10 Ways to Use Gratitude to Boost Your Well-Being

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy for details.

You see a twenty-something-year-old girl on Instagram with an enormous home full of the latest home décor, and a chef’s kitchen to boot.

You see a fit mom who just had a baby three weeks ago flaunt that she finally arrived at her pre-baby weight after three hellacious weeks.

You see a beautiful woman your age who doesn’t have a wrinkle, age spots, or defect in sight, even her legs are smooth & caramel-colored.

And, sometimes you are left feeling you have nothing good to show for, when mama, you truly do!

Don’t let the comparison trap sabotage your happiness, positive well-being, and everything you’ve worked so hard for in your life.

You need a mindset makeover.

How to Appreciate Your Life & Kick the Comparison Trap  | Gratitude Journaling

You’ll never stop comparing your looks, parenting abilities, relationships, and life overall, to those around you. But, don’t fret.

I am going to share with you how to tackle those destructive thoughts that often lead to resentment, negativity, and depression.

Gratitude.

You might be thinking, okay….um…how is gratitude is going to help me solve my problems?

Stay with me, here.

The positive effects of gratitude are astounding.

Why is gratitude important?

Everyone knows that gratitude is a good thing, but here’s a little fact that not many folks are aware of: Gratitude is good for your body.

There are countless theories supporting why the gratitude mindset makes us healthier—from tougher immune systems thanks to more sleep, to healthier hearts due to less stress, and even lowered depression due to less negative thoughts.

Read on to learn 10 simple ways to practice gratitude and discover how a gratitude mindset can boost your mental health.

1. Keep a gratitude journal

A gratitude journal is the most beneficial way to practice gratitude and change your mindset. There are awesome gratitude journals available that contain inspirational quotes and dedicated space to write several things you are thankful for each day of the week, along with weekly checkpoints. Or, if you prefer, you can just use a regular notebook you might have laying around the house.

If you begin each day by writing down three things you are thankful for – a fresh cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee, 7 hours of sleep, your son took out the trash without you asking- you begin each day on the right track. It really sets the tone for your day when you make time to note the positive things in your life. It is so easy to find the thorns, look for the silky rose petals.

 A 2003 study showed there to be numerous benefits for keeping a gratitude journal. The study showed that the people who kept a journal worked out more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives overall, and were more optimistic. It also showed that people who kept the journal were more likely to make progress towards their goals.

In later studies, research shows that study participants who reflected on positive events had increased levels of happiness and reduced depressive symptoms for more than six months after the study.

2. Write a nice letter to someone

It feels so good to be on the receiving end of a “just because” card or a letter. What a surprise when you check your mail and you have something other than utility bills…with a side of bills. It doesn’t have to be hand-written, although it is a nice touch, you can even send a sweet email.

When was the last time you received a note declaring how awesome you are?

While I’m sure there are many people rockin’ life with flair, sunshine, and sunflowers, we aren’t always good about sharing our feelings of admiration. We need to work on that.

If you want to write a letter of gratitude to someone but are unsure if you want the person to read it, go ahead and write it anyways. The simple act of writing the letter can help you better appreciate those sweet people in your life and move your focus away from negative feelings.

And, hopefully, you will be writing in your journal that you are thankful you found a stamp on the bottom of your purse to send precious snail mail.

10 Easy Peasy Gratitude Exercises That Boost Your Happiness | Positive Mindset

In a gratitude research study by the University of California, Berkeley, researchers enlisted 300 people with mental health challenges, including individuals suffering from anxiety and depression. The study randomly divided the people into three groups. All groups received counseling services, but the first group was instructed to write one letter of gratitude to another person every week for three weeks, while the second group was requested to write about their thoughts and feelings on their negative experiences. The third group did not participate in any writing activity.

Guess what they discovered?

Compared to the individuals who only received counseling or wrote about negative experiences, those who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health for up to 12 weeks after the writing exercise concluded.

“Gratitude writing can be beneficial not just for healthy, well-adjusted individuals, but also for those who struggle with mental health concerns.”

3. Pay it forward

If you’ve never been on the end of a Starbucks “pay it forward chain” or a bridge toll pay it forward, start one today. Buy a coffee for the person in front of you or cover the toll for the car ahead of you. Every day try to pay it forward. Paying it forward doesn’t always mean you have to drop dollars.

You can pay it forward with your time. Return the shopping cart for the car next to you, let the mom with three kids go ahead of you in the grocery line, or another spontaneous act of kindness.

Acts of kindness, and feelings of gratitude, overflow our brains with a chemical called dopamine. When we are grateful for something (or someone) our brains reward us with a natural high. Because of this feel-good sensation, we are motivated to seek it again and become more apt to give thanks and do good for others.

