How to practise gratitude

Have you ever wondered how two people can go through the same event and yet have completely different memories and impressions of it? Perspective. I am reminded over and over how the perspective we choose to take on situations and circumstances shapes how we feel and act. I don’t mean denial of or ignoring the hard realities around us or what is happening to others. It is seeing those hard things but still holding hope and hunting for the good. Gratitude is the practice that has the biggest impact on this perspective.

This is not a new revelation for anyone. We all know the importance of gratitude in our lives. And yet I find myself in need of the reminder frequently. Gratitude takes practice. My natural default is to see all of the negatives and complain, even if it is only internally. That leads to a dark view of the world. Quite frankly, I am not pleasant to be around when I let my mind stay in that place. I have to train my mind to shift this default. It is a conscious choice to look for the good around me.

Practising gratitude is not complicated. It is simple and accessible. The hard part comes in making that choice repeatedly throughout the day, each day. I have built rhythms of gratitude into my day to help make this into a habit. That habit reforms my thinking patterns. This makes that next choice to be grateful easier.

Gratitude Practices

These are some simple gratitude practices that you can use too:

  • Morning grateful list

Most mornings I write down 3-5 things I am grateful for in my journal. For me, this is part of my morning routine just before I open my Bible and pray. It sets my mind on seeing the good in my day. Sometimes this is easy and sometimes I have to search hard for those things.

  • Bedtime grateful check in

Each night as a family, we share something we are grateful for as part of my daughter’s bedtime routine. Whether the day has been fraught with emotion, blissful or something in between, we can find something. 

Recognising the good from your day is one part of this daily review prayer. I am working on making this a regular part of my night routine. 

  • Share with a friend

Arrange a daily or weekly grateful check-in with a friend. This might be over text message, phone call or video call.

  • Themed lists

I first experienced this through prompts from Ann Voskamp. It might be a colour, an area of life or some other prompt word that forces you to go beyond the surface-level good things and really notice what is around you. Choose a different theme each day and see how it opens your eyes to what has been there all along.

Think over your own daily and weekly rhythms. Where can you build in habits of gratitude? What areas of your life seem harder to see the good? Make it a practice this week to focus specifically on those.