The Meaning of Gratitude and 50 Reflections to Build an Attitude of Gratitude.

How to create an enduring attitude of gratitude that goes beyond a single day a year.

Goal Setting Makes Mojo Happy

By Coach Mojo

The word gratitude comes from the Latin root “gratus,” which means “thankful” or “pleasing.”

So the meaning of gratitude is to be thankful for the pleasing things that happen to us. When we understand what the word means on a root level, it helps us understand some ways to express it in our everyday lives.

In that vein, if we were asked to name the one holiday that is built around thankfulness, appreciation and sincere or deep gratitude — we’d probably have no trouble saying Thanksgiving.

But how do we create an enduring attitude of gratitude that goes beyond a single day a year? How do we cultivate an attitude that brings more meaning and appreciation to our life, that fosters a sense of thankfulness for the social support we have, and reminds us of the blessing of friends in our day-to-day lives?

To answer those questions, let’s start with how gratitude actually works — in our brains.

The Science of Gratitude

These days, there are scores of scientific studies on the benefits of practicing this pleasing thankfulness — according to this Positive Psychology article, “studies have demonstrated that at the brain level, moral judgments involving feelings of gratefulness are evoked in the right anterior temporal cortex.” Gratitude can function as a natural antidepressant, and the effects of practicing gratitude every day are similar to those of medications.

One of the most well-studied and effective gratitude interventions is to keep a gratitude journal. It’s also one of the easiest — showing results in about 90 seconds per day. A gratitude journal helps you focus on positive, rather than negative experiences and thoughts, can help you sleep better (especially if you do it before bed), and can ease feelings of anxiety or stress, leading to increased happiness.

In essence, a gratitude journal can teach you to flex a positive emotion each day, making each day a celebration, and bringing a deep sense of personal happiness. This strengthens our overall optimism, kindness, generosity, and the ease with which we see goodness in the world.

That’s what the psychology says — so, do you have a notebook and 90 seconds a day? We have 50 gratitude journal prompts to get you started, and then we end this piece with our “Thank You Note Challenge” to help you bring a deep sense of gratitude off the page and into our daily life. 

Let’s get this gratitude train rolling, and make you a more grateful person more often!

50 Great Gratitude prompts for your personal journal

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude
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Funny / Light-hearted Prompts:

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  1. What’s a teeny tiny thing that delighted you today?
  2. What’s a delicious meal or snack you’ve had recently with someone else? Tell us about it and why it made you feel grateful.
  3. Who’s your favorite comedian? Write a little thank you note to them for making you laugh, noting your favorite joke or bit.
  4. What’s something silly you said or did today that made you smile?
  5. Try thanking your body for something it’s done — like waking you up today or breathing when you forget. Do it in the form of a post-it note memo for how cool it is to not have to remember all the “little things” that keep you alive.
  6. What’s currently in your fridge that you’re most grateful for, and why?

Prompts Around Family and Friends:

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  1. Who is a friend who makes you laugh? Write down one funny thing they’ve said.
  2. What’s a family tradition you’re grateful for, even if it can’t happen this year? For example, taking a long walk after Thanksgiving dinner together, or having a check-in call on Sundays.
  3. Think of a big set-back you faced… and someone close to you who helped you rebound from it. Write them a thank-you note.
  4. Who is the friend you would most like to spend a year on a desert island? Call them and tell them thanks.
  5. Who in your family are you grateful for for showing you repeatedly the mistakes you don’t want to make?
  6. What’s a familial relationship that’s evolved over time for the better? What now makes this relationship so special?
  7. Who’s a family member you’ve come to appreciate now with age? What are you grateful for now, that you used to take for granted?
  8. Think of the last really good phone call you had. Who was it with and why was it so special? Did you thank them?
  9. Look at your phone or email, and write down the names of three people who have reached out to you in the last week. Now, schedule a time to do the same for them.
  10. Who’s a friend you’ve lost touch with, but wish you didn’t? What did you used to like about them? Would you consider reaching out?
  11. Who is someone — if they were in front of you right now — that you would thank for something they did for you in the past?

Prompts Around Nature:

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  1. What is an animal or experience with an animal that you’re grateful for?
  2. Think about a bird’s song, the weather, the temperature, the clouds, the sun… and find one thing to be grateful for from nature today. Maybe a tree or a flower you saw on a walk, maybe the sand and ocean waves at the beach.
  3. Look out the window right now…really, do it! Write something you’re thankful for out there. Why is that?
  4. Imagine you’re meeting with an alien civilization. Tell them one thing that humanity does (even if only occasionally!) that makes you feel grateful.
  5. Think back to a beautiful hike or time spent in nature. Write out what elements of that experience you are grateful for, as a list.

