Mindful Arts Therapy
10 Art Therapy Activities to Help You Practice Gratitude
When we are grateful, we feel calmer, happier, and we are more resilient. These activities were designed to help you develop a greater sense of what it means to experience and live a life of gratitude.
Before you begin each activity, calm your mind and body by following this mindful prompt:
Make sure you are sitting comfortably. Close your eyes. Take three, slow deep breaths in, imagine you are surrounded by a golden light. As you breathe out, become aware of your body. How does it feel? Acknowledge areas of pain or stress, let them go. Now, let go of any thoughts in your mind and begin.
1. Thankful Postcards
Create postcards for all the people you are grateful for. You might do one, you might do ten – it is up to you.
Decorate the front of the card with images from magazines or draw them yourself. You might use images that the recipient would enjoy or that reflect the relationship you have with them.
On the back, write a short note to them expressing your gratitude. Remember to be specific and explain why you feel grateful. Did they help you when you were sick by bringing food over? Did they text you to see if you were ok? If possible, give or send the cards. If you can’t, put them on your fridge or wall to remind you of how kind others can be.
It is important to celebrate the small, generous acts of others and show our appreciation and gratitude because it makes us all happier.
2. Paint Your Gratitude
Create a painting that expresses gratitude. You will be required to fill the paper completely with colour. You are not allowed to paint objects or people. Instead, you must only use shapes and lines. You can use as many colours as you choose.
Before you begin, take a deep breath, and think about the feeling of gratitude. Where does it sit in your body? Close your eyes and think about all the things you are grateful for. These might be your friends, your pets, and the things you own. Don’t forget to be grateful for what you have and your health.
Once you are in a state of gratitude, begin to paint freely. Don’t judge or think about what you are doing. Instead, let your subconscious do the work.
Display your painting in a prominent place to remind you of what it is like to feel gratitude.
3. Grateful Images
Bring together a collection of images that remind you of what you could be grateful for. You can cut or tear them out of magazines.
Are you grateful for your car? That nice holiday or the flowers in your garden. Are you grateful for your family and friends?
If you can’t find exactly the images you need, draw your own on separate pieces of paper then cut them out.
Place the images on a piece of card or your art journal and arrange them until you are happy with the way they look. Now, glue them down.
You can repeat this activity in a few months or a year and see if you have other things to be grateful for. Look back on your work as often as you need to and appreciate what you have in your life.
4. Prayer Flags
Create a string of prayer flags that focus on gratitude. Cut pieces of coloured paper into rectangles, roughly 10 cm x 15 cm. Now, write or draw one thing you are grateful for on each one. You might be grateful for the sunshine, the gentle breeze, or the meal you’ve just shared with a loved one.
Now, tape each flag to the string. You can make it as long as you like and add to it later on.
Display your prayer flag in a place where the wind will catch it and spread your gratefulness around the world.
5. Gratitude Spiral
Roughly work out where the middle of the page is (fold the paper in half and half again; the centre point will be where the creases meet.
Begin writing in a spiral, “I am <insert your name> and I am grateful for”. Now list all the things you are grateful for continuing the spiral.
Don’t worry if your spiral loses its form or looks untidy. Don’t be critical if you make a mistake. As you continue, concentrate instead on all the things you are grateful for and what happiness they bring into your life.
As you work around and around, widening your spiral each time, become aware of what you are feeling. Are they positive or negative emotions? Where in your body are you feeling them? Use mindfulness to be present in the moment of creation and enjoy the process.
6. Putting Your Finger on Gratitude
Your task is to draw your hand and, in each finger, write one thing you are grateful for.
Before you begin, make a list of all the things you are grateful for, now bring the list down to the most important five things.
These five things should be the most important things to you. These are the things that bring you real happiness and a sense of connection.
Once you have created your hand and written on each finger, colour the reminding space in vivid colours that bring you joy. You are welcome to use the image on the following page, too.
7. Heart full of Gratitude
Your task is to draw a large heart and fill it with things that you are grateful for.
On a piece of red or pink card, draw a large heart. Try to take up as much room as possible. Now, on coloured strips of paper, write what you are grateful for. This should include yourself, the air you breathe and the time you are taking right now to spend on yourself.
Glue each strip of paper onto your heart, overlapping them if needed. The idea is to have a heart brimming over with gratitude.
8. Gratitude Bake-off!
Your task is to make something delicious for someone else. Before you start, make a list of the people you are grateful for. They might be your family, friends or work colleagues.
Don’t overcomplicate this task. You don’t have to make the cake from scratch. Instead, choose one of the many pre-prepared cake mixes which are available.
Bake the cake and decorate in any way you wish. Present the cake with a note to say ‘Thank You’ or write it on with icing.
You could even leave it somewhere and not tell anyone you made it. What a nice surprise that would be!
9. Being Grateful Each Day
Your task is to sit down at the end of the day in your creative space and write down at least three things that you were grateful for that occurred on that day. It might be the sun shined and you got your washing dry, you may have made a new friend or watched an inspiring show on TV.
Also, write down why you are grateful. For example, your laundry was dried, and it meant you could wear your favourite top the next day or making a new friend made you feel more connected to your community.
Now, as you contemplate your gratitude note down where you feel it in your body, and what it feels like.
Repeat this activity for at least 30 days.
10. Being Grateful for Nature
Your task is to sit outside and write down what you are grateful for. Try to find three things that you are grateful for from the following list:
Things you can see
Things you can hear
Things you can feel
Things you can smell
Animals or birds you can see
I hope these art therapy activities have allowed you to grow and develop, and especially gain some of the benefits self-care and reflection can bring.
There are so many ways you can bring art into your life to benefit you and those around you. There are many places online and in your local community that can inspire you; search them out and begin to grow your tribe.
Being around people who hold the same values as you is an important way to build trust and confidence.
You can read more articles and tips about how Mindful Arts Therapy can change your life. There is also a newsletter to keep my art-loving friends up to date and informed about new ideas, practices, and free samples of art therapy activities.
You can find more activities on gratitude in Art Therapy Activities that Help You Practice Gratitude
Remember, creativity is a powerful tool that will heal and renew your vitality and sense of wellbeing.