How to Practice Gratitude in 5 Minutes a Day – And Change Your Life!

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A powerful, but simple way to practice gratitude – it truly can change your life! Try these 3 gratitude exercises that you can do in 5 minutes a day.

2020 Update

I wrote the original post at the end of 2016, exactly four years ago.

2016 was in some ways the worst year of my life. I had floundered in the two years after my divorce.

I was in and out of a toxic relationship. I had lost weight to the point that people were worried that I was even eating. I didn’t have a job.

I had started my blog, My Think Big Life, but my life wasn’t going well.

Then I had the idea to write about gratitude. Well first, I had the idea to practice gratitude. I had tried gratitude journals before but I never felt like they made a difference.

So, I decided to really immerse myself in gratitude by doing three different gratitude practices at the same time.

Before I started, I wrote about what was going on in my life. It wasn’t a pretty picture. Then I spent the next month doing the practices I describe in detail below.

I was amazed by the difference in how I felt after the month. I clearly felt better and more optimistic.

Then my life began to change. I was able to get 100% out of my toxic relationship. I met a wonderful man. I got an amazing job. I began eating again.

I found new hobbies and experienced things I never even dreamed of.

My life became so different and it continues to grow in ways I couldn’t even imagine back in 2016.

I really hope that you will consider making gratitude practice a part of your daily life. It cannot hurt and it has the potential to change you life!

Picture of Sara with her journal

The Gratitude Exercises 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. To accomplish that, I decided on three different acts of gratitude that I would do daily for a month.

To get started, I wrote down in detail how I was feeling and then at the end of the month I’d compare how I felt before and after.

A powerful, but simple way to practice gratitude - it truly can change your life! Try these 3 gratitude exercises that you can do in 5 minutes a day.

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?

3 Daily Gratitude Exercises to Start Now

Bump your gratitude AND your results up with these life-changing gratitude practices. Gratitude WORKS when it’s fun and helps you feel happy daily!

After years of hit-or-miss gratitude practices, I decided to really commit to three daily practices of gratitude.

I discovered that it does make a difference and this is my experience, what I learned from it, tips for making it work, and ways you can begin your own practice.

I chose three different things to do each day:

  • My Gratitude Journal. I had a small journal and each day I would write about 5 things I was thankful for.

  • The 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.

  • Happy Picture Board. Each day, I would print out a picture of something I was thankful for and tape it to the board.

I kept my commitment to my gratitude practices for the month.

The picture board was my favorite since it was the most in-my-face of the three and it made me so happy to look back on happy events or the faces of people I loved.

In fact, I continue getting pictures printed and out where I can see them because it still makes me happy.

Why Practice Gratitude: It Works!

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 very down.

At the end of my month of practicing gratitude, I was 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!

This helped me experience more happiness and gratitude in the actual moments it was happening.

I became more present to my own life!

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.

Do daily gratitude practices really work?

Can I say for sure it was my daily committed gratitude practices that brought about my peace of mind, creativity, good results, and productivity?

Yes!

I had a total turn around in my mood, outlook, and productivity.

There was some kind of change in me over the course of this experiment and it was powerful.

In fact, looking back, this was the when big change began to occur in my life.

Note: One year later, I consider this to be the beginning of an amazing part of my life.

How to practice gratitude if you’ve never tried it before

  • Keep it simple. Pick one or two practices you can stick with daily for a month. Or do all three for a powerful practice. Most of us are super busy–you want this to be pleasant, not another chore.

  • Do THIS first. Write down a couple of paragraphs about what is going on in your life and how you feel. Date it. This is super important! Just as it’s easy to forget good things that happen daily, as you feel better, you will begin to forget how you were feeling at the beginning of the month.

  • Don’t judge yourself. Be grateful for whatever you feel thankful. It doesn’t have to be about anything in particular.

  • 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. To accomplish this, I kept all my things on the top of the dresser that faces the foot of my bed. There was no way I was going to not see or be reminded about my practice.

Ways to Practice Gratitude

Gratitude Journal

A gratitude journal is the easiest way to start your gratitude practice. You can use a beautiful notebook or you can use an inexpensive composition book.

The most important thing is to be consistent and to do it daily.

In my experience, the journal itself wasn’t quite enough. I really needed the boost of either of the next two activities.

However the journal is essential to the practice.

By writing in you journal every day, you train your brain to look for things you are thankful for, during the day.

You begin to notice more things. You begin to be present to them. Your life seems to have more and more things to be grateful for!

I like to end the day with this activity.

Keep your journal in a place where you will use it and the end of the day. That could be next to your favorite chair or next to your bed.

