The Gratitude Countdown
A fun exercise to practice gratitude every day.
This week, I was excited to release my Calm Masterclass on gratitude, which is now live in the Calm app. In the hour-long audio program, I share a playbook to bring gratitude into your life. I reveal stories from my own path toward gratitude, which was a more bumpy journey than you might expect. I also offer practical tools to help you create your own practice.
One tool in particular had a big impact on my own practice. It’s called Gratitude Countdown, and I’d like to share it with you here. This is a simple exercise that my good friend, Chris Advansun, came up with. You might know him as the author of some of Calm’s Sleep Stories, including one called ‘Gratitude.’
Here’s how this practice works:
Whenever I get caught up in negativity or seem to be in need of a dose of gratitude, he’ll start the exercise by calling out, “Gratitude Countdown,” which challenges me to list ten things I’m grateful for on the spot. He counts down from ten to one as I list off things that I’m grateful for - almost like a lightning round in a gameshow. After I go through my list, I return the challenge by calling out “Gratitude Countdown,” and then it’s his turn to recite a list.
This exercise has become a kind of game in our friendship. Any time one of us catches the other in a moment of complaining or negativity, we can challenge each other by calling out, “Gratitude Countdown.” Without fail, by the end of the countdown, my mood is uplifted and the struggles of my day are put in a broader perspective. I often do this exercise with Chris, but I also do it on my own. It works with a gratitude buddy or solo.
Here’s an example of how this sounds.
Ten: The comforting bowl of miso soup I had for dinner.
Nine: The fact that I live so close to a beautiful park where I can breathe fresh air and enjoy a daily dose of nature.
Eight: That a local tailor was able to fix the zipper on my 25-year-old, irreplaceable coat.
Seven: The voicemail that I received this morning from my nephew, and the love I feel when I hear his sweet little voice.
Six: The subway system I use to zip across the city to do errands.
Five: The birds I heard chirping cheerfully outside my window early this morning.
Four: The marvel of modern communication, and the fact that I use it to stay in touch with my friends and family.
Three: My incredible job, and the privilege of doing such meaningful work, which allows me to connect with people all over the world.
Two: My network of friends, and the support and love I receive from them.
One: My meditation practice, and my path, which have kept me grounded in times of challenge.
So there you have it, the Gratitude Countdown.
As I developed my gratitude toolkit, this exercise quickly became a favorite for a few reasons. First, I find that by saying the words out loud, I’m able to completely focus on the feeling of gratitude - to fully embody it. Second, I love that you can do this practice anytime, anywhere. And last, by sharing the exercise with someone and hearing their countdown, the experience becomes even richer.
This exercise can work really well as a recap of your day. You might want to try it right before bed, and as you search for things to be grateful for, just scan through your day and see what comes up.
To make your countdown most effective, I recommend being specific. Rather than just listing, “my dog and my home,” give detail to each acknowledgement. Share not only what you’re grateful for, but how and why. For example, you might say, “I’m grateful that my dog snuggled up to me this evening and made me feel loved, and I’m grateful for the view out my bedroom window, of the sunset and treetops.” By being specific, we’re recalling a distinct memory or setting an actual scene in our mind’s eye, which naturally evokes an authentic feeling of gratefulness.
This practice works really well in a twosome, so you might want to invite a friend, partner, or child to be your gratitude buddy. What you’ll find is that sharing this experience strengthens not just your sense of gratitude but also the relationship. But as I mentioned, you can absolutely do it on your own. I often start or end my day with a solo Gratitude Countdown.
More than any other exercise, I’ve found this one has helped me create a habit of gratitude.
As you cultivate your own practice, I encourage you to keep this tool at the top of your toolbox. As it has for me, I hope the Gratitude Countdown gives you a simple device to tap into gratitude in a consistent way.
We created a toolkit for you to explore the Gratitude Countdown and some additional practices offered by Tamara. As she recommends, try different ones, experiment to see what works, and forge a daily habit of expressing and feeling gratefulness. Enjoy!