How To Practice Gratitude and Unlock Happiness [21 Gratitude Exercises]

By: Chris Freytag, CPT // June 21, 2022

Knowing how to practice gratitude is the one secret to unlocking your happiness. You could spend your day researching happiness and read fascinating science-based articles about how gratitude is directly linked to happiness.

Happiness is not something you chase, but something you acquire by making meaningful progress and spending time on what you value most. Happiness comes from loving the journey, not pursuing it as a destination.

Happiness comes from taking notice. Gratitude is all about raising your awareness of your incredible life. To help you unlock more happiness in your life, we put together this ultimate gratitude list just for you.


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    How To Practice Gratitude With 21 Gratitude Exercises

    Create your own gratitude practice by choosing from this list of gratitude exercises. By coming up with your own daily practice you are sure to find more meaning and happiness in your life. I encourage you to commit to your practice. Because like any new habit, there will be times you don’t feel like being grateful but push through these days and find one thing to be grateful for!

    1. Wake up early.

    Many people wake up with just enough time to dash around and get everything done before heading off to work or to the gym.

    What if you woke up 15 minutes earlier to give yourself some breathing space to review all the wonderful things coming up in your day? Take that gratitude time before your day takes over.

    2. Write down your core values.

    What do you care about most? We experience more gratitude for our lives when we align how we spend our time with what we care about the most. Look at your list of core values and decide if you are devoting enough time to the priorities that drive you.

    3. Set a positive intention.

    Approach your day with a positive intention: I am going to enjoy this beautiful morning by being fully present. Or: I am going to work out this morning and start my day strong. And: I am going to fuel my body with a healthy breakfast so I can be full of energy.

    Every positive action step begins with the seed of an intention.

    4. Notice the small.

    An easy-breezy way to practice gratitude is to just tell yourself to start noticing and appreciating the small stuff. Begin with your morning cup of coffee, a smile from your spouse, a favorite colored pen, a giggle from your kids, a beautifully decorated room, or a sunny day.

    The more you practice noticing all the small things you appreciate, the easier it will be for you to practice gratitude naturally.

    5. Designate a place of gratitude.

    Pretty white home office with yellow chair

    Find a place in your house where you can collect a few things that make you happy. I have a stack of three colorful journals on my desk that makes me happy. Each one has a different use: favorite quotes, writing tips, and one designated specifically for gratitude.

    You can use a bulletin board to post pictures that make you happy, inspiring quotes, motivational images, or personal achievements. The key is having a place that makes you feel filled with gratitude when you see it.

    6. Write down three things daily.

    Back to the gratitude journal … I love beautiful notebooks, but you can use your iPhone or Android if you prefer. Record three things you are grateful for today. Try to come up with new things each day to expand your awareness.

    Check out our gratitude journal prompts below and make sure to pin it for later!

    Gratitude Journal Prompts

    7. Thank someone.

    When we think positive thoughts about other people they often go unexpressed. Tell your parents “thank you” for how incredible they are. Share with your friend that she inspires you to up your workout game. Share your gratitude for friends by thanking them for their generosity or kindness.

    “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

    8. Track your progress on a goal.

    Bask in the gratitude that comes from seeing the results of your actions. Even small improvements or progress helps you to feel optimistic and grateful.

    9. Do some random acts of kindness.

    Two hands, one older and one younger, exchanging flowers

    Notice how many kinds of things you do a day, like smiling at a stranger or opening a door for someone.

    10. Love the contrasts.

    If the summer sunshine is your thing, know that you love it so much because you made it through this thing called winter. Winter gives you the gift of appreciation for summer.

    Instead of lamenting changes, you don’t like, realize the contrast is the gift. A sleepy day where you feel dragging will make you appreciate the day when you are supercharged. Enjoy the beauty of upcoming holidays rather than wishing they didn’t come so soon. Not living by the ocean can make you appreciate an ocean view even more.

    11. Make a list of your favorite things.

    Playing with your kids, date nights, reading, writing, running… make a list of your favorite things to do.

    How often do you do those things?  Too often we push our favorites to the side to do all the things we are supposed to do. Prioritize you and you will feel more gratitude guaranteed.

    12. Use your shower time wisely.

    Why not use the calm relaxation of your shower to mentally review what’s spectacular about your life?

    13. Look for the good.

    In every mishap, closed-door, lost opportunity, or adversity, there is something good you can find.

    Decide you will always look for the good. You might find a lesson, a bit of wisdom, a new opportunity, rocket fuel for your next goal, or strength you didn’t know you had.

    14. Go around the dinner table and share the best part of your day.

    Family sitting at kitchen table smiling and talking

    Teach your kids gratitude by living it. As you enjoy dinner, go around the table and share the best highlight of your day. You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to express gratitude out loud.

    15. Go with gratitude when you can’t sleep.

    Stress and to-do lists as long as your arm can keep you awake at night. Skip counting sheep and count your blessings to get back to sleep.

    Give your mind the peace and joy that comes from ruminating in all that is wonderful about your life.

    16. Surround yourself with the positive.

    Science tells us that we are greatly influenced by our associations, so try and make sure the people you spend most of your time with are positive. Limit time with toxic people. Aspire to be around those who lift you up.

    Positive quotes, images, and stories help too. So do flowers on your desk or dining room table. Create an environment that makes you feel positive.

    17. Listen to your favorite music.

    Music that resonates with you can lift your spirits immeasurably. Use music to inspire you to feel more gratitude for your life.

    18. Don’t set yourself up expecting the worst.

    When something goes wrong early in your day (break a nail, running late, a challenge at work) you might have a tendency to do what Dr. Michael Mantell calls “awfulizing” or “terriblizing” and you start expecting the rest of your day to go down the drain too.

    Don’t go down that mental rabbit hole. As he suggests, “plan for the good, deal with the bad.”

    19. Savor.

    Woman savoring her cup of coffee

    Ever sip a cup of coffee slowly because it tastes so good and it’s the perfect temperature? You don’t want your happy moment with your warm coffee to end, so you sip slowly. This is savoring.

    Savoring is a way to make your happy moments last longer. Savor your vacation by taking pictures to enjoy later. Savor your family by putting your phone down, looking around, and feeling appreciative. Savor by immersing yourself in the present moment.

    20. Send an email.

    Our social connections with others are instrumental to our happiness. Foster your relationships by expressing appreciation for the people in your life—both personally and professionally. What if you sent one positive email each week to someone?

    21. Give back by sharing this list.

    Nothing can make you feel more gratitude than knowing you helped someone else to be happier. Share this ultimate gratitude list with someone you care about.

    Tell us: Do you have a gratitude practice? We’d love to hear about it below.

    Unlock more happiness in your life by practicing gratitude and living with a greater sense of fulfillment.

    “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” – Eckhart Tolle

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    on Reply

    My gratitude practice is to be thankful fir my home and the people who live in and visit my home each time I walk through our door. I also set an intention that it be a place of peace. Wonderful article on happiness. I do have one comment though. Although the quote and cartoon about coffee and wine is meant to be lighthearted, it is a take on The Serenity Prayer used by AA and Alanon. The Serenity prayer is often a lifeline for alcoholics and their families. The way you are using it in your article seems insensitive.

      on Reply

      That is a wonderful practice, Nancy! And I'm sorry that it came across as insensitive to you - that was most definitely not the intention.

    (This will help us personalize your experience so that you can get the best advice possible from us!)
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