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The 5 Minute Gratitude Practice That Will Change Your Life

After years of hit-or-miss gratitude practices, I decided to really commit to daily practices of gratitude. I discovered is that it does make a difference! Here is my experience, what I learned from it, tips for making it work, and ways you can begin your own practice.

After years of hit-or-miss gratitude practices, I decided to really commit to daily practices of gratitude. I discovered that it does make a difference! Here is my experience, what I learned from it, tips for making it work, and ways you can begin your own practice.

The Gratitude Practice That Changed My Life

To be honest, I hesitated to even explore the idea of writing about gratitude. It almost seems like a cliché in today’s self-improvement world. Everyone recommends it because it just makes so much sense. I believe in it and I practice it. But…

What does it actually do?

Does it make a difference?

And how could I possibly demonstrate that?

I decided that the only way to go was to be a little more extreme. I decided on three different acts of gratitude that I would do daily for a month. I’d compare how I felt and what was going on at the beginning of the month of June to the end of June. If I couldn’t tell a difference, then I wouldn’t write about it.

I have been doing gratitude practices for years, mostly journals and lists. But I decided I would up my game for one month and do 3 practices each and every day.

Surely that would catapult my life results in a way that I would be able to document?

What I Did to Make Gratitude a Life-Changing Habit

Here were my three practices

  • I had a small journal and each day I would write about 5 things I was thankful for.
  • I had my Happiness Jar. I had read about this from Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve had this jar for over a year and a half! But for this month, I would write down the happiest thing that had happened each day.
  • My third method was a picture board. Each day, I would print out a picture of something I was thankful for and tape it to the board.

I did keep up with my gratitude practices for the month. My picture board was my favorite since it was the most in-my-face of the three, I loved looking over my happy pictures. It’s still up and I’ll continue to add to it.

Where the Magic Happens!After years of hit-or-miss gratitude practices, I decided to really commit to daily practices of gratitude. I discovered is that it does make a difference! Here is my experience, what I learned from it, tips for making it work, and ways you can begin your own practice.

Did This Gratitude Thing Work???

So when the new month rolled around, I realized that quite a few things were going really well in my life.

Like I said earlier, the results are subtle. Yet, I couldn’t deny that some really cool things were happening. The month before had been a rough month! I had started June feeling kind of hopeless and quite down. Here at the end of June, I was feeling hopeful, creative, and productive. New relationships were forming. Projects were moving along. I had exceeded my goals for June. The final cool thing was that I had so much clarity and peace.

After years of hit-or-miss gratitude practices, I decided to really commit to daily practices of gratitude. I discovered is that it does make a difference! Here is my experience, what I learned from it, tips for making it work, and ways you can begin your own practice.

What I Loved About my Gratitude Practice

I was surprised daily by the things I had forgotten by evening! Even on days when I thought not much had happened, taking the time to think of five things, reminded me that good things had happened that day. Sometimes I was amazed at the good things that I had already forgotten by bedtime!

It is so easy to get caught up in our day-to-day living that we can overlook the blessings we received during the day.

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I started looking for and finding more good things during the day. When you know you are going to have to come up with five things you are thankful for; you start paying attention. When this part of your brain is activated, you start to see more good things!

I ended my day with powerful thoughts. Each night before bed, I was programming my mind to see my life as good and full of blessings. Taking the time daily to look back on your day brings those good things to mind and I have to think that’s a really great way to end the day. It allows you to go to bed, grateful and thankful.

Does practicing daily gratitude really do any good?

Can I say for sure it was my daily committed gratitude practices that brought about my peace of mind, creativity, good results, and productivity? I think so. What I do know is that I had a total turn around in my mood, outlook, and productivity.

All I can say for sure is that when I was tempted to go to bed on July 1 without writing down my gratitude list, I decided that I would continue. There was some kind of change in me over the course of this experiment and it was powerful.

To get you started here are a few tips.

Keep it simple. Pick one or two practices you can stick with daily for a month.

Create a baseline. Write down a couple of paragraphs about what is going on in your life and how you feel. Date it.

Don’t judge yourself. Be grateful for what you want. It doesn’t have to be about anything in particular. It can be as mundane. Actually my lists were so mundane.

Include the small things. Most of life is made up of small experiences. If we only count the big exciting things, we miss out on so much we could be grateful for! And only looking for “big” stuff can create disappointment.

Keep going. It might seem, as it did with me, that nothing is happening and that it’s not making a difference. Ignore that feeling. You might be pleasantly surprised like I was at the end of the month.

Make your practice visible and convenient. I kept all my things on the top of my dresser that faces the foot of my bed. There was no way I was going to not see or be reminded about my practice.

Here are Some Ways to Practice Gratitude

Gratitude Journal: Any notebook or journal will do. Mine was a small journal that I got for free as a gift with a purchase. I didn’t decorate it or label it; I just started writing in it.

Happiness Jar: Find a big jar. Each day on a small piece of paper, write down the happiest thing that happened to you that day. Date, fold up, and add to the jar. I keep meaning to decorate my jar but I haven’t yet.

Gratitude Board: I had a large piece of foam board that I had used as a backdrop for photos. It seemed the perfect size to prop up on my dresser. I printed out pictures of happy moments in my day and used double-sided tape to put them up. I used a Sharpie pen to add a small note and date to the pictures.

I’m never going to recommend anything that I haven’t tried myself and found some kind of value to it. In fact, by the middle of the month, I was sure that I wasn’t going to end up writing about gratitude because it seemed kind of boring and how do you even write about something with such subtle results?

