tree by sepia flora

How to Practice Gratitude With Trees and Art

According to the Harvard medical school, gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. For instance, in this activity, you can practice gratitude with trees and art.

It sounds crazy and you might be laughing, but read further to understand what all this is about. This article states that by being around trees you are less likely to have psychological distress. Also, this article enhances the importance of art used therapeutically. Now, why not combine both of them?

Look at trees that are everywhere and are admirable. Certainly, they remind you that you need to go one step at a time to grow and become strong. Look at the trees, pick one, and find a comfortable spot to start drawing it with an attitude of gratitude.

This activity helps you be more grateful by analyzing and focusing on all the things that make up a tree. Also, you can relate them personally with the things that constitute your life. Practicing gratitude brings joy to your life and helps you focus on the positive rather than the negative aspects.

bamboo sepia flora
Photo by Sepia Flora. Colombia

The activity aims to let your imagination flow. Don’t judge yourself and be present with the things that surround you. Focus on the tree that is in front of you.

Use the tree to be grateful by breaking down its parts:

  1. The bark, your structure.
  2. The branches, your traits.
  3. The leaves, your beauty, and how you learn from others.
  4. Oxygen, what you give others

1. The Bark of the Tree

Start by looking at the tree and admiring its bark. How dark or light is its color? Brown, grey, or yellow? Is the bark broke or peeling? If so, is it vertically or horizontally? Into strips or scales? Realize that the bark is protecting the tree, it is carrying a life inside of it. Do you want to know more about branches? Look at this page.

Now it is time to use these observations and make an analogy with your life. Think in positive terms and bring gratefulness to the experience. You are grateful because trees exist. You might as well be grateful for the things in your life that represent your bark.

What is your bark? How do you protect and embrace yourself every day?

You are strong because you are at this moment doing this activity. What brought you here? You are an ambitious person because you take care of yourself. Moreover, you look for answers and activities that nurture you.

painting bark of tree
The Bark of a Tree by Sepia Flora

What do you admire about yourself? Think of that voice that pushes you forward. Your desire to be alive, present, and at peace, that is a great place to start. The bark is that strength that supports you and reminds you that your strength is within you. Appreciate this thought, the fact that trees remind you to be grateful for what you are. Therefore, practice gratitude with the trees now with art. Start painting with this thought in mind.

Start Drawing

Choose a color. For example, do you want your tree to be lifelike or something created from your imagination? Pick any color, it is up to you, and depending on how you are feeling at the moment.

Now, paint the bark with the color you chose. While you are doing it, remind yourself of what you consider to be your bark. You can even make the tree with the words that arise. Those words that remind you of your strengths, the things that push you forward. It can be as simple as, I just want to eat or feel better. Also, words like, I am going to conquer the world.

Anything that works for you. The fact that you want to be at peace is enough. Use that to realize that you always want what is best for you, and that is valuable.

2. The Branches of the Tree

Look at the branches of the tree and analyze how they arise. Do they come from a bigger branch or are they carrying smaller ones with it? Moreover, do branches arise upwards, downwards, or are they growing in all directions?

Are the colors of the branches similar or the same as each other? Is the color of the branch related to that of the bark? Above all, do they have leaves or is it perhaps winter and they have lost all of them? Do the branches carry fruits or flowers? If not, do you wish they did?

With these observations consider the branches to be your traits. What makes you who you are?

You have your personality and many traits inside you are valuable. Do you admire yourself intellectually, physically, the way you treat others, or your principles? These are all things that constitute you. As a result, they are your branches. Now, it’s time to write them down and be grateful for all that you have.

You are beautiful the way you are

Remember that this is just an activity for you to practice gratitude with trees and art. This activity aims to help you be grateful for what you have. Don’t be judgmental, you are who you are and that is beautiful.

As with the tree, for example, you could wish it had flowers or some fruits. Just consider this affirmation: everything is as it should be.
Why is that? Because the tree is not producing fruits or flowers at the moment because perhaps it’s winter.

The tree perhaps will never do because its purpose is to give shadow to other living things. For example, the kapok tree. Just look at this beauty.

ceiba sepia flora
Photo of Ceiba by Anne and David. Flickr

Apparently, the tree doesn’t do anything at all for you. But why if you could ask a bird, what would it say?

