Personal Growth

10 Unconventional Ways to Practice Gratitude

Image of a woman in seated meditation using hand mudra
Image of a woman in seated meditation using hand mudra

Maintaining a daily gratitude practice is perhaps the fastest, easiest, and cheapest means of cultivating happiness. But what happens when you feel a little burned out from the same old gratitude journaling? Or, what if you’ve never practiced gratitude? Where to begin?

If this sounds like you, here are 10 unique ways to reignite joy and contentment in your life.

1. Three Things Every Day

If you record each day’s events in a diary every night – or, if you’ve always wanted to keep a diary but felt overwhelmed as to where to start – write down three things that occurred that day for which you’re grateful.

This could be anything, for instance, enjoying the beautiful weather, avoiding traffic on the way home, taking the dog for a longer-than-usual walk). The ease, simplicity, and warmth you’ll receive from this exercise are unparalleled.

2. Gratitude A-Z

Can’t sleep? Mentally create a list from A to Z of items, people, and experiences you love. You’ll find a sense of calm that will quiet the mind, enabling you to find rest. If you find yourself at “Z” and are still awake, do a new list backwards.

3. A Portrait in Gratitude

Another insomnia hack is to think of someone or something you appreciate and all of the reasons and memories surrounding that person or thing. On more than one occasion, I’ve found this exercise to be helpful in shuttling my busy mind to sleep.

4. Gratitude Board

Like a vision board, a gratitude board reminds you in pictures of what people, places, things, and experiences create happiness in your life. Unlike a vision board, however, a gratitude board focuses on present abundance instead of future yearning. Head on over to Pinterest to create your own free board, and you may just find yourself going down the happiest of internet rabbit holes.

5. Reverse Bucket List

It’s become common to assign cool, yet-to-be-had experiences to our bucket lists, but what about the things we’ve already accomplished? To remember those gems, write out a “reverse bucket list” to enhance your sense of satisfaction with things already done.

6. Gratitude Turnarounds

If you find negativity piling high like a snowdrift this holiday season, take a pen and paper and draw a line down the middle of the page. On the left side, create a numbered list of all the things that are bothering you in the moment.

For instance, 1) My sister hasn’t called me back yet; 2) My boss micromanages me, etc. On the right side, turn each one around to see if you can see each complaint in a positive light. For instance, 1) I have a healthy sister who loves me, 2) I have a job that pays the bills, etc. Doing this will retrain your brain to see the positive and, who knows, perhaps allow you to find elements in each situation that serve, not harm.

7. Eyes Wide Shut in Gratitude

Stressed out? Close your eyes. Picture the space around you and see how many things you can see in your mind’s eye for which you’re grateful. This could be anything (in fact, the more mundane, the better). Then, think about what your life would be like without those things (hello, internet and Wi-Fi?). Open your eyes and take a moment to appreciate everything as it is.

8. Five Senses of Gratitude

Close your eyes, and see if you can identify the current sight, sound, taste, texture, and smell in this moment and go further to explore your appreciation of each sensation. This is a great exercise to do if you find yourself in an out-of-the-ordinary location feeling stressed.

9. The Gratitude Game

Best played in a group, this game starts with the first person mentioning something for which they are grateful. for example, “family time.” The next person jumps in, takes the last letter of that item – “e” in this case – and comes up with something they appreciate, for example, “Eggs, sunny side up.” Nothing can be repeated, and the game becomes super interesting when someone must come up with words starting with q, x, and z.

10. Give Compliments Freely

A heart filled with gratitude overflows. Appreciate the people around you, especially service workers, with genuine compliments, and you’ll feel that you, too, have been praised.

Whether you do one or all of these exercises, you’ll cultivate a greater appreciation for the little things and find that the little things are, in fact, the big things.


Create space for joy and appreciation this season with Journey to Gratitude, a five-part series with Devi Brown, available now in the Chopra App.