In today’s world, taking time to acknowledge everything we’re thankful for can be tough. Do we spend a full day each year at the end of November counting our blessings over stuffing and a turkey? Yes. But do we make a habit it of doing this on a regular basis, when cranberry sauce isn’t involved? Not likely. That’s why it helps to have tools at your fingertips that make expressing your appreciation easier and automatic. Like these gratitude apps.
Below, we’ll breakdown eight of the best gratitude apps out there to turn your gratitude, and happiness, into a lifelong habit.
Why is Gratitude Important for Happiness?
But first, let’s take a look at the connection between gratitude and happiness, according to science.
As it turns out, gratitude positively affects our well-being and mood. And there’s a whole lot of research that backs this up.
For example, in a 2003 study, researchers compared the well-being of participants who kept a weekly list of things they were grateful for with participants who either kept a list of things that irritated them or of their day-to-day lives. The result? Those gratitude-focused participants exhibited a significantly better sense of well-being and improved mood compared to those who did not. The researchers concluded that “a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.”
This is because a person’s mindset affects their bodies, Robert A. Emmons, one of the study authors points out. On a molecular level, being grateful works by stimulating the two important regions in our brain that regulate stress and feelings of pleasure: the hypothalamus and the ventral tegmental area, respectively. That’s why grateful people are happier and less stressed, overall.
What’s more, additional research from Emmons, one of the world’s most prominent scholars on the science of gratitude, shows that gratitude can:
- Lower “bad” LDL cholesterol
- Reduce blood pressure
- Decrease levels of proteins related to heart disease
In short: Gratitude is the world’s best (free) medicine.
8 Gratitude Apps to Feel Happier Now
Since research suggests that keeping a gratitude journal is the best way to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis, we’ve drummed up a list of the best apps out there to help you become more grateful on the go. Better yet? Most of these gratitude apps are free, so you can express your appreciation without spending a cent.
If you’ve never kept a gratitude journal before, ThinkUp is a great place to start. The app is essentially a catch-all for the different ways to approach mindfulness.
Users can find inspiration from professionally-curated positive affirmations — or voice record their own. There are also features to add inspiring music and track your progress. It’s by far one of the most dynamic gratitude apps out there and definitely worth the download.
Think of this app as a personal mindfulness coach, helping you stay grateful throughout the day by harnessing the power of community.
Happier is essentially a gratitude Facebook, of sorts, helping users find, collect, and share positive moments in their lives with the entire Happier community. There are even bite-sized, expert-led courses you can take, if you’re feeling so inclined.
In short, it’s a place to support and be supported by others on the same gratitude journey.
This app is perfect for those who want a commitment-free approach to gratitude journaling.
Here’s how it works: Each morning, Gratitude will send you a text, and you can reply to that number anytime you’re feeling grateful. Each text you send gets stored in your own personal account, which you can revisit to re-read or even leave comments. The best part? If you’re not feeling particularly grateful one day, you can skip it altogether. Once you’re up for it, though, your online journal will still be ready and waiting for you.
Grateful is a no-frills approach to gratitude journaling that makes it a go-to for busybodies who want to ease their way into a gratitude practice. There’s nothing fancy about the app, but that’s also part of its charm.
Grateful has a simple, clean interface that allows users to reflect without distraction. And for those daunted by the thought of a blank page, the app offers to send you daily prompts like “What made today a good day?” or “What made you smile today?” to get your creative juices flowing. It then collects all of your responses and puts them in a private timeline, which you can customize to sort by date or topic.
Day One is gratitude journaling 2.0, featuring a gorgeous interface and the option to take photos, record voice notes, or jot down written notes. Your journal is fully customizable, allowing users to create a space that feels wholly their own. You can even geolocate your notes, add multiple pictures to each entry, and see your day’s fitness activity.
There’s nothing this app can’t do, which is why it’s a definite standout on this list.
Live Happy feels like you’re taking a virtual class on mindful living, and that’s largely thanks to the fact that the app was created using research from Sonja Lyubomirsky, a Stanford University professor and positive psychology researcher.
Its various features encourage you to engage in happiness-promoting activities. And while the app isn’t wholly dedicated to gratitude journaling, it does focus on it as the groundwork for living a happier life.
The app works by letting you choose from several different activities you can or have performed each day and then tells you why a particular activity promotes happiness. There’s even an email component that tracks your activities and emails you information related to what you’re doing, as an extra reminder to engage in these activities regularly (which is a key part of making them habit).
What’s great about 365 Gratitude is the app’s unique formatting: The program is set up as a game allowing users to unlock medallions as they make progress and complete daily challenges. This helps to heighten your sense of accomplishment and makes you feel as though you’re making strides.
It also includes a mood tracker that asks you to rate how you’re feeling that day (from “great,” “good,” “meh,” “bad,” or “awful”) and allows you to view your mood progression over time. The best part? It only requires five minutes a day, making it an easy way to hop into the gratitude game.
Price: Free, offers in-app purchases/upgrades
What’s unique about Reflectly is that it uses artificial intelligence to help users structure and reflect on their daily thoughts and problems, taking note of your habits to help provide better, more meaningful journal prompts.
Its interface is clean and sleek and gives off a sense of calm the moment you open the app. The guided journaling makes the app incredibly user-friendly, plus, it allows you up to 1,250 words per post (letting you really go to town on your thoughts and feelings, if you feel so inclined).
Price: 7-day free trial, $3.99/mo
Granted, apps aren’t for everyone. Sometimes, you just need to jot down your gratitude on paper.
That’s why Panda Planner is such a great resource. With space for daily gratitude lists, focusing on your wins, and easy ways to organize your life, Panda Planner is the perfect option for those who want to make happiness a habit.
But no matter what works best for you, just make sure you stick with it so you can truly feel the power of gratitude in your own world.
Your turn: Have you tried any gratitude apps? Tell us your experience in the comments.
Want more gratitude? Here are 59 ways to get grateful now.
Author: Jennifer Lance
Jennifer Lance is a writer living in New York City. A former editor at Glamour, she’s written about everything from the Oscars to Marie Kondo-ing her love life. Her pastimes include watching The Bachelor, filing her taxes at the 11th hour, long walks on the beach and also short walks to her neighborhood Dunkin’.