Gratitude is not just about words, but it’s also about the mindset and action. This 30-day gratitude challenge will take you through the steps to turn gratitude practice into a joyful life.
What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it.
– Oprah Winfrey
Research has found that gratitude has a positive influence on both our physical and mental health. And it is the key to unlock happiness buried beneath stress and chaos. True, but “practicing gratitude” is easier said than done.
Our brains are wired to see the things that are uncertain and unstable. This default setting makes it hard for us to notice the ordinary in our life. When you worry that eating a whole avocado might make you gain weight, it’s hard to be grateful for the farmers behind the fresh produce.
That’s why I find a Ted podcast episode with Aj. Jacobs, the author of Thanks A Thousand, super inspiring. In the interview, he breaks down the practice of gratitude into different steps. First, you have to notice the things we take for granted. Then we find ways to express our appreciation. And last, take action and make gratitude meaningful.
I’ve done a quick search of 30-day gratitude challenges, and not many cover those steps. So I decided to create my own version. I hope this gratitude journey will be a mental makeover for you, something that brings joy and positive changes. If you have done the challenge, don’t forget to share with me your experiences in the comment!
How is this 30-day gratitude challenge structured?
There are four parts to this gratitude challenge, 30 small challenges in total.
First, you are going to notice the things to be grateful for. It’s a mental shift that lays the foundation of the challenge.
Secondly, you will take some time to reflect on your past experiences.
Then we are moving on part three of the challenge, where you will be given gratitude prompts to guide you through your daily entry.
The last part is about how we take action with a grateful heart and return the favor. You will have a few action items to work on and really make gratitude part of your life.
A mental makeover: 30-day gratitude challenge
Part One: Noticing – Stop taking the “normal “for granted
The first step of practicing gratitude is to know what to be grateful for. If we look back to our grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ time, life was so different. Electricity makes it possible for us to enjoy the nighttime. Internet changes the way we communicate and work. Behind each evolution lies the effort of generations. So the first few days, let’s redefine the word “normal” and find gratitude in everyday life.
Day 1 – Feel your heart
Place your palm on your chest and feel your heart beating. With every beat, feel the blood pumping into your vein and the energy flowing to your entire body.
During the day, continue to examine the pattern of your heartbeat. How is it beating when you are happy, stressed, or excited? At the end of the day, write down how it’s like to have a healthy heart.
Happiness does not lead to gratitude. Gratitude leads to happiness.
– David Steindl-Rast
Day 2 – Practice empathy
Think of someone who has offered you service. Be it the mailman, the waitress, or a barrister. Now try to put yourself in their shoes. Describe how life would be like from their perspectives. What are the hardships and joy they may go through in their day-to-day?
Day 3 – The story behind
Take something you use daily and research how it is made from scratch.
For example, the bread I have for breakfast today is freshly baked in a local bakery. The grain is grown in Montana and ground into flour in Oregon.
A simple slice of bread is a joint effort of the farmers, multiple machines, their operators, and of course, the bakers. Without them, I won’t have that tasty bite of wholegrain toast each morning.
Day 4 – How the world works
Watch a funny short film that explains how the world works:
Through the eyes of gratitude, everything is a miracle.
– Mary Davis
Day 5 – A list of “What I Take For Granted”
Make a list of the things you can’t live without but take for granted. It can be running water, a roof on top of your head, or someone that is always by your side.
Day 6 – Examine your day from a new perspective
Make a list of your daily tasks. And list the tools or people that make the tasks possible.
For example, I am using my laptop and the Internet to write this article you are reading now. Electricity powers them. And without a stable place to live, I will be typing on the street now.
You learn to be grateful when you stop taking things for granted. And life will be so much harder without the help or service of others.
Gratitude turns what we have into enough.
Day 7 – Know what you own
Think of one thing you own that money can’t buy. And write down the reasons why it is so precious.
One thing that makes it hard to be genuinely grateful is the idea that we need to have more. More money, more stuff, bigger houses, and higher social status…The pursuit of “more” could feed to the feeling of “not enough.”
By paying attention to what you already have right now, your focus shifts from fear to joy. Learning to appreciate the present moment sparks joy and gratitude. You may not be as rich as you wish to be.
But you have time to create the fortune you aspire. You might not have an ideal career yet, but you have a family who supports you. Gratitude will help you to shift from a deficit mindset to a surplus mindset.
Once you begin to take note of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack.
– Germany Kent
Part Two: Reflecting – Learn from the past
Gratitude is not just about appreciating the present. It’s also being grateful for the life lessons we learned from the past.
In the second part of the 30-day gratitude challenge, you will walk down memory lane and reflect on the moments that make you the person you are today.
Day 8 – Relive the joy of sweat
Think of one exercise you enjoy the most. It can be dancing, jogging or simply a walk. Relive the moment when you finish exercising. How do you feel? Write down your feelings and thank your body for making it possible.
Day 9 – Power of knowledge
What’s one thing you’ve learned that turned out to be helpful? It can be a course or a skill you adopted. Write it down and list the positive changes it brings to your life.
