Practical activities to help build your gratitude practice
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
It’s easy to forget that gratitude is more than just an idea to drag out and dust off for the holidays, although Thanksgiving (here in the U.S. and belatedly for my friends in Canada) is a good time to jump-start a daily practice, if you’ve never tried it (or if you started and got distracted from it over time).
I’ve gone through our book, Magic, Miracles and Synchronicity: A Journal of Gratitude and Awareness, and pulled one activity from each of the 12 chapters. I invite you to choose one that resonates with you and perhaps to include it in your family celebrations. Do one a day, or one a month. Or let this list inspire activities for your own traditions and practice. Feel free to share the ones you’ve tried in the comments below, or what you already do or have done to practice gratitude in your life.
These activities are a great way to get your gratitude on any time of year. They’re perfect for Thanksgiving, and offer a wonderful and positive way to start off the new year. (If you come across this page at another time of the year, take it as a good sign. The timing is always perfect.)
- Make a list of conveniences, merchandise, or services available to you today that did not exist when you were growing up, or even ten or fifteen years ago. (From Chapter 1: Daily Riches.)
- Take a walk and notice five new things you’ve never noticed before. (From Chapter 2: Wonder all Around.)
- Identify five people who have touched your heart in a profound or unique way. Describe what they’ve done. (From Chapter 3: Angels Among Us.)
- List ten gifts of service you could give now. Remember that “gifts” do not have to cost any more than a smile! (From Chapter 4: The Pleasures of Service.)
- Write about what you would do if you knew you absolutely could not fail. (From Chapter 5: Magic, Miracles and Synchronicity)
- If you have a question or problem currently challenging you, write it down before you go to bed. Note the kind of images and information that come to you in your dreams and throughout the following day or days. (From Chapter 6: Dreams and Visions)
- Write about past wishes, wishes you made at different stages in your life. Which ones came true? Bonus: Identify examples of abundance that already exist in your life. (From Chapter 7: The Wish List)
- Describe ways in which you are creative. What are some new ways in which you can express your creativity? (From Chapter 8: The Joys of Creation)
- Ask your close friends to remind you of three examples of significant growth or personal development in you that they have observed and admired in the last five or ten years. (From Chapter 9: The Gift of Perspective)
- Describe three of the most significant or satisfying accomplishments of your life. Then go back and do the same for the past year, the past month and the past twenty-four hours. (From Chapter 10: A Pat on the Back)
- Make a collage of images that represent your most positive personal attributes. (From Chapter 11: The Miracle in the Mirror)
- Describe how your life is better today than it was at some time—or various times—in the past. (From Chapter 12: Silver Linings)
If you are feeling too overwhelmed with holiday preparations, or life in general, taking a few minutes to stop and notice the good in your life can restore your focus and energy. I’ve never done gratitude work (or play!) that it didn’t help shift my perspective and priorities, ground me in present time, or create a positive change in my frame of mind. And while “an attitude of gratitude” creates a nice aphorism, it’s the practice that seems essential to creating not only an attitude, but an actual way of life.
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
Wishing you all good things, always, as well as the mindfulness to notice.
The original version of this blog was written on Nov. 25, 2013. At the time I was starting work on converting Magic, Miracles and Synchronicity: A Journal of Gratitude and Awareness to an eBook and PDF version. I’m delighted to announce that this book is now available as an eBook on Amazon and as a PDF. I’m equally excited to announce the launch of a new website devoted to this book. Please check out magicmiraclesandsynchronicity.com (and if you can’t remember that mouthful, janebluestein.org will also get you there.)
Update: Spring 2022 (and NOT Thanksgiving)
We have spent the past two years dealing with various forms of restrictions, limitations, and in some cases crises relating to a global pandemic. Although the number of new cases (reported) may be down from unnerving peaks a few months ago, too many people I know—including my 97-year-old mother—have come down with one variant of the virus or another.
For those of us with autoimmune issues (immune compromised), this is definitely not over. Between changes in work, travel, publishing, and (OMG) income, cautions about my own health, and in between, many entire days spent on the phone trying to help out my mom (who went through Covid, hip replacement, and a pelvic fracture just in the last few months), I’ve been living with anxiety as a non-stop, low-hum background noise for the past two years.
I don’t think my situation is at all unique, but it does get to me at times. The other day, I could feel myself edging toward a full-blown panic attack, with all the physiological symptoms creeping up on me. I was starting to feel shaky and just froze where I was. In one of my familiar wake-up conversations with myself, I actually said this out loud: “Stop it, Janie. Look around you. Just look at what you have in your life right now, good stuff, beautiful stuff… Just LOOK!”
As my focus gently shifted from everything that was wrong or worrisome (or even threatening) to the beautiful things in my environment, I was able to stretch to remember the amazing resources, people, and opportunities to get what I need, even if just for right this minute. A silly, maybe even simplistic little inventory, a list of ten (or five or three) things I’m thankful for right now, got be breathing again.
No, it didn’t make my mom feel better—I’m dealing with her anxiety at times, too—nor did it swell my bank account, finish any projects, or get my books back in print—but I have found that conscious gratitude can often allow me to get my legs under me and ground me enough to become functional again.
Because even the smallest flame can chase away a whole heap of darkness. It doesn’t take all the stress away, but sometimes just shifting my focus from the scary, negative stuff in my life to the supports, the positives, the love, the beauty, and even the little tangible things around me is enough. It’s enough for this minute.
© 2013, 2022, Dr. Jane Bluestein
Podcast: An Attitude of Gratitude with (co-author) Judy Lawrence
Book: Magic, Miracles and Synchronicity: A Journal of Gratitude and Awareness
Excerpt: “Wonder All Around”
Excerpt: “Silver Linings”
8 Ways to Live in Gratitude
15 Ways to Live Optimistically
36 Things You can Do to Feel Great
Free “Pads” on the Back downloads: A page with the 8 messages from the original product to duplicate and share generously. Available in dozens of different languages!!
Please support this site: This website is an ongoing labor of love, with a fair number of expenses involved. Your support will help offset the cost of continual training, technical assistance, and translators, allowing me to continue to maintain the site, add helpful and inspiring new content and links, and keep the site ad-free. Donate here…