Related: 10 Tips to Help Stressed Moms Chill Out

4. Volunteer to help others

The key to having more gratitude for most people is to give back to others in their local community. Not only will you feel more grateful for the roof over your head, your clothes on your back, and the benjamins in your back pocket, studies have shown that volunteering for the sake of helping others improves our own well-being, and thus our ability to have more gratitude.

Esteemed psychologist Martin Seligman supports this theory with his research in Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being.

After testing all types of variables that help improve our well-being, he found that “volunteering is the single most reliable way to momentarily increase your well-being.”

5. Pray

If you’re a religious person, praying to your God daily can help to foster gratitude. Studies show those who frequently attend religious services and engage in religious activities such as prayer or reading religious books are more likely to be grateful.

Gratitude in prayer is about paying attention. It’s a habit of noticing and responding to what your God is providing for you.

While practicing gratitude does not require religious faith, faith enhances the ability to be grateful.

Cultivate Positivity With These 10 Tips  | Woman Celebrating & Throwing Her Hands in the Air

6. Share your happy thoughts

Your toddler went pee in the potty. Your husband made you a pot of coffee before he went to work. The sun is shining. You found a funny old photo of yourself sitting in a bowl of chili (I swear I wasn’t an adult).   

Why wait until Thanksgiving dinner to share those happy thoughts or what you’re grateful for? Start a family tradition of sharing one good thing that happened to you that day, or something you’re grateful for, each time you sit down to dinner. Share your happy thoughts on your social media posts, instead of seizing the opportunity to vent. Those around you absorb the feelings you put out. You’ll notice the more you focus on happy thoughts, the happier you will become….and the more people will be drawn to you.

When participants in one study were made to cultivate gratitude, 23 percent showed a decrease in cortisol—the most prominent stress hormone.

But, that’s not even the kicker.

80 percent of participants “showed changes in heart rate variability; a direct result of reduced stress levels.”

If that isn’t enough reason to start a daily gratitude routine, I don’t know what else is.

7. Try to seek out the positive in every scenario

It’s all too easy to remember the annoyances and frustrations in our daily lives.

Your husband threw his clothes on the floor after you just spent an hour cleaning up. Someone stole the parking spot you were about to turn into. The neighbor’s blaring his music too loud. You arrive on time to your family’s dinner reservation and are told it will be a ten-minute wait.  

While I’m sure you can drum up a bucket load of frustrating scenarios, know that you can always draw a positive from each of these situations as well.

10 Ways to Attract Positive Energy Today | Young Woman Journaling Outside in Nature

Let’s use the dinner reservation scenario as an example:

Negative mindset: Complain to the host that it is unacceptable, ask to speak to the manager, then sit and stew letting the situation ruin your mood for the evening.

Positive mindset: Ask the hostess if she has menus and crayons available, let the kids color or burn off energy before they sit down to eat, look over the menus to decide what you’re going to eat, and catch up on conversations with family.

Learn to counteract a negative situation with a positive. It is an exercise and can take time to master, but once you shift to a more positive mindset, you’ll feel a whole lot better.

8. Focus on your strengths

We all have things we are good at. Some of us are good at drawing, some are better at writing. Some moms can fashion mean martinis, some are better at shelling out killer Italian dishes.

Most of us aren’t good at everything we set out to do, and that’s okay. Sometimes we need more time to brew to achieve our optimum strength.

Instead of dwelling on the things you aren’t so great at, bask in your achievements and the things you rock at. Because not everyone knows how to rollerblade, bake a pie, or change a dirty diaper in less than 30 seconds.

9. Meditate

Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Though some choose to focus on a word or phrase, like “calm,” you can also focus on what you’re grateful for (the sun shining on your back, your baby’s laugh, being surrounded by nature, etc.).

It took me some time to get used to meditating. I used to think it was too hippy-dippy, speaking honestly here. But, now that I have incorporated it as part of my daily routine, I see why so many people do it. It clears your mind, decreases stress, and helps you to focus on the good.

According to UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center:

“Having an attitude of gratitude changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps the gray matter functioning and makes us healthier and happier. When you feel happiness, the central nervous system is affected. You are more peaceful, less reactive, and less resistant.”

10. Compliment others

Something as simple, such as “you look amazing in that sundress,” or “thanks for staying later today! I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Just a few sincere words can take someone from a run of the mill day to an awesome day. That one little compliment will lift their self-esteem, generate smiles, and they will likely be on cloud nine for the rest of the day.

It takes very little time to show your gratitude by recognizing the people you come in to contact with. Yes, even a stranger.

