations, vision board, and daily motivation content. Gratitude provides you with all the tools and reminders you need to gain motivation and develop a healthy self-love routine in your life.
Apple | Google
Presently: A Gratitude Journal
A no-frills, free gratitude journal that offers daily reminders to submit your entry and allows you to look back on previous entries.
Delightful – Gratitude Journal & 3 Good Things
365 Gratitude Journal – Self Care App
This app has lots of features, beyond simple gratitude journaling, the app includes a mood tracker, daily prompts, daily inspiration, and the ability to share online with friends.
Apple | Google
The Team at Kurzgesagt created this journal to help you get into the habit of Gratitude journaling. It contains step-by-step explanations and lots of cute illustrations.
Gratitude expert and benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast uses his teachings to inspire gratefulness throughout each day.
21 Day Journal
Grateful at Work is an organization that helps workplaces create a culture of gratitude. Their journals are available in 1, 5, and 30 packs so the whole team can start a grateful habit together.
This journal comes with a 20 sided dice of gratitude prompts to add some play into your gratitude practice.
Holstee Gratitude Cards | A Deck of Questions to Inspire Grateful Living
Draw a card and prompt gratitude! These can be enjoyed alone or with others for a special moment of connection.
Seven Ways to Diminish the Benefits of the Journal
Like all psychology practices, gratitude journaling may not work for everyone. Below are seven things that hinder the effectiveness of a journal.
- You force yourself to write even though it feels like a chore.
The journal is meant to be a source of joy and savoring positive feelings, so if it starts to feel like a chore, you may no longer be getting those benefits. Consider taking a break or finding another practice you enjoy doing.
Suggested further reading: Mindfulness, Purpose
- Day to day, you end up listing pretty much the same things.
Part of journaling is exercising your observational skills throughout the day. If you find it hard to think of new things, review the NOTICE page and see what little things you may be forgetting.
Suggested further reading: Awe, Zest
- Your writing tends to stay on the surface.
Gratitude is linked to vulnerability, so if your journal is not tapping into anything vulnerable, you may not be getting as much out of it as you could. Consider some gratitude prompts and be completely honest — dig deep!
Suggested further reading: Vulnerability
- Your entries tend to focus on the negative.
Gratitude specifically helps our brain focus on the positive, so if your entries tend to focus on negative things, you may want to review the THINK page and shift your mindset to think more positively about the things you have. For example, instead of “I’m grateful I’m not homeless” you would frame it as “I’m grateful for my home.”
Suggested further reading: Hope, Intentional Speech
- Long periods go by without you thinking about the journal.
If we don’t make journaling a habit, it can be easy to put the journal in the drawer and forget about it. Having the journal out where you can see it and where you are likely to use it can be an effective reminder for journaling.
- You are too busy for journaling.
Journaling doesn’t need to take a long time — 5 minutes per day or even per week. Creating a routine that fits in journaling such as writing for 5 minutes before bed or writing while you drink coffee can be one way to get around ‘I’m too busy’.
Suggested further reading: Busyness
- You don’t feel any changes happening, so why keep it up?
One big part of keeping an effective gratitude journal is intention. If you are journaling to go through the motions, you may not be feeling the effectiveness of it. The journal needs buy in and intentional entries in order to start making a difference in your outlook.
Suggested further reading: Mindfulness
If you find any of these land in relation to your journaling practice, it may be time to take a break, reconsider your journaling or try another method of practicing gratitude. Read on for alternatives to the journal!
Alternatives to the Journal
Journaling not for you? Here are 7 alternatives, backed by research.
The Gratitude Letter
Write a letter or note to someone expressing your gratitude — parent, teacher, guardian, sibling, boss, etc…
To experience more gratitude, deliver the letter in person or call the person and read them the letter.
Research suggests gratitude letters provide strong and long-lasting happiness boosts, especially when they’re delivered in person.
What Teens Are Thankful For
Greater Good Science Center ran its own gratitude letter experiment with teens and recorded the experience.
3 Good Things
Think of (or write down) three good things that happened that day. You can do this practice on your own or with others.
In focusing on three good things from that day, we are able to have a more positive outlook on life and focus less on negatives that happened.
The Gratitude Jar
When you notice something good in your life, write it down on a slip of paper and place it in a jar. Experiences, gifts, interactions, events, etc — there is nothing too big or too small to note.