It’s the same with you. You may not know why you are in this world, or may not appreciate some of your virtues. But remember that you are like this for a reason.

Practice gratitude with trees expressing artistically your virtues

Paint the branches again however you want, just observe and represent them however you want.

Branches of a tree originate periodically and beautiful patterns emerge. Therefore, be aware of that and make your representation of trees using repeated and aleatory shapes.

Everything is valid and remember again, it’s not about the outcome but the process itself.

The process of sitting down, looking at the tree, analyzing everything it has, and making the same with you.

branches sepia flora
Branches of a tree by Sepia Flora

Practice gratitude using the observation of trees and expressing through art. All that you are and everything that makes you, you. Don’t label things good or bad, certainly, you wouldn’t do that to a tree.

3. The leaves of the tree

It’s very interesting to look at all the leaves and realize that there are not even two the same. Also, it’s amazing to look at all the different colors that constitute them. You could just say green or bear in mind that each green is different. Similarly, observe that some leaves have spots, others have holes. Some leaves are brown, and some are ready to fall and give its place to a new leaf. Thus, when it falls to the ground, it provides its nutrients to the soil.

leaves gratitude with trees
Photo by Sepia Flora. Colombia

It is just stunning, and as Queen put it better in one of their songs, The Miracle:

If every leaf on every tree

could tell a story that would be a miracle.


The miracle comes from them, but thanks to the sun. They need the sun as much as we need the trees. Think about how you learn from others, and how others in your life shape the way you are. Also, you are what you surround yourself with, so look for positive, heartwarming, beautiful experiences. Think about what you put in your body, warm sun, and enriching rain? Or chemicals and things that are drying up your leaves?

leaves gratitude with trees
Leaves by Sepia Flora

Mindfulness with the leaves of a tree

This activity aims for you to be mindful.
(Read here to dig further on other art activities to be mindful.)
You can do it in one of two ways:

  1. Looking at the tree in front of you and painting the color of the leaves. You can also paint how you would like the tree to be. The main objective is to be present with the colors and let yourself express.
  2. Paint leaves with a color palette and associate feelings with specific colors. Consider for example this color palette. How can you represent your thoughts and feelings at this moment with it? You can also create your color palette and color code feelings. The activity here is to use the colors to let go of your worries. Thoughts and feelings are less of a burden when you can have different perspectives on them. You have created a map of the things that are currently in your mind.
color palette sepia flora
Color Palette by Sepia Flora

4. Leaves produce oxygen

Looking at the leaves think of this powerful thing: they produce oxygen for free to every living creature on earth. Trees sustain your life, and you sustain theirs as well because you give them carbon dioxide. That is a powerful feeling. You depend on trees as much as they depend on you. Practice your gratitude acknowledging the importance of trees with the use of art.

Noticing this flow of oxygen makes you aware of breathing. Consequently, it makes you be in the present and be conscious to calm down, to be mindful.

Animals coexist in harmony with trees. On the other hand, we are just beginning to take care of them. You can pass this feeling of gratitude.

gratitude with trees
Photo by Sepia Flora. Colombia

With that in mind consider what you are willing to do for others. Also, consider what you have already done for others expecting nothing in return. For example, by smiling you are brightening up someone’s day and yours as well.

Did you know that if you smile your brain assumes things are ok? As a result, if you smile constantly you can make your brain produce happy thoughts?

Look at this book if you want to read further.

Give others and express gratitude

Think about what you can do for others. Most importantly, take care of the trees for everything they have done for us. You should recycle, reuse, or pick trash in a park. Doing things for others elevates your endorphins, and gives you a feeling of accomplishment. Besides, you will be helping the environment.

You can paint oxygen as well if you want. Imagine the air going round and round with the leaves. For example, imagine autumn, the colors, how it interacts with nature. Also, pay attention to the air, what sound does it make? Is it bringing you calmness or are you cold?

Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain.

Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go.

May Sarton

Be present, be thankful, and enjoy this experience.

If you want a different activity you can do this one.

Leave comments in the section below for your insights. How was your activity? How do you feel after looking or painting trees?

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