Day 10 – Life-changing conversation
Think of one conversation you have that changed your life. Who were you talking to? Why is it so important? Write down the experience.
Day 11 – Gratitude meditation
Find a place when you won’t be disturbed for the next 10 minutes. Close your eyes and breathe in and out slowly. Then start reflecting on a time that you receive someone’s kindness. Write down your feelings at the moment.
Day 12 – The person who has changed your life
Name one person that has a huge impact on your life. What did he/she do that makes you feel this way? What would life be like if you two haven’t met?
We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives. – John. F. Kennedy
Day 13 – A moment of serenity
Think about the last time when you felt completely relaxed and at ease. What were you doing that day? Try to recreate that calming moment today.
Day 14 – Power in the overcoming
Think about a difficult time in your life. What happened, and how did you cope with that? What did you learn from the experience?
Day 19 – The power of friendship
Do you have best friends? What makes them so unique? Describe a highlight of your friendship.
Part Three – Appreciation – Give thanks to those who make your life easier
In this part of the 30-day gratitude challenge, you are going to put your gratitude in words. Every day, you will use a gratitude journal prompt to write down what comes to mind.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a journal. A piece of paper or a note app on your phone will be a good place to start.
Day 15 – The support network
Name 3 people who are your strongest support. How have they helped you? What do you want to tell them? Write down your stories and feelings.
Day 16 – The gift
What is the best gift you’ve received? Who gave it to you, and why is it so meaningful? Write down the story.
Day 17 – Song therapy
Do you have a song you personally relate to? Maybe it’s the beats that cheer you up. Or perhaps the lyrics identify with your story. Listen to the song again and revisit that memory. Even better, sing along!
Day 18 – Celebrate your wins
List 3 of your achievements that make yourself proud. How did you manage to achieve them? Why are these wins so important? Write them down.
Here is a list of small personal achievements that we should all celebrate to give you some ideas.
Day 19 – Your sanctuary
Do you have a spot that brings you calmness? Maybe it’s your bedroom, a local café, or a corner of the library. Describe the place in your gratitude journal and write down how you feel when you are there.
Day 20 – Work appreciation
What’s the best part of your work? Think of a task in your job that excites you and write it down.
Day 21 – Reasons why I love you
Make a list of the people you love and along with the reasons why you feel that way. This list may include your family, partner, friends, or anyone that means a lot to you.
And your entry may look like this:
I love Sabrina. She is my coworker. I love her so much because she’s been helping me with my job since the beginning of it. Her wit and humor inspire me to do better.
List as many names as you want. Don’t worry if you miss anyone. You can always come back and add more to your gratitude list.
Day 22 – Self-appreciation
What is the best decision you’ve made? It can be going to college or quitting a job for your passion.
What would life be like if you didn’t take the step? Write down your story and thank yourself for the change you’ve made in your life.
Part Four – Take action and make a difference
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
– John F. Kennedy
Gratitude is not just about knowing how lucky we are. It becomes part of life when it sparks changes.
In the previous parts of the 30-day gratitude challenge, you focus on “knowing” and “expressing .” The last part is all about “doing.” It’s time to take action and to create a positive cycle of kindness.
Day 23 – Get artsy
Take out a piece of paper. Sketch down something beautiful you see recently. It can be the view from your window, the sunset or a park on your way home.
Day 24 – Be vocal
Describe a positive experience of your relationship with a Significant Other, a friend, or a family member. Tell them how you feel and express your appreciation to them.
Day 25 -Letter to your past
Write a letter to yourself 10 years ago. Have you become who you wanted to be? Think about what happened during the decade, your changes, and what you are grateful for.
Day 26 – Say thank-you
After Part One of this 30-day gratitude challenge, you may have a list of people that makes your life easier. And it’s time to say thank you.
Tell the owner of your go-to restaurant how much you enjoy the food. Leave a thank-you note for the mailman at the door. Your words of affirmation may brighten up someone’s day.
Day 27 – Be active
On Day 8 of the challenge, you wrote about a rejuvenating exercise. Now it’s time to do it again. Notice how you feel differently before and after exercising. And don’t forget to thank your body for making it possible.
Day 28 – Post it
Take a picture of what or who you are grateful for. It can be your mom, your dog or the park you can go for a walk. Share it on social media and caption it with words of appreciation or a gratitude quote.
Positive vibes are contagious. Your post might inspire someone to practice gratitude as well.
Day 29 – Reconnect
Be it your high school teacher or an old friend you lost contact with, think of someone that once had a positive impact on your life. Try to reconnect with them either in person, via text message, or on the Internet. Let them know the changes they have brought to you.
Day 30 – Make a change
What are the challenges that people around you are facing?
Talk to the small local business owners, the school bus drivers, or anyone you interact with daily. See if you can identify the difficulties they have and what you can do to help them.
Have you completed this 30-day gratitude challenge?
Tell me your thoughts on this challenge? Do you find it helpful or difficult? What changes have you experienced so far? Also, share this challenge with someone you care about. Gratitude brings joy, and you can spread it too.