The idea of being grateful is to focus on what you have (versus what you do not) and to appreciate it. It is easy to spend a large amount of time focusing on things that we wished we had, but do not.  Being grateful for what you have is also not intended to minimize difficult aspects of your life. 

You may prefer to write down what you are grateful for or simply close your eyes and take some time to reflect.


  • What are 10 things that you are grateful for?
  • What are 5 things that happened today that you are grateful for?
  • Who are four people that had a positive impact on your life, whether it was big or small?
  • What are you most grateful for in the past year?
  • What are five seemingly trivial things that you are grateful for?

You may be able to come up with some questions on your own as well. 

Imagine that you grew up in San Diego and are a freshman at SDSU. The transition has been much more difficult than you imagined and you are worried about the stress of being successful in school. You grew up with your mother and one younger brother, who you care deeply for, but do not want to disappoint. You take a few moments to focus on a gratitude list. 

Here might be your sample list:

  1. My family
  2. Living in San Diego
  3. The smell of fresh air when I go outside
  4. The taste of my favorite burrito at my favorite taco shop
  5. The way I feel when I watch my favorite show
  6. Being able to wear my favorite pair of shoes 
  7. My health
  8. Going to the beach and listening to the waves crash on the shore
  9. How one professor in particular noticed my struggles and has been very supportive
  10. Being able to have frequent contact with my best friend, who moved out of state

Even though you are struggling, this list allows you to focus on what you are currently grateful for.

It does not minimize your struggles, just allows you to shift your focus to another area. 

Gratitude exercises can improve your mood and can be a nice addition to self care and wellness, regardless of whether or not you are presently experiencing a high amount of stress.