help_outline Skip to main content
Shopping Cart
HomeBlogsRead Blog

ICF Metro DC Blog

“Gratitools”: Ways to Incorporate Gratitude into Y
By ICF Metro DC
Posted on 11/24/2021 8:10 AM

November brings the message to “Be Thankful.” It’s a simple directive, but it’s not always easy! As coaches, our goal is to walk alongside our clients and help them find new ways of approaching the challenges in their work, personal, and community life. Exploring gratitude and gratitude practices is one set of tools we can use in this work.

Gratitude is feeling thankful for something —  tangible, or intangible. It is more than having the good manners to say thank you. It is the process of acknowledging goodness and recognizing that the source of the goodness comes from outside ourselves (Edmonds, 2003). Over the last two decades, researchers have found that gratitude has emotional, mental, and physical benefits including reducing depression, improving physical health, and strengthening relationships. It has been linked to increased resilience and job satisfaction (Greater Good Science Center, 2018).

I’m an amateur photographer and I often think of reframing a situation in terms of taking different photographs of the same subject. For instance, sometimes I use a filter on my camera lens to change what the sensor in the camera “sees.” My UV filter makes the fall sky an even more beautiful blue. A red or green filter colors the entire photograph. Gratitude can be thought of as a filter for our perspective on life. An attitude of gratitude changes the way we perceive the world around us.

Here are a few gratitude practices and tools that may be helpful for clients and coaches alike:

  • Gratitude Journaling. Perhaps the most well-known and widely used, the process of gratitude journaling is simply to make a short list of events, people, or things that one is grateful for on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.  This can be done on an index card, in a plain notebook, or in a journal or planner specifically designed for gratitude journaling. Some day planners even incorporate gratitude prompts. Of course, for those who prefer technology to pen and paper, there is an app for that!  Check out apps like Bliss, Gratitude, and Reflectly.
  • Gratitude Display. An individual or family can make a tangible display by writing the things they are grateful for on slips of paper and putting them in a jar to review at some point in the future,  or on paper leaves pinned to a tree branch to add to Thanksgiving décor.
  • Photo Journaling. Photographs are a great way to show who or what someone is thankful for. Pictures can be taken daily, at regular intervals, or taken or collected as a one-time project.
  • Gratitude Object. A rock, memento, or other object is carried or placed somewhere prominent to act as a reminder to pause and think of something to be grateful for.
  • A Collage. Using either your own photos or pictures from magazines or the internet, create a poster board of things you are grateful for. This serves like a vision board, but it’s based in the past and present, rather than the future.
  • Lists. A nice introduction to the Gratitude Journal, a one-time list allows people to enumerate anything and everything they can think of that they are grateful for. There are many ways to structure a list, such as  an acrostic poem, an alphabetical list of things to be grateful for, or using categories like family, experiences, or items to spark ideas.
  • “It’s a Wonderful Life” Writing about or visualizing a different life without some of the good things and people in one’s current life can be a powerful way to feel gratitude.
  • Expressing Gratitude. Writing thank you letters, making a gratitude visit to a place or a person, or prompting intentional conversations about gratitude and with family and friends are wonderful ways to share the practice with others.
  • Gratitude Assessments. Often in coaching we use assessments as a beginning point to our conversations. There are several different assessments that measure individual gratitude. A good overview can be found at Positive here:
  • Gratitude Prompts and Questions. Gratitude prompts are statements and questions designed to create deeper thought; these can be helpful to use in sessions with clients. Some basic gratitude prompts include: What are some overlooked blessings in your life? Who has mentored you and how did that change you? What is one challenge you overcame and what did you learn about yourself in the process?
  •  Looking for Gratitude Blockers. Here is a list of some of mindsets and thought processes that might get in the way of feeling grateful; being aware of these can help us find gratitude even in trying times:
    • Distraction
    • Busyness
    • Comparison
    • A sense of scarcity
    • People pleasing
    • Not wanting to receive help
    • Not feeling like you deserve to be happy


The goal of practicing gratitude is not to become Pollyannas or let blinding optimism take over. Like any tool, gratitude can be harmful if overused. We can be grateful, and at the same time, acknowledge pain, hard situations, and challenges. May you and your clients experience the gift of gratitude this week and all year!


You can find Beth Davis at and connect on LinkedIn at


Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of personality and social psychology84(2), 377.

The Greater Good Science Center (2018 May). The science of gratitude. Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from