Keep the jar in a common place, and every time you see it, either add a note or take a note out and read it. On challenging days, it may be easier to read a past note than to add a new note, and either way, you can take a moment to feel grateful for something in that moment.
Research showed keeping a gratitude jar to be an effective method of stress management to help build resiliency and lower burnout levels in public school teachers.
Print the prompt slips here
Create “stop signs” throughout your daily routine. Each time you see the stop sign, take a minute to notice something good in your life and think about how that thing came into your life and how you feel about it.
Example stop signs:
- A special rock on your desk
- A stoplight on the way to work
- A sticky note on your light switch
- A sticker on your mirror
- A special bracelet you wear around your wrist
Check out the printable stop signs here.
Write down a few grateful statements and tape them to your mirror. Every morning while you brush your teeth, fill in the blanks in the prompts.
- I am grateful I am healthy. My __(i.e. head, neck, stomach)___ feels good today.
- I am grateful for __(Person)___ and the __(gift)__ they bring to my life.
- I am grateful for my job. I look forward to working on ____ today.
- When I look outside, I am grateful for ___(something in nature or weather).
Share What You Are Grateful For
Every evening before dinner, take a moment to share around the table one thing you are grateful for.
Brene Brown on joy and gratitude — Brene Brown started a ritual with her family where each night around the dinner table her family shares one thing they are grateful for. Not only are all family members able to connect with each other over shared gratitude, but they can notice things about each other and appreciate each other, strengthening their bonds.
Take a Savoring Walk
Once a week, commit to going for a savoring walk.
As you walk, notice good things around you and feelings within you.
Use your 5 senses to notice the color of leaves, the smell of flowers, the feeling of the sun on your skin, etc.
Taking this time to intentionally focus on good things can act as a reset. And, research has shown how daily exposure to nature can contribute to a higher daily positive affect.
20 Ways to Practice Gratitude — the Infographic
**Click for the full-size image**
Unique Ways to Practice Gratitude
- Gratitude Tree
This activity is great with kids! It creates a visual representation of gratitude that you can enjoy in your home.
- Go on a savoring walk
- Collect some branches
- At home, put the branches in a bucket or vase
- Write gratitudes on pieces of paper
- Punch a hole in the paper, tie a string to it, and hang it on the tree.
- Light a Candle
This website invites you to practice mindfulness and light a digital “candle”. Candles can represent remembrance, peace, or hope. This site guides you through lighting a candle and leaving a message and you can also see the over 22 million candles that have been lit by people around the world.
- Count Blessings before bed
Before falling asleep, try the meditative practice of listing things you are grateful for.
- Public Thnx4 Journal
If you ever have writers block when working on your gratitude journal, it can be helpful and inspiring to read what other people are grateful for.
- Random Acts of Kindness
Pay it Forward— When we brighten other people’s days, we can find joy ourselves.
- How to Talk with Kids about Gratitude
To see gratitude in a new light, teach gratitude to children.
- The Gratitude List
Keep a running list of all the things you are grateful for. When you think of or notice something new, add it to the list.
- Gratitude Yoga
The site Yoga Journal has flows and poses that help get into a grateful mindset:
This Heart-Opening Flow Inspires You to Move & Groove With Gratitude – Yoga Journal
5 Poses to Cultivate Gratitude for Your Practice—No Matter What It Looks Like
- 365 Days of Thank You: Brian Doyle at TEDxYouth@SanDiego 2013
After a near-death experience, Brian Doyle realized he takes the relationships in his life for granted. For 365 days he called or met with a person to thank them for the role they had in his life.
- 365 Grateful
Hailey Bartholomew (TED talk above!) created a website to share more about her gratitude journey. Collecting stories from others, the stories section of the site features inspiring films about celebrating life and learning a little gratitude.
- What Matthew McConaughey’s Mom Told Him About Daily Gratitude | The Oprah Winfrey Show | OWN
“Don’t sit down at the table until you are going to see the rose in the vase instead of the dust on the table.”
- Douglas R Conant
In the years he served as CEO of Campbell’s, he wrote over 30,000 thank-you notes to employees.
- Short: Gratitude Grows
An artist decides to paint 100 paintings for 100 people she is grateful for.
- Questions to Bring More Gratitude into Your Life
Author, humanitarian, and student of Brother David, Lynne Twist shares some statements and questions to fuel a daily habit of appreciation.
