Maybe you’re not the kind of gal to take on a bunch of yearly goals, and that’s okay. But what if there was a challenge you could take on that is really all about increasing your well-being, with very little effort? If you learn how to do a 30 days of gratitude challenge, it could make you happier, with just a little practice!
In this article, you will learn how to practice 30 days of gratitude and we list links to our favorite gratitude worksheets! But first, let's discuss why gratitude matters.
Why gratitude matters
Gratitude is a somewhat overlooked trait these days. Many of us have so much, but we don’t often pause to think about that. And when we forget how fortunate we are, that can lead to discontent and a lack of motivation.
Gratitude can become part of your total well-being plan. Let’s talk about some of the key benefits of starting a gratitude practice, whether you want to do a 30 days of gratitude challenge or make it a lifelong habit.
Physical benefits of gratitude
Choosing to be grateful and express that gratitude in some form can actually improve your physical health.
Here are some of the potential benefits to your physical health, according to Glenn Fox, Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of Southern California:
- Improvement in sleep
- Reduction in symptoms of physical pain
- Lower inflammation levels
- Lower blood pressure
Plus, think about the ways that gratitude might indirectly push you towards healthier habits. I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling depressed and negative, I don’t always want to work out or prepare healthy meals. Practice thankfulness makes me more likely to lace up my running shoes or choose an apple for a snack.
Mental health benefits of gratitude
It’s probably pretty clear that gratitude would have a direct impact on your mental health. After all, gratitude needs to start in your mind.
Gratitude has been shown to help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety—that’s a huge benefit! Even though you can’t just wish away all of your problems, you can choose to focus on the positive and improve your mental health.
The practice of showing gratitude for 30 days and beyond can help you to feel more positive about your life overall. You can be more optimistic about the future, instead of stressing about it.
Bringing more gratitude into your life can have a positive impact in many different areas. Gratitude can help improve your money mindset, help you be more patient with others, and make you look forward with hope.
How to do a 30 days of gratitude challenge
Among the many 30-day challenges that you could do, focusing on gratitude is an amazing one to start with. It’s actually pretty easy to do, once you start to shift your mindset and create the habit.
Why take 30 days to build this habit?
You might wonder why 30 days is such a popular length of time for people to do challenges. Some choose a 30-day budget challenge, a 30-day social media detox, or a 30-day fitness challenge.
Whatever the focus of your goal is, 30 days is generally thought of as the perfect amount of time. It’s just long enough to begin building a habit, but not so long as to be overly stressful. Most of us can handle trying anything new for 30 days (although I wasn’t a fan of the 30 days without sugar challenge!).
Rather than putting pressure on yourself to do something new for an entire year, as with New Year’s resolutions, 30 days is a great start.
You can build a gratitude habit in these 30 days. It's a manageable amount of time, and by day 30, it might simply feel like a part of your routine.
Tips for sticking to the gratitude habit
While New Year’s resolutions tend to be hard for most people to achieve, a 30 day habit of gratitude is doable. Studies have shown that about 80% of people abandon their resolutions by the second week of February. (And we all know plenty of people who give up by January 2, right?)
Here are some tips for how to do a 30 days of gratitude challenge—tips for sticking to the plan, that is.
When practicing something new, it’s usually best to begin with a very small task. Something that will take an extra hour every day may not be reasonable for busy, hard-working ladies.
B.J. Fogg, the author of the bestseller Tiny Habits, explains that starting small is the key to making long-term changes to your habits. One famous example he uses is to begin creating the habit of flossing by deliberately flossing only one tooth at a time. (The eventual goal, of course, is to floss them all.)
With a gratitude habit or anything else new, starting small can ensure your success. You’ll eventually add more to it but just begin with one small thing, like a thank-you text to your mom.
Stack your gratitude with another habit
Many experts on habit formation praise the idea of “habit stacking.” You can try this with your 30 days of gratitude.
Habit stacking, as author James Clear says, simply means to add your new habit to something you’ve already established as a habit. An example: “After I pour a cup of coffee each morning, I will meditate for one minute.”
Sometimes called “pairing,” this strategy helps you to start a new habit by placing it with another one you already do. It might be a necessary task or one that you especially enjoy. Either option can help you stick with your gratitude challenge because you’re unlikely to miss the first habit.
Think of a habit that you already do, and how you could add a gratitude habit easily before or after that. Perhaps you can pause to think of something you’re grateful for immediately after you drop the kids off at school. Or write down three points of gratitude immediately before going to bed.
Pick a specific time or method
When trying to build your gratitude muscles, it’s helpful to plan ahead. Pick a specific time of day when you’ll express gratitude for the next 30 days. Whatever time of day makes sense—morning, night, after class, every time you’re at a red light—commit to your gratitude practice.
Since you’re likely stacking your gratitude with another habit, the time of day is probably already fixed. Maybe you’re trying to build gratitude into your entire family. In that case, you might choose dinnertime for when you all state something you’re grateful for.
Ideas for 30 days of gratitude challenge
Okay, time to get into the fun stuff! Check out these ideas for a gratitude challenge and pick whatever appeals to you.
Write a gratitude journal
Writing in a journal is a time-honored tradition, and a great way to organize your thoughts. Writing down your thoughts on paper can help you solidify them and remember them.
