How to start a gratitude journal
Journaling & Creativity

How to start a gratitude journal – the ultimate guide

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I bet you’ve seen some people who are genuinely happy. Who face life’s challenges with courage and a smile on their face. What’s their secret? 

Well, I don’t know what every person’s secret is but I’m sure that gratitude is a big part of it! Showing more gratitude and thankfulness in your life is proven to improve your wellbeing and make you feel better about life.

I find that one of the best ways to express and practice gratitude on a daily basis is to keep a gratitude journal! It can have a huge impact on your health and overall wellness and it’s a powerful tool to bring more joy and happiness into your life. 

So here is all of the information you need on how to start a gratitude journal!

What is a gratitude journal?

First let’s define what gratitude is. 

Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation towards someone or something that produces long-lasting positivity. It’s a spontaneous feeling but it can be a conscious one as well. Deliberately cultivating gratitude comes with so many benefits and that’s where the gratitude journal comes in.

A gratitude journal is a journal or diary where you keep track of positive things that happened during your day. It can be the simplest of events (the sun shining on your face in the morning or major life events (getting a job at your dream company!).

Keeping a gratitude journal means taking time to reflect and consciously think about things that make you feel good and bring joy to your life.

For example, you can feel gratitude about the people in your life, an event that brought a smile to your face, a conversation that you enjoyed, or a positive emotion you felt. The possibilities are endless!

how to start a gratitude journal

Why should you keep a gratitude journal?

There are many benefits to keeping a gratitude journal. Different studies done over the years, have shown that spending just a few minutes a day focusing on positive aspects of your life can help: 

  • Reduce stress & depression: Practicing gratitude seems to directly foster social support, and to protect people from stress and depression.
  • Improve sleep: Gratitude predicted greater subjective sleep quality and sleep duration, and less sleep latency and daytime dysfunction.
  • Boost self-esteem: Practicing gratitude can help you feel better about your circumstances, which can lead to feeling better about yourself.
  • Cultivate happiness: Noticing what we have makes us happier and feel more positive about our lives. It changes our perspective and our view of the world to something more positive.
  • Increase resilience: When faced with hard times, practicing gratitude can build a reserve of positive feelings that you can draw on. 

“I live in the space of thankfulness — and for that, I have been rewarded a million times over. I started out giving thanks for small things, and the more thankful I became, the more my bounty increased. That’s because — for sure — what you focus on expands. When you focus on the goodness in life, you create more of it.“Oprah Winfrey

Who is gratitude journaling for?

Gratitude journaling is for everyone! Anyone can benefit from keeping a gratitude journal. However, it can be especially beneficial if you:

  • Feel like your life is passing you by,
  • Are stressed and overwhelmed by what’s going on around you,
  • Tend to ruminate over small things that happened to you,
  • Look at the future with angst,
  • Simply want to focus more of your attention on the little things and appreciate your life more.

How to start a gratitude journal

Choose your gratitude journal

Honestly, the format isn’t as important as what you do with it. But I find that I enjoy writing in journals that I find cute 🙂 

You have the choice between a paper journal or a digital one.

Pros of paper journals

  • Studies show that you’re more likely to remember things you wrote by hand than something you typed on your computer or phone. 
  • It takes longer to for thoughts to be transferred from your brain to paper so it makes you slow down (and in this fast paced world, that’s exactly what we need in my opinion!)
  • You can be more creative on paper than on your computer. You can draw, you can doodle, or anything else that lets your creative side out.
  • Digital break! We already spend so much of our time in front of screens, it’s nice to take a break from it once in a while!

Cons of paper journals

  • Writing in a paper journal can be more time consuming than on a digital one. As I mentionned, it takes longer to physically write than it does to type. 
  • Privacy can be an issue. Having your journal lying around makes it available for anyone to read.

Pros of digital journals

  • Using a journaling app makes your journal available whenever you feel inspired. Waiting until you get home to write down your feelings or thoughts can prove to be difficult. 
  • Automatic reminders! How many times have I forgotten to write in my journal because I was so caught up in something else? To form a strong journaling habit, you need prompts and apps make it very easy!
  • You can add pictures to your digital journal which adds a special something. See something that brings up an emotion? Capture it with a picture and write about it!
  • Cloud backup. I once lost my journal and I felt devastated. So many memories lost! A digital journal backs up your entries so you never have to fear losing them.

Cons of digital journals

  • More screen time. I spend so much time in front of a computer that I don’t feel like doing it some more to journal. 
  • It can feel impersonal or like a work/school project.

I personally prefer a paper journal to a digital one. There’s just something so cathartic about letting words flow from your brain to your hand and onto paper. Pick a journal type that you feel comfortable with and that fit with your lifestyle.

It’s really up to you! 

