What Gratitude Isn’t, and 18 Ways to Actually Show It

Thanksgiving is upon us, and we always (or should try to) use this time of year to talk about what we’re grateful for.

So you proceed to think of things you’re grateful for, and you sit there with a smile on your face, warm and fuzzy inside because you’re grateful for it.

That’s good.

But let me propose to you this thought: Gratitude isn’t a feeling.

At least, it shouldn’t stop at the warm-fuzzies.

What if I told you that gratitude is a virtue you can put into practice?

Gratitude is indeed a virtue, folks. And it has the potential to completely change our lives and the lives of others. It changes the way we see God, the world, ourselves and other people. And if you practice it, you’ll see that dramatic difference.

Below are 18 ways to put the virtue of gratitude into practice. You’re welcome.

1. Write out what you’re grateful for.

Take 10 minutes each day to actually write out everything you’re thankful for. From the littlest things (like a sunset or the crunchy leaves) to the big things (like your family and God’s mercy), writing it out makes you so much more aware of all your blessings. Soon, you’ll see that this simple practice completely rocks your world and changes the way you see life. Trust me, I’ve done it.

2. Actually thank God.

We are called to be grateful for our joys and sorrows alike. So in those moments on both ends of the spectrum, do you actually lift your heart to God to thank Him?

3. Send a letter or thank-you card.

Think of someone who has impacted your life — parents, friends, mentors, siblings, bosses, teachers, anyone! — and send them a heartfelt thank-you letter or card telling them how much they mean to you.

4. Take someone out to dinner or coffee.

Take someone you’re really thankful for and treat them to a dinner or coffee, just because.

5. Verbally tell someone what they mean to you.

Most people don’t hear enough how much they mean to others. Change that! Never let someone you love go through life without knowing how much they mean to you.

6. Buy someone flowers.

Flowers are nice. They’re simple. And it’s one of those small things that always put a smile on someone’s face because you intentionally thought of them — and it goes a long way.

7. Spend time in nature.

A beautiful way to thank God is to spend quality time in His creation. Take a little adventure just for the sake of soaking Him and His beauty in!

8. Make someone a meal.

Someone who’s sick, or busy, or struggling, or just had a baby! It doesn’t have to be someone who’s reached out to you already. Be the person someone else can be grateful for!

9. Stop to help the needy.

Show your gratitude for your own blessings by helping those who are in need of something, whatever that is.

10. Give a genuine compliment.

Tell someone how wonderful they are. Superficial compliments are nice, like, “Your hair looks great to day!” But if you want to go the extra mile, compliment their character. “You are so good at welcoming people! Thanks for inviting her to lunch with us!” Be grateful for who the person is, and the beauty their soul brings to your life.

11. Leave a big tip.

Lots of servers go many days without getting much back. Give them a reason to smile!

12. Send someone an inspirational book.

Have a book that’s changed your life? Send it to someone who could use it! Show your gratitude by passing on the thing that’s impacted you so deeply.

13. Pack a lunch for them.

Show your roommate that you’re grateful for their presence in your life, and make their day by making them lunch!

14. Smile.

Having a grateful outlook on your life, and simply appreciating the fact that you’re alive gives you a lot to smile about. Smiles are small things, but don’t underestimate them. They really do brighten someone’s day. So smile at someone!

15. Really listen.

When someone is sharing their troubles with you, be grateful for their presence and really, truly listen to them.

16. Donate money.

Nothing shows your gratitude for what you have like giving it away; nothing is truly ours. So donate to your favorite cause, and make an impact in the world!

17. Donate stuff.

Get rid of clothes, books, movies, whatever, to a shelter or Goodwill store!

18. Donate time.

This is probably the most important thing we could ever give away in gratitude. Spend time with those who are starved of love. Visit the sick, visit the elderly, visit the imprisoned, visit a mom who’s just had a baby or visit a friend who is struggling. What a beautiful gift to give back!

These might seem like really small things, but it’s the small things that changes lives, one person at a time. Gratitude not only gets you to heaven, but practicing it as a virtue lets you witness to those lives you touch that God’s love is very real.

Therese Bussen
Therese Bussen
Therese lives in glorious Denver, Colorado and grew up in the high desert area of Southern California (and knows what the Israelites felt like waiting in the desert to get to the Promised Land). She graduated from Benedictine College with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Art. When she's not hanging out with friends, Therese enjoys reading, writing, painting, drawing, designing (basically any kind of art), and dancing awkwardly on purpose. She also loves surprising people with her love of shotgun shooting and cigars. Also, a glass of wine is her favorite thing.

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