Reflecting on what you’re grateful for is one of the most important things you can do to keep your mental health in check. Gratitude journaling is when you use a journal to reflect on things you’re grateful for regularly. It’s a way to “count your blessings” and remember the things in life that matter most.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How to Start a Gratitude Journal
- Gratitude Journal Ideas
- Tips for Keeping Your Gratitude Journal Habit Up
In a world so focused on having the shiniest and greatest things, gratitude journaling is a very healthy practice. But, it’s not always easy to start. If you’re not used to writing regularly, this is a difficult habit to add to your daily routine. With a little bit of patience and know-how, you’ll become a lifetime gratitude journaler.
Here are the best tips for how to get started with your journal and how to keep it up long-term.
How to Start a Gratitude Journal
Like with most things in life, the hardest part of starting a new habit is just getting started. Because you want this to be something you keep up for a long time, you need to lay a strong foundation. Follow these steps to get started with your gratitude journal.
Step 1: Understand the benefits
Before you get started, take a bit of time to get to know the benefits of gratitude journaling. Knowing the reasoning behind a new habit helps you stick with it. For example, you might not enjoy ironing your clothes, but you know it makes them look their best. The same is true for gratitude journaling. The more you understand why it’s so important, the better equipped you’ll be to get the most out of the experience.
There are a lot of science-based reasons to journal in general, but there are even more reasons to write about gratitude and things you’re thankful for. Gratitude journaling helps with:
- Anxiety: We all deal with some level of anxiety, and focusing on the things you can control instead of things you can’t has a huge effect on how we feel.
- Clarity: Can you think back to a moment you were really happy? These moments, no matter how small, provide clarity for what really matters in life.
- Reflection: Reflecting on the things you’re grateful for is a powerful tool. It’s a way to ground yourself at the moment, release tension, and think about what matters to you.
- Goals: Finally, having a gratitude journal gives your life much-needed perspective. It shows you where you’ve been, and it also helps you recognize where you want to go.
Step 2: Choose a journal
Now it’s time for the fun part. It’s time to choose the right journal for you. It’s easy to fall into the cycle of buying the prettiest journals you can find, but try to avoid this type of behavior. That just leaves you with stacks of half-used or empty journals, and nothing ever comes of it.
Instead, be intentional with the type of journal you choose. Consider how you plan to use your journal. Ask these questions before making a purchase:
- How often will you write in your journal (daily, weekly, monthly)?
- Do you prefer to write out your thoughts on paper or digitally?
- Do you want to keep your journal with you as you travel or will it stay at home?
- How structured do you want your journal to be?
Having a traditional paper journal is a great way to get more use out of your journal. You can easily jot down passing thoughts throughout the day, and some people enjoy writing by hand. There are also gratitude journals that combine art elements and doodles, making them more fun for creative types.
However, a digital journal also has many advantages. You could use a cloud word processor like Google Docs or Evernote to write out daily thoughts. The main pro of a digital tool is that you always have it with you, and you don’t have to worry about losing it somewhere.
Your journal doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated. Less is sometimes more, depending on your goals for your particular journal. Stick with whatever makes the most sense for your journaling style, budget, and interests.
Step 3: Create a schedule
After setting up your journal, it’s time to build a schedule that works for you. This is the biggest challenge of gratitude journaling. How do you hold yourself accountable and stay consistent?
Remember that you have to make journaling a habit. This isn’t something you can do on a whim. It needs to be a natural part of your routine. Think of how often you’d like to write in your journal, and be realistic. Most people start by journaling every day, but you might choose to write every other day, weekly, or even monthly.
One easy way to stick with it is to attach gratitude journaling to an existing habit. For example, you might write a short reflection each night before bed. You could also write alongside your morning coffee or at the end of the workweek. There’s no right way to choose a schedule, just make sure you find something you can stick with long-term.
Gratitude Journal Ideas
Because getting started and finding inspiration isn’t always easy, here are some gratitude journal ideas to spark your creativity.
- Diary: It could be helpful to begin with a diary format. What are you grateful for today?
- Bucket list: Creating a list of things you want to do and things you have already done (reverse bucket list) gives you insight into what matters most to you.
- Bullet journal: Don’t feel pressured to write lengthy, in-depth reflections every day. If you’re someone who prefers things short-and-sweet, just stick to a bullet journal format. Write down your thoughts in bulleted lists to get your mind flowing.
- Thank you: Not sure where to begin? Who are the people you’d like to say thank you to?
- Photos: Use a random photo to describe a memory you’re thankful for.
- Goals: Focus on what you’re looking forward to.
Tips for Keeping Your Gratitude Journal Habit Up
Let’s face it — sticking to a new habit is hard. Making a lifelong change won’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself and follow these tips for keeping your gratitude journal habit long-term.
Reflect on gratitude
There are a lot of great resources for welcoming gratitude into your life. If this is a new concept for you, don’t be afraid to explore new aspects of it. Whether you look for examples of journals online or read gratitude books, try to consider what gratitude means to you.
Recognize that gratitude means different things to different people. It’s the diversity of definitions that makes this such an inspirational topic. Find your own definition and let it inspire you.
This is a journal that exists just for you. You can make your journal as private or as public as you want, and there’s no pressure to share your entries with anyone.
As such, feel free to get as personal as you feel comfortable with. Focus on people more than things, and really give yourself the space to explore these feelings.
Don’t go overboard
Believe it or not, it is possible to go overboard with journaling. While daily journaling might be right for some people, it’s not a good fit for everyone. That’s perfectly okay, and you can find the schedule that’s right for you.
Don’t just go through the motions. If you have to force yourself to write every day, try to adjust your thinking. It’s not easy to find the brighter parts of life, especially if you’re in the habit of doing the opposite. Take a short break and come back to your journal in a few days.
Turn off spell check
Your journal is about you, and it’s only going to be seen by you. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or making sure everything is perfect. This is just a way to focus on gratitude-inspiring moments in your life. It’s not an essay for your English teacher.
Get back on the wagon
If you find yourself forgetting about your gratitude journal for a little while, don’t get down on yourself. It’s hard to start a new habit, and you’re essentially changing your entire mindset about thankfulness. This takes time, so be patient.
However, don’t let yourself get discouraged. If you skip writing in your journal for a few days, weeks, or even months, just jump right back into it. There’s no time limit on your journal, so just do what you can.
Uncover the Benefits of Gratitude Journaling
How often do you stop to consider what you’re grateful for? From the small moments of kindness from friends and family to the things that define us, gratitude is a powerful tool. It transforms us into better people ourselves, and it builds stronger relationships with the things that matter in life.
Whether you’re hoping to gain more insight into your own past or become death positive, a gratitude journal is a Brave New World of opportunity. If more people took some time to think about life’s gifts, both big and small, society would be a better place. Until then, do what you can to brighten your own day with some moments of reflection.
- Marsh, Jason. “Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal.” Berkeley University: Greater Good Magazine. 17 November 2011. Berkeley.edu.