Pick a time

There is no perfect time to write in a gratitude journal. It really depends on your schedule and your habits. However, I find there are 2 optimum times to write in your gratitude journal: in the morning or the evening before bed. 

Each period has its benefits:

Writing in your gratitude journal in the morning, before you start your day, sends a clear message to your brain. By journaling in the morning, you start the day on a positive and thankful note. You’ll also be more likely to notice positive things during your day.

Writing in your gratitude journal in the evening, before bed ends your day on a positive note. It calms the mind and that’s exactly what you need before going to bed!

The most important thing is to choose a time you feel comfortable with. There is no right or wrong answer here! 

Pick a frequency

Some people will write in their gratitude journal every day, others will do it every week. Think about what seems to be the most realistic for you. 

You can start by aiming to write every day. However, if you find you loose interest or it gets repetitive, change your frequency. 

Remember, quality is more important than quantity!

In either case, don’t beat yourself up if you skip a day or a week. It’s ok!

Time to get writing

Writing in your gratitude journal is very personal. What and how you write is completely up to you.

You can go about this in different ways:

Let inspiration come each time you write with no specific structure in mind.

You can jump right in and start writing whatever comes to mind. Every day, spend a few minutes thinking about positive things that happened to you. 

Feeling creative? Why not draw the ideas instead of writing them!

Here are some examples of gratitude:

  • The feeling of brand new bedsheets when you slide into bed at night
  • Enjoying a warm cup of coffee while watching the rain outside
  • The kiss you child gave you when you dropped her off at school
  • The awesome dish your husband prepared for you last night
  • Watching the sunrise as you walk your dog
  • Your favorite song coming on the radio right when you needed to hear it
  • The lovely text your best friend sent you to check up on you
  • The butterfly you saw flying around your backyard
  • Seeing your favorite band in concert

Use categories

If you run out of ideas or if you feel like you always mention the same things, try using categories! Each day, pick 1 – 2 categories you want to focus on. These will help you get your ideas out onto paper.

Here a few examples of categories you could use:

  • Family/relationships
  • Health
  • Talents/skills
  • Places
  • Your occupation
  • Life experiences
  • Nature
  • Your body
  • Items/things in your life

Use journal prompts

If you’re new tio journaling, using journal prompts can definitely come in handy! Journal prompts will help you get into the right mindset and will prevent writer’s block!

Here are 20 journal prompts to get started:

  • What’s your happiest childhood memory?
  • What’s your favorite song right now and why?
  • The best part about today was…
  • List 3 things that made you smile today
  • When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
  • Describe your best memory of your parents
  • Describe your best memory of your siblings
  • What hobby do you love doing?
  • What is your favorite TV show right now?
  • What’s the best book you’ve read and why?
  • Describe your last vacation and what you loved about it
  • What part of your body do you like the most and why?
  • What do you love about your current job?
  • Describe your “perfect day”. What would it look like?
  • List 3 objects you love using in your daily life
  • Describe a co-worker who recently helped you on something at work
  • Write about something that you have now that you didn’t have last year
  • What’s your best quality?
  • What’s your favorite place in the world? Why?
  • Which restaurant do you love eating at?

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Tips to get the most out of your gratitude journal practice

As we’ve seen, writing in your gratitude journal is wonderful for the body, mind, and soul. In order to get the most out of this practice, here are a few tips and tricks!

Be conscious

When you write about the things you are grateful for, don’t just go through the motions. Think about each thing consciously. Make sure your attention is focused on feelings of gratitude.

Be specific

Elaborate on why you are grateful for the things you write down. Be as specific as possible and figure out what matters to you and what truly makes you happy.

Write only about positive things

This journal is for the positive aspects of your life, not the negative! It’s ok to write about things that aggravate or irritate you, just not in your gratitude journal! Use another journal for that 😉

People over things

Writing about the people in your life has a more positive impact than writing about things.

Set a realistic goal

Don’t try to list 10 things a day, you’ll quickly grow bored with the practice. List how ever many things you feel grateful for each day and don’t force it.

Set an alarm

The best way to remember to journal is to set an alarm. It can be easy to forget, especially if you’re in the middle of something. In the beginning, set an alarm at the same time every day (or every week) and make sure you commit to the practice.

Check-in with yourself

It’s important to take a step back from your gratitude journal and check-in with yourself. After a few weeks, ask yourself how do you feel? Does 

How to start a gratitude journal

Final thoughts

Starting a gratitude journal habit can seem daunting and overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be! Go with the flow, let your feelings out, and learn to feel the discomfort. You’ll learn so much about yourself and feel happier in the process!

The most important part? Have fun with it!

If you’ve never started a journal before, check out How to start journaling: a beginner’s guide!

I hope you enjoyed reading this and that it will help you with your gratitude journey!

Do you keep a gratitude journal? How is it going? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

Till next time,

XO, Calie

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