Gratitude Exercises (List + Explanations)

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Published by:
Practical Psychology
Andrew English
Reviewed by:
Andrew English, Ph.D.

What are you thankful for? This sounds like a question for Thanksgiving, but it’s a question we can - and should - be asking ourselves every day. By recognizing what we are thankful for, we display an attitude of gratitude that can boost our mood and benefit our mental and physical well-being. Don’t know where to start? These eight gratitude exercises will help get your mind thinking and the thankfulness flowing. 

What is Gratitude? 

Gratitude is being thankful. You can be thankful for your health, the people around you, wealth, or nature - it’s all gratitude. Even being thankful for the “smallest” things can be very beneficial to your physical health and mental well-being. It’s important to practice gratitude every day!

The following eight gratitude exercises are easy to do, easy to access, and will drum up feelings of thankfulness to help you enjoy a more positive, healthier day. 

Eight Gratitude Exercises 

  • Gratitude Journal
  • Write A Gratitude Letter
  • Gratitude Meditation 
  • Loving-Kindness Meditation 
  • Do Something Good for Others 
  • Read a Book About Struggle and Resilience 
  • Go on a Nature Walk 
  • Mindful and Gracious Seeing

Gratitude Journal

A gratitude journal can be as simple as three bullet points. Write down three things that you are grateful for every day. They can be one word: health, family, water, etc. Try this exercise once every day as a way to slow down, center yourself, and feel grateful for at least five minutes. 

(Want to make this a habit? Read more on how to create a habit here.) 

Write A Gratitude Letter

If you want a one-time gratitude exercise, consider writing a gratitude letter. Think of a person whom you are grateful for - because they make your day brighter with their jokes, because they have helped you during a hard time in your life, or because they inspire you. This could be a celebrity, your parents, or someone you interacted with at the supermarket. Tell them you are grateful for them and how they have positively impacted your life. You don’t have to send this letter if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. The exercise gets you thinking about how grateful you are for this person. 

Gratitude Meditation 

Gratitude can be practiced anywhere, anytime. Try a gratitude meditation. Some guided meditations will instruct you to visualize one thing you are grateful for and let the positive feelings surrounding that thing wash over you as you breathe deeply. Gratitude meditations are on YouTube or meditation apps like Headspace Calm or Insight Timer. 

Loving-Kindness Meditation 

Loving-kindness meditations are similar to gratitude meditations. This type of Buddhist meditation, or metta meditation, guides practitioners to visualize various people and send loving-kindness to them. As a gratitude exercise, you could think of this loving-kindness as a “thank you” to everyone for who they are and how they have impacted your life. At one point during loving-kindness meditation, practitioners are instructed to send this loving-kindness to people that they don’t like. Even if you have cut ties with people or they have hurt you, there is some lesson or experience that you could thank them for teaching you.

Do Something Good for Others 

Another way to say “thank you” is to give other people a reason to say “thank you” to you! If you have time, money, or the ability to give to those less fortunate, you have something to be thankful for. Consider spending time at the local animal shelter or cooking meals for unhoused neighbors who may not have anything to eat. You have something to spare - and for that, you can be grateful! 

Read a Book About Struggle and Resilience 

There is a saying that goes, “If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.” If you are going through a hard time, you may find solace in knowing that others have gone through hard times and overcome them. Consider reading the biographies or memoirs of people who fought back against struggle. If their stories emotionally move you, you may also feel thankful that your struggles have not been as traumatic or that you have a roadmap for overcoming them and practicing resilience. The guidance of others is something to be thankful for - and with limitless access to books, movies, and other stories of hardship, there is so much we can be thankful for! 

Go on a Nature Walk 

Going for regular walks in nature has been proven to increase mental and physical well-being. You could walk in nature without thinking about anything and still come back home healthier and happier than you were before. But if you want to practice gratitude, go for a walk in nature and notice all the beautiful things around you: trees, grass, paved trails, birds, etc. Looking for these things will show you just how much is outside your door and how much is possible. 

Mindful and Gracious Seeing 

If you are home-bound or do not have time to drive to a hiking trail, you can do a similar gratitude exercise at home or inside. Mindful seeing is the practice of really looking at something: a necklace that was given to you by a parent, the comfy couch that greets you after a long day, or a painting that hangs in your living room. When you are intentional about seeing something for all that it is, you discover something new about it. This means you potentially discover a new reason to be grateful for that object. Practice mindful and gracious seeing - noticing something and being thankful for all the qualities it possesses. 

Quotes About Gratitude 

  • “Gratitude for the present moment and the fullness of life now is the true prosperity.” -Eckhart Tolle
  • “The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.” -William Blake
  • “I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it's right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practicing gratitude.” -Brene Brown
  • “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” -John F. Kennedy
  • “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” - Marcel Proust
  • "When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect towards others." -Dalai Lama
  • “A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue but the parent of all the other virtues.” -Charlotte Brontë
  • "Wear gratitude like a cloak, and it will feed every corner of your life." -Rumi 
  • "Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well." -Voltaire 
  • "What an astonishment to breathe on this breathing planet. What a blessing to be Earth loving Earth.” -John Green
  • “No matter what the situation is...close your eyes and think of all the things in your life you could be grateful for right now." -Deepak Chopra
  • "I live in the space of thankfulness—and for that, I have been rewarded a million times over." -Oprah Winfrey 
  • "Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life." -John Milton 

Quotes about Gratitude in Tough Times 

  • "Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good." -Maya Angelou 
  • "Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” -Eckhart Tolle 
  • “When a person doesn't have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.” - Elie Wiesel
  • “Have gratitude for the things you're discarding. By giving gratitude, you're giving closure to the relationship with that object, and by doing so, it becomes a lot easier to let go.” - Marie Kondo
  • “When I look back, I see that each difficult time brought an important lesson. And I prefer to look at it with gratitude because I wouldn't be who I am today if I haven't gone through it all.” - Gisele Bündchen
  • "I pray to give thanks and to recognize all the good things that are in my life even during times of great change, confusion, and frustration." -Alicia Keys
  • "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." -Albert Einstein
  • “Even in the trials of life, if we have eyes to see them, we can find good things everywhere we look.” - Joanna Gaines
  • “We are all more blind to what we have than to what we have not.” - Audre Lorde
  • "True forgiveness is when you can say, 'Thank you for that experience.'" -Oprah Winfrey 
  • "He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." -Epictetus

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2022, December). Gratitude Exercises (List + Explanations). Retrieved from

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