Make it a goal to compliment at least one person every day. You’ll start appreciating the small things in life and you’ll perk up someone else’s day too. And, don’t forget, when someone compliments you, don’t rebut or dismiss the compliment. Tell them, thank you!

Gratitude is Riches Complaint is Poverty Positive Quote

How do you practice gratitude in your life?

Share the love!

Author: Brandi Wiatrak

Hey, Mama! I'm Violet's mom and Chris' step-mama, Brandi. This space is a peek into my cold-brew fueled life navigating motherhood and the world. With brutal honesty, humor, and sarcasm, I talk about the joys (and sucks) of parenting, ways to live a simple & sane life, and awesome adventures to embark on with your family. Come aboard my crazy train! Wine and Gerber Puffs included.

21 thoughts

  1. Albany Chanel says:

    I appreciate all these 10 ways to boost your sense of gratitude and get yourself out of the comparison trap. I particularly like the writing practices. I keep a gratitude journal and I like writing letters to others to offer encouragement, love and support. It takes the focus off of yourself and on to someone else.

  2. mamawritesreviews says:

    I used to be diligent with a gratitude journal… Then I had my oldest son and got too busy with him, even though I was more grateful than I ever had been.

  3. Patricia @ Grab a Plate says:

    I really like all these suggestions! I used to meditate often but haven’t lately. I have, however, picked up on praying the rosary! It really does make an impact!

  4. Volunteering is my go-to. Whenever I feel drained, angry or in my head too much, I spend a few hours volunteering with a local non-profit! This is a fantastic list thanks for sharing!

  5. It’s so true. A grateful heart and approach to life changes everything —and it’s contagious!

  6. I agree about avoiding the comparison trap. It’s so much easier to be grateful if you can stop comparing yourself and your situation to others.

  7. I love how you cited so much research to back up the importance of practicing gratitude! I would like to work more intentionally on creating some habits of gratitude for our kids. The Starbucks pay it forward is an awesome example. We had someone do that once for us with our kids in the vehicle, and it was such a great example for them of how to be kind to others and how.

    1. Brandi Wiatrak says:

      Thanks so much! I try to do my homework and not just talk a bunch of fluff. 😁 That is so awesome your kids were able to witness that act of kindness. I’m sure it something that will stick out in their mind, and hopefully they will do when they’re older. 💓

  8. I loved this post so much. You have such a way with words that really makes me smile 🙂 Years ago when I was younger I travelled a lot – and of course back then I sent a lot of postcards too. This is something I loved doing to connect with my family members and also let them know I was thinking of them. Now with social media and texting people just don’t communicate in meaningful ways anymore. So you’re gratitude letters really has me thinking to start this up. Who wouldn’t love a hand written letter?! Thanks so much for all the ideas. I’ll be coming back read again.

    1. Brandi Wiatrak says:

      Thanks so much! That sure means a lot coming from a talented writer like you. I think a hand written letter is definitely going the extra mile in showing someone how much you care. It’s almost jaw-dropping nowadays…and so appreciated.

  9. Definitely agree, a positive attitude and practicing gratitude on a daily basis is such an important part of our overall well-being and mental health!

  10. juliemtms says:

    I completely 100% agree that gratitude can change your life! If you’re constantly feeling grateful for what you have, you don’t have time to feel bad about what you don’t have. I am constantly reminding my kids of all the things we have to be thankful for! Great tips on increasing positivity in your life!

    1. Brandi Wiatrak says:

      Thanks so much! It is a struggle reminding kids how good they have it, isn’t it?

  11. 21flavorsofsplendor says:

    Love all these practical tips we can all incorporate into our every day. I need to get me a gratitude journal.

  12. It’s easy to forget how much it means when you give an honest compliment to someone unprompted. Thanks for including that in this article of gratitude.

    1. Brandi Wiatrak says:

      Compliments are such an easy way to turn someone’s day around and I’ve noticed it even lifts my spirits when I see what an uplifting effect it has on the other person.

  13. Love this post. As a life coach/business coach, I talk about gratitude a lot. I consider it to be our super-power emotion.

    1. Brandi Wiatrak says:

      I totally agree. Stress causes issues in our bodies, which often can lead to disease. I feel positivity is an easy (and cheap) way to counteract some of these issues that contribute to poor health.

  14. Oh wow, there are so many practical ways to express gratitude in this post. Thank you! I love the examples of turning a negative into a positive. My husband and I are currently going through the gratitude section on Rachel Cruze’s The Contentment Journal and we are discovering the benefits of starting each day with purposeful gratitude. Great post!

    1. Brandi Wiatrak says:

      That book sounds like a great read! I need to check it out. Thanks so much for your kind words.

Leave a Reply