Yet, the fact that I’m sitting here writing about it means that I think that is does have value and I would recommend it to anyone. It’s easy, takes little time, and doesn’t require spending any money. Be creative and find your own ways that are meaningful to you.

I’d love to hear from anyone that has done something like this or from anyone that tries it. Comment below so we can encourage each other.

Feeling grateful!

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You can give yourself permission to be happy after you have been hurt. This isn't always easy but I'm also going to share some ways that worked for me.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that there are three things that consistently help me be satisfied with life. When I practice these three on a daily basis, I feel like my most alive best self. These are the things that feed my soul and leave me at the end of the day feeling contented and happy.

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Sara is a former counselor, career services leader, and college advisor. Now she can be found at My Think Big Life writing about health and personal growth.

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{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Summer July 6, 2016, 8:11 pm

    I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal for 3 months now. It has 5 entries per day, it’s a prefilled one that I purchased, so it keeps me honest. I’ve also been doing some daily affirmations. I’ve found I have a lot more focus and a lot less anxiety. And a lot of really great things are happening in my life. I think gratitude is a big part of that.

    • Sara July 7, 2016, 5:21 am

      I love hearing that! It really does create a different mindset. I am way more focused as well–and that was one of the biggest surprises about this. Summer, I appreciate you sharing your experience–I hope it encourages others to try this too. Thanks!!!

  • Krysten (@themomnomms) July 7, 2016, 1:48 pm

    I really need to start a routine of self care like this.
    I get so lost in what is wrong with my life, I forget about what is going correct.
    Thank you for all of the great tips!

    • Sara July 7, 2016, 2:47 pm

      You’re welcome Krysten. It’s helped me more than I thought it would. Thanks for the comment!

  • Jenn July 7, 2016, 3:55 pm

    What you focus on expands. This, who doesn’t want more gratitude?

    I don’t have a gratitude practice, but my daughter has an opposite idea to your happiness jar. She has a worry jar. She can only focus on one worry at a time. I think I can commit to one grateful idea a day…

    • Sara July 7, 2016, 4:27 pm

      That’s good to limit it for sure! Some nights I wish I could just lock up my worries in a jar. Thanks for the comment Jenn!

  • Marie July 8, 2016, 9:54 am

    These are fantastic! I love that you actually use 3 forms for gratitude. What a great well-rounded way to make gratitude ingrained in your life. I can’t wait to try this out. 🙂

    • Sara July 8, 2016, 11:38 am

      The gratitude overachiever–that’s me! I do think adding the visual really helped though. Let me know how it goes. Thanks for the comment Marie.

  • Daria July 24, 2016, 5:20 pm

    Excellent tips! I’ve started a gratitude journal on my iPad so I can add pictures to the text. I do this at the end of each day and find that it makes me more peaceful before sleep. And I agree with you-it’s important not to judge what you are grateful for. I write down the top three things that pop into my head. One day it was Ibuprofen. I was so grateful for all the people who helped discover and make Ibuprofen because my horrible headache that day went away!

    • Sara July 25, 2016, 6:18 am

      Hi Daria. I love the idea of adding pictures to the text! That’s an awesomely organized idea. 🙂 Are you using an app for that?

      • Daria July 25, 2016, 8:27 am

        Yes. It’s called Day One. You can have multiple journals so I have my gratitude journal and my reading journal. It let’s you customize with colors and other cool features I am still learning 😉

        • Sara July 25, 2016, 8:45 am

          Thanks Daria!

  • bee August 18, 2016, 6:17 am

    I love the idea of a gratitude jar so you can really see it filling up. I did a list of 100 things I was grateful for, I just jotted them down any time I felt grateful, I learned a lot about myself from that list!

    • Sara August 18, 2016, 7:03 am

      That’s a great idea too! All gratitude is good gratitude. Thanks for the comment.

  • nayonika August 19, 2016, 11:25 am

    heyyy!!! gratitude surely has a result. just 2 years ago I still remember , my life was a really bad. i dont want to get into the details but it was bad.
    then i read about gratitude and I practiced it. In the starting it felt cheesy
    but just within 2 and a half months the tables of my life turned around. I dont know what exactly happened, but Iam sure gratitude was a part of it.
    Thanks for the article Sara!! Its beautiful <3 <3 😀

    • Sara August 22, 2016, 9:47 am

      Nayonika, thank you for sharing your experience! I started seeing changes at about the one-month mark and life continues to get better.

  • Tara October 21, 2016, 6:59 pm

    This is soooo neat! I daily, end of day gratitude jar is something amazing that I hadn’t even thought of! I like how you cover being grateful in 3 various forms throughout each and every day! Remembering the highlights- big or small are fantastic! This quickly reassures us that our lives have such value to it – our successes are always abundant – at times, we can be so blindsided because a success doesn’t always show up with bells and whistles. Even a mere ‘Thank You’ or ‘Job Well Done’ comment is a huge compliment when it is a task that we have completed after a trial. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Sara October 25, 2016, 11:04 am

      Hi Tara,

      It is surprising how quickly we can forget the already awesome things going on in our lives. I had a busy week and was playing catch up with my gratitude journal this morning. I felt much more grounded after I wrote in my gratitude journal this morning. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to write a comment!

  • Jill November 29, 2016, 2:28 pm

    You know, it’s amazing how quickly we forget the things we are grateful for that maybe we take for granted. It’s easy to get caught up in life’s challenges and feel overwhelmed at times. I use the vision board to inspire me, but I have not tried the tips you discussed. These are things that I can actually easily do. You are an inspiring woman!

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