Date the page and then write five things from the day that you are grateful for.

Do this daily for at least a month for the best results.

Make a Happiness Jar

Find a big jar. I used a big pickle 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 first did this in 2016 and I filled that jar up! Recently I went back and read each piece of paper.

I had forgotten in the years since all these amazing moments. It was so much fun reading them again!

Doing this, really focuses your mind on finding happy moments.

This is a little different than finding something you are grateful for. This focuses your mind on HAPPY.

Feeling happy can be fleeting. When you do this practice, you actually capture that elusive feeling and record it for all time.

I did this over the last year about a romantic relationship I was in. It was such a sweet relationship that I wanted to capture those special moments.

Our brains are always busy and typically look for potential problems. Doing this practice forces your brain to look for happy and make note of it.

When I did this back in 2016, I was NOT a happy camper. Yet, I found, even in the bad times, each day had at least one happy moment.

Gratitude Picture Board

This was my own original idea for my practice!

You know the saying, a picture is worth a thousand words. As many of us do, I take a lot of pictures.

This was pre-pandemic, when I was around people more often. Though I have to say, I still take a lot of pictures even now.

I started printing them out or getting them printed locally. My thought about this was that seeing my happy moments would engage another sense–my sense of sight.

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.

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.
My original gratitude picture board with the happiness jar in front

Daily, I printed out a picture of happy moment and used double-sided tape to put them up. Sometimes, I would add notes with a sharpie or a cute drawing one of the granddaughters had made for me.

You could also include writing out a sweet text someone sends or a compliment someone gives you.

Maybe once a week, get some pictures printed out for your board. If you can add something daily, great. Otherwise, spend one day a week, adding to your board.

The important thing with your board is that you begin filling it up with happy images and things you are thankful for.

Place it somewhere, where you are going to see it every single day.

I put my happy pictures on the side of my refrigerator. I’ve added inspirational magnets to make it more fun.

Use picture to amp up your happiness and gratitude
Here’s my happy pictures on the side of my fridge!

Take time to look at your board every day and let the feeling of gratitude and happiness be in you for a few minutes.

The Results of My Gratitude Practice

I’m never going to recommend anything that I haven’t tried myself and found some kind of value to it.

I originally wrote this post in 2016 and after the month of dedicated practice my overall sense of well-being had changed.

Within a few months, my entire life had changed. Now over four years later, I have created an amazing life.

I truly do believe that this practice was the start of everything that I’ve done and become.

Gratitude is easy, takes little time, and doesn’t require spending any money. Be creative and find your own ways that are meaningful to you.

This is something that you can do for YOU.

Gratitude Practice Supplies

Journals

I like to use a special journal for my gratitude practice to set it apart from my daily journal. I’m including a really nice one below that I’ve ordered for myself and that I send to clients.

However, there are many inexpensive journal options out there. Places like Target, Home Goods, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx have really cute ones too.

Your probably already have something laying around the house! Dig it up and dedicate it to gratitude for a month.

Leather Bound Journal

I send this customized beautiful journal to my coaching clients. But you can definitely order one yourself.

I’m really enjoying mine. It’s definitely a pricey option but I really like it. And maybe if you invest in a pricey journal, you’ll stick to the practice?

Dr. Grip Pens

These are my favorite pens and I keep them all through my home, in my purse, and in my computer bag. I also keep extra pens and refills handy.

I love the grip on these and I love that I can buy refills. They are not usually found in grocery stores or Target. I do find them in the office supply stores. The price on Amazon is better though.

One Gallon Glass Jar

I’m including one that you can purchase from Amazon. You can find these in other stores. 

Foam Board

You can find foam board in office supply stores. I like it because it is sturdy, stands up, holds whatever you want to put on it, and is very light.

When to Start Your Gratitude Practice

Start it today. Don’t worry about getting the right supplies first. Start with what you have. These things above, were what I had and so that’s what I used.

Your gratitude practice is yours and it can be unique to you! Have fun with this and use it to make your life less stressful–not more. Once you have your basic set-up, it’s really easy to do.

Hope you enjoy and benefit from practicing gratitude as much as I did.

If you want to work with me one-on-one to improve your life, please visit my coaching page. This is the BEST way I can help you.

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Keep showing up my friends,

Sara

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Sara | MyThinkBigLife.com

Hi, I'm Sara Garska and I'm so happy you're here! My Think Big Life began shortly after I turned 50. Big changes can happen with a small start, an adjustment of thought, or a simple process. Over time, you transform your life into the one you always dreamed of having. As a certified life coach, I can help you create a life you love. Click here to schedule a free 50-minute coaching session.