Prompts Around Arts and Creativity

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  1. What is the book that you’re most grateful for, and why?
  2. Think of a fictional character you’ve spent some time with recently — maybe a TV character or someone from a film or movie. Try writing a thank you for a life lesson they taught you.
  3. What is a piece of art that takes your breath away? Why do you connect to it?
  4. What is the song you’re most grateful for, and why?
  5. Who introduced you to your favorite movie or piece of art? What is it, and what was the experience like for you?
  6. What is something you’ve created (a story, a painting, a dance, a little song) that you’re grateful for?

Prompts Around Community / The World

Gratitude Prompt Help
  1. What are you grateful for in terms of your health this year?
  2. What’s one way your local community has pulled together during Covid-19? It could be mask-wearing, separate shopping hours for older people, or anything else you’ve noticed.
  3. What’s become your new favorite place in your community over the past year? Why are you thankful for it?
  4. What are you looking forward to doing in the community in 2021?
    What’s one way you’ve benefited from your community in the past year? It can be anything from playing in a sports league, going to religious services, or volunteering. Express gratitude for that experience.
  5. There’s no shortage of global drama at the moment, but what’s one thing you’ve seen recently on the news that made you feel thankful?
  6. What is the piece of technology you’re most grateful for, and why?
  7. Who is a leader (either current or from the past) who you feel grateful for?
  8. What’s one positive thing you’ll take from the trials of 2020 into the future?

Prompts Around Pets

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  1. How has your pet comforted you in the past week? How have you comforted them?
  2. What’s a small thing — like running to greet you at the door — that your pet does that makes you smile?
  3. What is something (like a regular walk outside) or someone (a fellow pet owner, an online friend) your pet has brought into your life?
  4. Write a little thank you note to your pet for the experiences, people, and joy they’ve brought into your life.

Prompts Around Work and School

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  1. What’s one thing you learned this week that you’re excited about?
  2. Name something about your job that went better than expected this week — it can be anything from fewer emails, to a pleasant interaction, to ending a call early on a Friday afternoon.
  3. Who is someone who made your job easier this week? Thank them briefly in your journal (and consider taking it into real life with our challenge!).
  4. What was your favorite part of work today? How come?
  5. What’s a skill you’ve gained or trained over the past year that you’re grateful for?

Prompts Around Home

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  1. What’s your coziest outfit? When do you wear it?
  2. What’s a small thing in your living space (like a plant, a book, or a picture) that makes you feel at home? Why?
  3. What is something in your home you’ve had for at least ten years? What does that object mean to you, and why do you keep it?
  4. What is your favorite corner of space in your home? Write a little about how it makes you feel.

Taking It Off the Page With the The Thank You Note Challenge

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Beyond writing in our gratitude journals, studies have shown that giving gratitude to others is one of the best things we can do for our mental health and resilience. Texts, emails, phone calls, or even little gifts are all great ways to give thanks.

And to help you take your gratitude off the page and into the real world, we’ve created the Thank You Note Challenge.

Challenges are clear, small actions that you practice for a set amount of time in order to build a habit. In order to build our gratitude habit this month, we’re going to practice reaching out and thanking people — with actual thank you notes.

Here’s how it works — every morning, for the next two weeks, start the day with these three questions:

1) Who’s a person you’re feeling grateful for today?
For example…
👉 I’m feeling grateful for my significant other who I know will love and support me no matter what happens.

2) Why are you feeling grateful for this person?
👉 Because while the external world feels crazy, I know I can depend on this person.

3) How will you express your gratitude to this person today?
👉 I’ll make them their favorite dessert, with a little “thank you” note telling them why I’m thankful for them.

And that’s it! The thank you notes can be physical, virtual (via email or text) or through the phone. We’re using “thank you notes” as a way to encapsulate the act of reaching out and clearly expressing to another person why you’re grateful for them.

Who can you choose? Anyone! They can be a team member, coach, family member, friend, or even a manager. Anyone who inspires you to feel gratitude and optimism.

The message should share why you appreciate them in general, rather than for one specific thing. Examples include, “I’m grateful for all the funny videos you send my way,” or “I appreciate how you always push me to learn new skills.”

Written or spoken expressions of gratitude fuel our system to thrive and increase our overall confidence. And, as a bonus, they make other people feel pretty darn good as well.

Start tomorrow — put a reminder in your phone or email, and as soon as you wake up, warm up your attitude of gratitude with a thank you note.

Want more techniques to build gratitude and live more confidently? Download Confidently on your mobile phone — and try our “Thrive” area!
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