“One Hundred Gratitudes” is a journal exercise that invites you to reflect on your life, from past to present, and to record 100 entries of pure appreciation and thanksgiving. The goal is to compile a list of 100 experiences, relationships, places, people, books, songs, pieces of art, events, adventures, and other moments that you are truly grateful for. These “One Hundred Gratitudes” add up to one great big “Thank You” for the miracle of existence. It is like a thank-you letter to God.

There are a number of ways to do “One Hundred Gratitudes.” Some people compile their lists chronologically: “Dear Mom, thanks for giving birth to me. Sorry it was such a long labor.” Others don’t follow a timeline; they just write what comes. Some people compile the list in one sitting. Personally, I recommend that you do it over several sittings, maybe compiling 10 to 15 entries at a time. Some people do “One Hundred Gratitudes” on their own; others do it with close friends or with their partners, for instance. Sharing your “One Hundred Gratitudes” is as powerful as compiling them.

The one key instruction that I ask you to follow is that for each entry you include a “what” and a “why.” Here is a personal example from my list. “What: a book called A Course in Miracles. Why: This book is my spiritual bible and my daily practice. I am truly grateful to the author. Studying this book helps me to remember my true identity, to be a more loving person, and to enjoy my life even more.” The “why” is as important as the “what” because the goal isn’t just to create a list; it’s to recognize what it is you truly value and appreciate about being alive.

After the “One Hundred Gratitudes” exercise is complete, I ask students “What did you value about doing this exercise?” Second, I ask, “What did you learn about yourself doing this exercise?” If you did it with someone else, I might also ask you to reflect on what you learned about each other. Third, I ask, “What did you learn about happiness doing this exercise?” This exercise is a powerful meditation on happiness. And lastly, I want to know if this exercise will affect the way you live your life from now on. Will you do anything differently? “One Hundred Gratitudes” is always one of the exercises that students in my courses rate “most useful.” I can honestly say that everyone who does this exercise experiences huge value. It is a truly profound exercise.

“One Hundred Gratitudes” is fun to do, and it can be a real life-changer. I would go as far as to say I have witnessed miraculous effects in people who have done it. Below is a list of seven common benefits to look for, as discovered by past students:

Undoing Lack. “One Hundred Gratitudes” literally helps you to change your perception of the world. Comments from students include: “I can see a pattern to my life now that will help me as I consider my next steps,” and “It has put my entire life into perspective,” and “I am better able to focus on what is positive and good now.” Practicing gratitude is really a decision to give up all belief in lack. Through gratitude, you begin to see not just with the eyes but with the heart.

Increased Well-Being. Doing “One Hundred Gratitudes” feels good. Students report, “It’s like a tonic,” and “I feel uplifted,” and “I smile more,” and “It’s my Vitamin G,” and “I notice the good stuff more.” Gratitude is energy. It energizes you, it restores you, and it soothes your weariness.

Real Values. When you really master gratitude, it helps you to discern between what is important and what is not. You no longer complain about the little things with quite the same conviction. You can’t be bothered to sweat the small stuff. You remember the big picture. True gratitude helps you to tune in to your timeless values. It amplifies your conscious sense of purpose. It reveals the true meaning of life, for you.

Healing Perspective. Most people’s “One Hundred Gratitudes” are a full and frank inventory of their life’s most important moments. Gratitude doesn’t just cover what is positive; it covers what is significant. For that reason, many people include in their lists past mistakes, heartbreaks, illnesses, divorce, bereavement, failures, and dark nights of the ego. Gratitude helps you to focus on the “positives.”

Heart-Centered. Every exercise that I share is an exercise I have done for myself first. The first time I did my “One Hundred Gratitudes,” I was surprised by just how many entries were about people and relationships. Doing “One Hundred Gratitudes” put me back in touch with my heart. My list of gratitudes was a wake-up call that reminded me to keep putting relationships first. Gratitude is a good excuse to show more love, to receive more love, and to be more yourself with everyone.

Conscious Connection. Practicing gratitude helps you to feel a greater sense of connection with people, with places, and with the present moment. People who do “One Hundred Gratitudes” say things like, “I am less self-centered now,” and “It got me over myself,’” and “I feel less independent and cut off from life.” It is impossible to be truly grateful and feel alone. Gratitude also promotes a greater sense of spiritual connection with yourself, with others, and with life as a whole. 

Happiness NOW. At first, most people are a little daunted by the task of finding 100 things to be grateful for, but by the end they usually find it impossible to restrict it to only 100. Gratitude works in harmony with the Law of Attraction, which states that what you focus on is what you attract. Gratitude helps you to pay attention, and as your attention grows, so too does your sense of wonder and awe.

Robert Holden, Ph.D., is the Director of The Happiness Project and Success Intelligence. Robert coaches leaders in business, education, politics and healthcare.