Gratitude in Action: 30 Ways to Give Thanks - MetroFamily Magazine
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Gratitude in Action: 30 Ways to Give Thanks

by Heidi Smith Luedtke

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

Gratitude is an active process of acknowledging goodness and recognizing its source, according to Robert Emmons, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). “While gratitude is pleasant, it is not easy,” Emmons notes. “We have to work at it.”

The following are easy ways to get grateful:

  1. Start a gratitude journal. List three things you’re grateful for each day.
  2. Give a thank you note to someone who doesn’t expect it.
  3. Give a bouquet of fall flowers to someone you appreciate.
  4. Set a grateful example. Say “thank you” for kids’ help with table-setting or toy cleanup.
  5. Light a candle and focus on a recent blessing. Visit for a virtual version.
  6. Help someone. Make a microloan to someone who needs it to get back on their feet. Learn more at or
  7. Bring dinner to someone who nurtures others. Soup and bread are perfect for sharing.
  8. Make collages of the people, places and opportunities for which you’re most grateful. Laminate your creations to use as a placemats.
  9. Take a walk through the woods and be thankful for the changing seasons.
  10. Go online to merchants who make or sell objects you love and leave a positive review. The merchant (and the next shopper) will appreciate it.
  11. Plan a date night with your spouse or child. Tune in to what makes you smile, laugh and sigh when you’re together.
  12. Decorate your table with fall gourds or flowers to celebrate the beauty of nature.
  13. Bake “thank you” bread using a monkey bread recipe ( has many ideas). As each family member pulls off each piece, have them share something for which they are grateful.
  14. Remember bad times, like frustrations, failures and losses, and consider how things have improved. Focus on resiliency and renewal.
  15. Inspire others. Use social media to describe one unexpected blessing you’ve received.
  16. Post thankful expressions in visible locations at home and at work.
  17. Stop by the principal’s office and tell her three things you appreciate about your child’s teacher, coach or curriculum.
  18. Perform a random act of coffee kindness. In line at the coffee counter or drive-thru, pay for the drink of the patron behind you. Your generosity will boost their energy and their mood.
  19. Speak up publicly (at work or at church) to highlight others’ help and support. Your recognition might be just what someone needs today.
  20. Write a letter of thanks to each of your children. Explain how they’ve changed your life for the better. Give the notes now, or tuck them into kids’ baby books.
  21. Appreciate your pets. Pet your dog or cat for 10 minutes, and focus on times you’ve shared. Be grateful for your pet’s unconditional love.
  22. Practice random thankfulness. Pick simple cues—like common words—or set an alarm. Use them to trigger thankful thoughts.
  23. Uproot worn-out flowers and plant bulbs in their place. Anticipate spring. Optimism is gratitude to grow
  24. Volunteer your time and talents to serve others. Visit to find a list of local organizations in need of your help.
  25. Take a picture of your family holding “thank you” signs. Design an e-card or print custom notes to send to holiday gift-givers.Thankfulness Begins at Home

We asked our Facebook fans: How would you complete this sentence? “The way I help my child learn to be thankful is __________” and here is what they said:

  • To show him others who have less. My kids volunteer a few times a year.– Karen P.
  • It might sound hokey, but I teach my children that we are rich in things that matter, like love.– Mari F.
  • Helping others less fortunate and leading by example.– Robin D.
  • By showing my children how and what God has saved us from and all we have to be thankful for. – Lori H..
  • To show them that I am thankful! Everything we do rubs off on our kids!! – Mary L

Join the dialogue at

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