Ways to Practice Gratitude Without a Gratitude Journal

November 16, 2017

Are you feeling more worried lately? Have you experienced a drop in the number of pleasurable experiences you have? Are you feeling all around less positive than last year?

You’re not alone. A recent Gallup Poll indicates that in the past year many Americans have experienced a decline in their sense of well-being. Fortunately, research tells us that there is a reliable path toward more happiness, better relationships and higher resilience in the face of setbacks. That path is the path of gratitude.

It’s hard to define gratitude. It’s a little easier to describe it.

Last week as I was driving to my office, I happened to notice the leaves on the trees along the road. The leaves were red, orange and yellow and the afternoon sun gave them a warm glow. I was suddenly filled with a sense of appreciation. In spite of a long evening of work ahead of me, I felt instantly lighter and happier.

That’s gratitude.

No one will dispute the value of gratitude but it has been suffering from overexposure recently. All the TED talks, article, blogs, and podcasts hawking the benefits of gratitude have made us tired of hearing about it.

But there’s a reason for this overexposure, just as there’s a reason that Thanksgiving is the second most popular holiday in the U.S.  It’s because gratitude is such a positive practice that it improves not only our moments but also our days, our health, our outlook on life and yes, our sense of well-being.

If you doubt the power of gratitude I hope you will give it a second chance. Here are a couple of ways I’ve been practicing gratitude that don’t include keeping a journal!

Pay Attention

If you just pay attention, you will find something that brings you happiness each day. In our busy lives, we often miss the little things that bring us joy and open our eyes to everyday wonder. Making an extra effort to be present every moment of your day will reveal little joys we would have otherwise missed. As one poet put it,

It doesn’t have to be the blue Iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot..
just pay attention, then
patch a few words together..
this isn’t a contest, but the
doorway into thanks…

– Mary Oliver, Praying

Engage Your Senses

A great tool for staying in the moment is to focus on your direct experience through your five senses. Let your thoughts and worries fade into the background as you take in the world around you. When you’re finished, the worries may not seem as pressing anymore. As poet Wu Men wrote:

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

Find an Anthem

Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World  is a personal favorite of mine. The relaxing tempo and warm tones of the horn, piano and Armstrong’s voice help me relax my body.  The lyrics, focusing on the ordinary miracles we experience everyday, help me reclaim gratitude.


Listen to a Gratitude Meditation

Research has proven that mindfulness-based meditation is a powerful tool for managing stress and worry.  Here’s one that will help you bring to mind the people and things you appreciate about your life.


Remember Who’s in your Corner

Think of someone who has given you a gift in your life. Maybe it’s a teacher, a mentor, or a good friend who has gone the extra mile for you.  Remember the ways they shared their generosity and care.


Wanda Sevey, MDiv, LMFT is a CFR Staff Therapist and Office Director at our Lawrenceville and Voorhees offices.