Flex faves: 5 short gratitude exercises to add to your daily routine

Gratitude Exercises to Help You Relax & Unwind in Less Than 5 Minutes 

With all the chaos and unrest going on in the world, it’s pretty difficult to stay centered these days. We don’t know what the new normal is going to look like, and the news headlines are becoming more and more distressing every day. 

Our eyes are red from binge-watching everything on Netflix, and we’re sore from learning all these new TikTok dances. Our hands are dry and cracked from washing too many dishes (all that at-home cooking has some side effects), our houseplants are barely alive, and we haven’t seen our friends in person for weeks. 

One surefire fix to all this quarantine-driven exhaustion? Gratitude. To help keep calm and attract good energy, we’re sharing five gratitude exercises that take five minutes or less:

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal

Right before bedtime, spend five minutes reflecting on the three best things that happened to you that day. Keep a journal at your bedside for this specific reason. Shinola makes a beautiful weekly journal with tons of space for you to fill with a short gratitude list. 

Even on a bad day, you can express gratitude for the smallest things. Thank the mail-person who brought your mail and packages. Thank the electricity that powers your fridge to keep your drinking water cold. Thank the bed that you sleep on. Thank your body for completing the thousands of daily routines and processes that go into keeping you alive (even your period).

This is one of the simplest gratitude exercises to make into a daily habit. Saying thank you for every little thing on paper will help you look for more things to be grateful for throughout the day.

2. Make a Gratitude Box 

This gratitude exercise only takes five minutes, but it does require a bit of prep. First, prepare small pieces of scrap paper. You can either rip up pieces of looseleaf paper or cut the pieces with scissors — it doesn’t need to be perfect! 

Next, find an empty box and decorate it with things that remind you to stay positive. It could be as simple as writing “GRATITUDE” on the outside or pasting a bunch of photos of your mom on the box. Keep the box somewhere central in your house, so that you’ll always remember it’s there.

Make a habit of writing down the things that you’re grateful for on the small pieces of paper, then put them in the box. Soon, you’ll have a box filled with reminders of gratitude. When you’re feeling down or struggling with heavy emotions, you can pull a few things from the box that’ll make you smile. 

If you live with your partner or kids, they can contribute, too! Get together as a family to read from the gratitude box, and play a little guessing game about which entries belong to which family member. 

3. Find Three Nice Things to Say About Strangers in Public

These days, venturing outside the house can be stressful. Between all the social distancing panic and the stress of someone coming a little too close to you in the grocery store aisles, it’s hard to focus on gratitude. 

Here’s a simple fix: Practice saying one nice thing in your head about each person around you. Wow, that person has really nice sneakers. I love the way this person wears their curly hair in a messy bun. They have such kind eyes. 

Most of us have developed a defense mechanism of judging or criticizing others. Do whatever you need to do to stay protected, but if you feel safe enough to do so, looking for the good in others will help you attract good energy. 

After a few weeks of doing this, you might even feel compelled to say the nice thing out loud. If you’re looking for the good in others, then others are probably looking for the good in you, too. It’s one of many gratitude exercises that pays itself forward.

4. Send Text Messages to Three Friends You Miss

Have 5 minutes to kill before your next Zoom meeting? Instead of scrolling down an endless Instagram feed, hit up an old friend you went to a concert with during college, or someone from your old neighborhood. 

Text that one friend you’re not super close to with a few good memories you both shared. Or text your bestie about a funny, embarrassing memory that you hadn’t talked about in years. Don’t overthink it – trust us, in times like these, any effort to reach out will be hugely appreciated. 

There’s nothing like crafting that perfect, hilarious, nostalgic text, thinking about the other person smiling and laughing as they pick up their phone and read the message. It’s even better when they say, “Hey, I was just thinking about you!”

5. Bless Your Food Before Eating

We all gotta eat. Saying a small intention for your meal and saying thank you for your food doesn’t necessarily have to be a religious or mystical process. It can also be a practice of mindfulness for what we put in our bodies and where our food comes from. 

Place your hands over your food and imagine sending laser beams of light onto the meal while stating your intentions: I want more energy today. I want to be happy. I want to stop worrying.

You can also thank all the people, animals, and elements in nature that led to you having this meal. If you’re a meat-eater, thank the animal that passed, the farmer who raised the animal, the butcher who treated the animal with respect, and the grocery store clerk that stocked it at the store. 

For vegans and vegetarians, thank the farmers that harvested the food and the land that allowed it to grow. Thank the people who cooked the food. Thank the microwave, if that’s what cooked it. When we stay grateful for those many twists and turns that brought us to this very moment, we attract more delightful surprises.