How to Set Up a Virtual Gratitude Tree Activity: Step-By-Step

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Expressing gratitude for the various people, places, and experiences in your life for which you are thankful isn’t just something you may do because others (such as parents, teachers, religious leaders, etc.) encouraged you to do so in the past. Reflecting on that for which you are grateful can also bring about a range of significant benefits.

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Research proves it. Studies indicate that expressing gratitude on a regular basis can improve a person’s mood, help them cope with stress, and potentially even boost their physical health. 

The key to taking advantage of such benefits is to consistently express gratitude throughout your daily life. There are a number of ways you can do this. For instance, you could create a gratitude jar or keep a gratitude journal.

Creating and building upon a virtual gratitude tree is another option. Keep reading to learn more. This blog will explain what a virtual gratitude tree is and how you can make one.

What Is a Virtual Gratitude Tree?

To understand the concept of a virtual gratitude tree, you must first understand the concept of gratitude trees in general. A gratitude tree may consist of a drawing of a tree, a replica of a tree, or even an actual small tree. 

The branches of a gratitude tree will usually feature “leaves” upon which you can name anything for which you are grateful. If you were to create a gratitude tree with a genuine living tree, you can place ornaments resembling leaves on the branches. Naturally, these ornaments will also list things to be grateful for.

A virtual gratitude tree is a digital equivalent of a gratitude tree. If you’re typically most comfortable creating illustrations and DIY projects on your computer, a virtual gratitude tree is a perfect substitute for a traditional one. As the next section of this guide will illustrate, creating a virtual gratitude tree can also be both easy and affordable.

Free Apps or Programs That Can Help You Set Up a Virtual Gratitude Tree

There are several tools you may use when creating a virtual gratitude tree. Many of them are free! Options to consider include:

GIMP

Photoshop can be an ideal tool for creating a virtual gratitude tree, but it is not a free program. No worries. GIMP is a strong alternative that you don’t have to pay for.

Krita

Krita is a program to consider using if you want to draw or paint your virtual gratitude tree digitally. Although an app such as GIMP can allow you to create a basic template of a tree upon which you can add items over time, it does not offer much in the way of illustration tools.

Krita isn’t merely impressive because it is free. Unlike some affordable illustration apps, which may sacrifice overall quality in order to justify their low cost, Krita is a robust tool with a wide range of features. The fact that it is an open source program whose designers tend to be artists themselves might account for the fact that it is much more versatile than many similar apps available to users on a budget.

Canva

Canva is a free graphic design tool that caters to those with limited or no graphic design experience. Users primarily turn to Canva when designing posters, ads for social media, book covers, and other such images, so the tool may not necessarily allow you to create a final version of your gratitude tree.

What Canva can do, however, is allow you to create an impressive template which you can then add to via GIMP or similar programs. Simply upload the file you created on Canva to another program, and use it to add items to your tree whenever you wish. It’s not the most efficient way to create a virtual gratitude tree, but if you want to be certain the initial design will look impressive, it’s an option worth considering.

Inkscape

Inkscape is a program you can use to create professional-quality vector graphics without paying for professional-level equipment. While you may need to have at least a basic understanding of how to create vector graphics to get the most out of this tool, as there is no indication that it serves beginners, if you do have some experience creating these types of digital images, Inkscape may be perfect for you.

Social media

Social media will typically not give you the opportunity to create a virtual gratitude tree that actually resembles a tree. However, it is an option to keep in mind if you want to create a non-traditional version of an online gratitude tree that others can add to. 

For example, on Facebook, you can create a gratitude tree page (the main image of which should, ideally, be some sort of tree) and invite family and friends to contribute to it by adding comments about anything they are grateful for. This can be a general page for anything people in your life feel gratitude for, or it can have a theme, such as an online gratitude tree where your relatives can share messages about specific reasons they are grateful for one another.

