How to Green Your Gratitude Practice This Holiday Season

By Sandi Schwartz

We often hear a lot about gratitude in November around Thanksgiving time, although we can benefit from counting our blessings all year long. Gratitude is one of the best ways to get a happiness boost, providing many psychological and physical benefits. It improves our health, reduces stress, and helps us focus on the positive. Stepping back and being thankful for what we have energizes, inspires, and transforms us. Ultimately, it helps us realize that life is truly a gift.

The natural world is filled with reasons to be grateful. Connecting to nature—whether it be visiting a pumpkin patch or going on an autumn hike to enjoy the colorful leaves—provides endless opportunities to notice the surrounding beauty, soak it in mindfully, and then express gratitude for it. By stopping for a few moments each day to be thankful for all that nature has to offer, we can feel happier and calmer. 

“Gratitude for nature is a powerful tool for boosting our mental health because when we are grateful, it is hard to get stuck in a negative frame of mind,” explains Sandi Schwartz, author of Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer (Quill Driver Books/Linden Publishing). “When we stop to appreciate the beauty around us, we interrupt the cycle of pessimistic and fearful thoughts, which allows us to relax. And nature provides so many reasons to be grateful.”  

One of the most common and effective ways to express gratitude is to keep a journal. Experts recommend writing down at least three positive moments in your day, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Spice up your gratitude practice with these fun and creative ways to express thankfulness for nature to help you and your family feel more hopeful and balanced throughout the holiday season and beyond:

Books

Grab some construction paper, crayons, markers, old magazines, stickers, glue, and scissors to get started. Develop a book in which each page is dedicated to one aspect of nature, or a special memory related to nature, that you are truly thankful for. Sketch pictures of flowers, trees, animals, and nature scenes or attach photographs from your hikes and vacations. Describe the experience, including how it made you feel and why it brings you gratitude. You can then put the pages together into a book organized by month, year, or event.

Blogs

Writing a gratitude list on paper can get mundane for many people. Instead, write a story around each gratitude piece by creating a blog that you can easily share with friends and family online. Include images of our outdoor travels and describe in detail why you are grateful for those special moments.

Collages

Not all gratitude journals need to be filled with flowing prose. Another approach is to use imagery to capture awe-filled nature moments. Try to find pictures from magazines or your own photographs to convey messages of gratitude. You may also want to include elements of nature that you found, like a flower petal, clover leaf, or twig. You can hang your collage in your home to help you feel calmer throughout the day as you catch a glimpse of it.

Audio Recording/Podcast

Record a gratitude journal on a phone, iPad, or podcast program. Once you have the recording, you can post it online for others to listen to or you can even add music and create a song or rap using highlights from the gratitude messages. Maybe you will even want to start your own gratitude podcast and interview others about their inspiring and calming nature-related memories.

Videos

Video is everywhere these days, from TikTok to YouTube. Consider recording a nature gratitude vlog (video log) or television show. There are so many options to get creative here: try doing a daily gratitude news report or act out scenes like a play to share the pleasant moments you had connecting to nature. You can easily add imagery and voiceover to videos in programs like Canva.