The Practice of Counting Daily Gratefuls

practice daily gratitude

I was driving home from Mass one Sunday this summer. A friend suddenly was unable to attend our plans for a concert at a local church. She had double booked herself on her calendar. While I understood, I drove home feeling a little disappointed. My disappointment led me to thinking about other parts of my life I feel less than thrilled about at times: being single, navigating online dating (oh ladies, it is special!), or coming home to a silent apartment.

Begrudgingly, I knew what I needed to start doing to acknowledge how I was feeling in the present moment: counting my daily gratefuls.

I coined the term several years ago when my counselor gave me a homework assignment to practice for several months. Each day I had to write in a gratitude journal for 5-10 minutes all the things in my life I was grateful for all the ways God loves and blesses me in the present.

Some days I sat down and wrote in the journal and other days I counted my gratefuls as I drove to work or was out running errands. After several months, my counselor asked me to report back what I had learned.

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Reasons to Practice Counting Daily Gratefuls

Counting my daily gratefuls each day has taught me some important lessons about myself and life, regardless of whether I felt hopeful or messy about life, or a little bit of both.

Regular Gratitude Positively Affects Our Perspective

Science is catching up and realizing that there are positive effects to practicing gratitude in our daily lives.

Counting your daily gratefuls will actually benefit your physical and emotional health … and help you sleep better! Who would not want more of that?!

When You Look for Things to Be Grateful For, You Start Seeing Them

If you train your brain to be on the lookout for the good, beautiful, and positive, your brain is trained to see it more and more!

Think of this as a heart shift. You begin to look at the life around you differently. Perhaps you pay attention to things you never noticed before. Maybe you find yourself reconnecting with the simple, little pleasure you are usually too busy to notice.

A Reminder that the Present Will Not Be Forever

Sometimes when life feels overwhelming, messy, or confusing it is very easy to bemoan and think, “It will always be this way.” I know I struggle with this from time to time.

One of the most helpful things I have learned in this practice, is that I am reminded (though naming my daily gratefuls) that life is not stagnant and permanent. It will not always be “this way” forever.

Does that mean life will work out the way I anticipated or even want? No. But living with a perspective of gratitude challenges me to simply live in the present moment, not in the future with fear and anxiety about what may or may not come.

Frequent Gratitude is an Act of Intentionality

G.K. Chesterton once said that “thanks are the highest forms of thought,” and “gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

Gratitude is not a magic eraser that will wipe away those days you feel sad, lonely, or overwhelmed. It is not a “quick fix” to a life situation you wish were different. The practice counting your daily gratefuls is a brave act of intentionality.

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Gratitude Causes Us to Pause

If we honestly look at our lives, we see that much of it we navigate through and are distracted, hurriedly trying to get the next item checked off our to-do list.

Choosing to be grateful makes space for awe and wonder in the hum-drum daily living. Even when I feel my worst on some days, I know there is always something to be grateful for. Even if it is the most basic thing like my next breath or waking up to another day of life.

The month of November is most easily associated with the national holiday of Thanksgiving. But we don’t have to wait for November to roll around each year to begin counting our daily gratefuls.

You can start right now.


Set the timer, use your morning shower, or use your drive to the office to begin counting all the ways God blesses and cares for you.

No, it won’t change the messy life situations immediately, but your heart will change over time.

Allow God to change your perspective.

Start counting and be amazed at what will happen.

Do you count your daily gratefuls? What fruit have you seen in your own life from this practice?

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Patty Breen is a regular contributor to the BIS blog and a devotion writer. She is a full-time lay minister who finds joy in running, strong cups of coffee, and all things Ignatian spirituality. A Midwestern gal from the mitten state, she is constantly learning to find grace in all things. She is passionate about ministry to divorced Catholics and women whose relationships have been impacted by sexual addiction. You can find out more about her here.

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