Steps for Setting Up a Virtual Gratitude Tree

The program or app you decide to use when creating a virtual gratitude tree will influence your process to some extent. In general, though, the process involves:

Step 1: Choose your program or app

If you already feel comfortable using one of the apps in the above section (or you’re familiar with another program you can use to create a virtual gratitude tree), you can skip this step. If not, start by experimenting with a few programs to determine which you believe will best help you create a gratitude tree that matches your vision. You don’t want to start creating a virtual gratitude tree only to find out that the program you’re using is not as intuitive as you assumed it might be.

Step 2: Sketch your idea

It’s often best to sketch out a basic illustration of your ideal virtual gratitude tree before starting to make one with an app or program. This is wise even if your drawing skills are somewhat limited. A basic illustration can essentially serve as a blueprint for you to reference when you are finally working on the tree itself.

Remember that you may want to add items to your gratitude tree over time instead of creating an initial version and leaving it as is. After all, one of the main functions of a gratitude tree is to help you remain committed to the process of expressing gratitude on a regular basis. Thus, your design should leave space for you to add extra leaves to your tree as time goes on. 

Step 3: List items to add to the tree

Even though your tree should allow you to continue adding to it over time, you should still create an initial version that features a few leaves listing things for which you are grateful. As such, you should list a few items that you will include on your gratitude tree right away.

You might also want to determine precisely how you will phrase these items in a way that allows the text to fit on a leaf or ornament for your virtual gratitude tree. For example, when making your list, you might write “I am grateful for the wonderful family trip to Italy that we took last year.”

A sentence of that length may not easily fit on a virtual gratitude tree’s leaf. When adding the leaf to your gratitude tree, it may be wiser to simply write “Family Italy trip.”

Depending on the program you use to create your tree, you might also have the option to add pictures to the tree in place of leaves. A picture can capture the essence of something for which you may be grateful just as effectively as text can in many instances.

If you do plan on adding pictures, store all of them in a single folder on your computer. This will simplify the process of finding them and accessing them when you need to. If the program you plan to use does not allow you to resize the pictures within the app itself, you might also need to resize these pictures first before moving them to your folder.

Step 4: Create the illustration

Again, the process of creating a virtual gratitude tree will depend somewhat on the tools you are using. That said, it’s usually best to start by creating the illustration of the tree itself and assessing it to determine whether it reflects your vision and provides you with enough space to add both your initial leaves and any future ones. 

You may not be able to easily tell if your design is as strong as it should be. If not, try adding some sample leaves to get a better sense of whether the finalized leaves will all fit and whether you will be able to add more without making the tree look too cluttered.

Step 5: Revise (if necessary)

If you decide your first draft of your virtual gratitude tree is less than ideal, create a new draft. Follow the same process in the step above and keep creating new drafts until you create one that satisfies you.

Step 6: Finalize

You should now be able to create a finalized virtual gratitude tree that includes both the tree itself and a few “starter leaves” naming what you are grateful for. Just remember, a gratitude tree, like a real tree, should grow. If you keep adding items to your gratitude tree, you’ll continue to reap the many benefits of consistently expressing gratitude.

Step 7: Share with others (optional)

This isn’t a step you absolutely need to stick to when creating your virtual gratitude tree. It is entirely acceptable to keep your tree to yourself if you would like it to remain personal.

Still, you may want to share it with family and friends for a number of reasons. You could share it with someone you are close to if you want them to see that you mentioned them multiple times on various leaves of your gratitude tree. Or, if you are using social media to allow others to contribute to an online gratitude tree, you would of course want to invite those who you believe would care to participate.

Finally, you may simply want to inspire important people in your life to create their own gratitude trees. Once more, expressing gratitude can improve someone’s wellbeing in a variety of ways. Sharing your gratitude tree with others could be a way to help them begin taking advantage of being grateful openly and regularly.

Creating a Virtual Gratitude Tree is Easy & Effective

A virtual gratitude tree is one of many tools you can leverage to make expressing gratitude a genuinely fun experience. For more information on this topic in general, check out our guide on books about gratitude.

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