You can choose a pretty journal that’s already in your house (if you’re like me, you have half a dozen of these at any given moment) or pick a basic notepad.
Show gratitude in whatever form you like. Do you love writing out full paragraphs detailing the events and what made you grateful? Go for it! Are you more of a bullet-point person? Great—you don’t have to write a novel. Just get your thoughts down.
It’s also important to remember that not everyone approaches journal writing the same way. Perhaps you’re more excited about the idea of posting something on your social media account daily. You can go on Instagram or Facebook and share gratitude for your friends and family to see.
Does an actual journal scare you? Maybe you have a whiteboard on your fridge and you can simply jot down your gratitude with a dry-erase marker. (However, if you want to keep a record of your 30-day gratitude challenge, I suggest an actual notebook or journal.)
Another reminder: your gratitude journal is all about your own journey to being more content and developing an appreciation for the good in your life. Don’t worry if you can’t think of big stuff every day. You can probably find plenty of small moments of gratitude to acknowledge, like someone holding the door open for you or your five-year-old giving you a dandelion from the yard.
Keep a gratitude jar
Another fun way of marking your moments of gratitude is a “gratitude jar.” Some people do this individually, but as a family, it could be great too. Simply write what you’re grateful for on small slips of paper. Each day, add at least one of these to a jar (you can label it if you want).
What you can do at the end of your 30 days of gratitude challenge is empty the jar. Read over all of the ways you’ve felt grateful for the past month or so, and you can appreciate those moments again.
Express gratitude to others
So far, the suggestions for your gratitude month have been mostly inward practice. That’s great, but if you want to take it a step further, you might consider giving thanks to other people.
Think about how much you appreciate it when someone takes a moment to tell you thanks. Whether it’s in person, in a handwritten note, or a call or text, everyone (usually) likes a thank-you.
Expressing your gratitude to others is a terrific way to reach out. Instead of just saying, “what’s up?” you can tell a friend how thankful you are for the way she watched your kids the other day or brought you soup when you were sick.
Email your thanks
For some people in your life, email may be the best way to get in touch. Whether it’s someone you talk to daily or once a year, reach out to express your gratitude. Since it’s a 30-day challenge, you could aim to send one email of thanks each day of the challenge.
Send a text
Although some people feel texting is impersonal, it’s certainly an easy and convenient way to contact someone. You can use text messaging to send your thoughts of gratitude out into the world.
One idea might be to go alphabetically through your contact list and send a new person a thank-you text each day. Feel free to do multiple ones per day, but if you’re focused on a tiny habit, one is plenty.
Add cute emojis or GIFs to make it more personal if that’s your jam. Sometimes your friends are just as busy as you are, and although they can’t spare an hour to talk on the phone, they’ll love a heartfelt text.
Mail gratitude letters
Of course, let’s not forget about the old school method: the thank you note. As said already, you can do a version of this by text or email, but for a lot of people, a real snail-mail note is perfect.
I confess I’m not the best at these, but I want to do better. Thank you notes can be on simple note cards, and the message you write doesn’t have to be super long. Just tell your family and friends what you appreciate about them.
A combination of various forms of communication is fine for your 30 day challenge, too. The key is to make it a habit to think about and express your gratitude, however you want to do it.
Build a gratitude practice with your family
Most of these methods work beautifully if you want to cultivate gratitude as a family. Goodness knows, we want our spouses and children and other family members to show their gratitude as well, right?
Some of these ideas, like the gratitude jar, work especially well as a group effort. Maybe you can make a game out of it or set a goal of a certain number of gratitude messages for the end of the 30 days (for a reward).
Simply setting the intention of everyone showing gratitude for one thing each day is great. The dinner table can be a good place to share these, but if your family isn’t able to eat all together, try to find another time.
Another way to involve your family in your gratitude challenge is to urge everyone to keep each other accountable. Perhaps your kids aren’t that excited about participating themselves, but they might love the chance to remind you every day to write in your gratitude journal.
Gratitude worksheet pdf printables
If you’re a little concerned about how you’ll think of things you’re grateful for over the next 30 days, here’s some help. The Internet is filled with information and ideas to help kickstart your gratitude practice. Check out these free online gratitude worksheet pdfs for inspiration!
This site is a terrific resource for your new gratitude practice. Positive Psychology contains journaling prompts to guide you as you keep a gratitude journal, plus links to free gratitude worksheet pdfs. Here are a few of the pdfs included there.
Dream Dash Journal
The website Dream Dash Journal is another great place to find ideas for a 30 day gratitude challenge. It includes a list of 50 journal prompts to help you think a bit outside the box for things to appreciate.
You can download the free gratitude worksheet pdf here! 50 questions will easily get you through 30 days and more.
Change to Chill
Another fun worksheet to inspire your thoughts of gratitude is found at ChangetoChill.org. It contains several in-depth questions about topics like overlooked blessings and activities you enjoy.
HalpImPoor.com (clever name, right?) offers another free gratitude worksheet pdf you can download and print for yourself.
Try a 30 days of gratitude challenge and improve your mindset!
Gratitude is an important practice to build into our lives, and we can all do it regardless of our circumstances. Even on the hard days, you can challenge yourself to find at least one good thing in the midst of trouble.
You’ll probably find yourself focusing more on the positive as you work your way through 30 days of gratitude.