“Rather than waking up in the morning with ‘I didn’t get enough sleep’ and going to bed at night with ‘I didn’t get enough done’ — which is bookending your day with scarcity…what if we woke up in the morning and are so grateful for the sweet territory of silence and sleep? And you can wake up that way! You can actually tell yourself to do that. Our mind is very obedient” — Lynne Twist
- Algoe, S. B., & Way, B. M. (2014). Evidence for a role of the oxytocin system, indexed by genetic variation Incd38, in the social bonding effects of expressed gratitude. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9(12), 1855–1861. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nst182
- Emmons, R. A. (2007). Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Annotated edition). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
- Emmons, R. A. (2010, November 16). Why Gratitude is Good. Greater Good Magazine. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good
- Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–389. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2067
- Davis, D. E., Choe, E., Meyers, J., Wade, N., Varjas, K., Gifford, A., Quinn, A., Hook, J. N., Van Tongeren, D. R., Griffin, B. J., & Worthington, E. L. (2016). Thankful for the little things: A meta-analysis of gratitude interventions. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 63(1), 20–31. https://doi.org/10.1037/cou0000107
- Glassdoor Team. (2019, December 10). The Power of Employee Appreciation [Infographic] – Glassdoor for Employers. US | Glassdoor for Employers. https://www.glassdoor.com/employers/blog/employers-to-retain-half-of-their-employees-longer-if-bosses-showed-more-appreciation-glassdoor-survey/
- Gordon, A. M. (2015, February 5). Gratitude is for lovers. Greater Good Science Center. Retrieved November 19, 2021, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/gratitude_is_for_lovers.
- Hussong, A. (2021, January 26). How to practice gratitude? Notice. Think. Feel. Do. | UNC-Chapel Hill. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. https://www.unc.edu/discover/how-to-practice-gratitude-notice-think-feel-do/
- Kashdan, T. B., Uswatte, G., & Julian, T. (2006). Gratitude and hedonic and eudaimonic well-being in Vietnam war veterans. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44(2), 177–199. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2005.01.005
- Kaplan, S., Bradley-Geist, J. C., Ahmad, A., Anderson, A., Hargrove, A. K., & Lindsey, A. (2013). A Test of Two Positive Psychology Interventions to Increase Employee Well-Being. Journal of Business and Psychology, 29(3), 367–380. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-013-9319-4
- Lomas, T., Froh, J. J., Emmons, R. A., Mishra, A., & Bono, G. (2014). Gratitude Interventions:A Review and Future Agenda. The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Positive Psychological Interventions, 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118315927.ch1
- Ma, L. K., Tunney, R. J., & Ferguson, E. (2017). Does gratitude enhance prosociality?: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 143(6), 601–635. https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000103
- Marsh, J. (2011, November 17). Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal. Greater Good Magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/tips_for_keeping_a_gratitude_journal
- Smith, J. A., Newman, K. M., Marsh, J., Keltner, D. (Eds.). (2020). The Gratitude Project: How the science of thankfulness can rewire our brains for resilience, optimism, and the greater good. New Harbinger Publications.
- Stegen, A., & Wankier, J. (2018). Generating Gratitude in the Workplace to Improve Faculty Job Satisfaction. Journal of Nursing Education, 57(6), 375–378. https://doi.org/10.3928/01484834-20180522-10
- Trethewey, A., & Alberts, J. (2007, June 1). Love, honor, and thanks. Greater Good Science Center. Retrieved November 19, 2021, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/love_honor_thank/.
- Williams, L. A., & Bartlett, M. Y. (2015). Warm thanks: Gratitude expression facilitates social affiliation in new relationships via perceived warmth. Emotion, 15(1), 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000017
- Yoichi Sekizawa, & Naomi Yoshitake. (2014). Does the Three Good Things Exercise Really Make People More Positive and Less Depressed? A study in Japan. Research Papers in Economics. https://www.rieti.go.jp/jp/publications/dp/15e001.pdf
- Ziegler, E. H. (2011, October 20). Gratitude as an Antidote to Aggression. University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences — Psychology. Retrieved November 19, 2021, from https://psychology.as.uky.edu/gratitude-antidote-aggression#:~:text=%22More%20empathic%20people%20are%20less,unknown%20whether%20gratitude%20reduced%20aggression