How to Start a Gratitude Journal + Tips for Keeping It Up

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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. 

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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. 

What Is a Gratitude Journal?

First, what is a gratitude journal? There are a lot of different types of journaling, and it can be confusing to keep track of different types. Gratitude journaling is the practice of using a journal to reflect and record things you’re grateful for on a regular basis. This can be a physical or digital journal, and there are many different ways to format your gratitude journal. 

Practicing gratitude regularly is shown to lead to positive changes throughout your entire life. A recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology discovered that recording daily positive experiences led to heightened well-being across all areas of your life. When you take time to consider the things that make your life special, you stay mindful and present. While it’s easy to fall into the trap of worry and anxiety, gratitude journaling encourages you to take a step back. 

What Are the Different Types of Gratitude Journals?

With that in mind, what are the different types of gratitude journals? As explained above, gratitude journals come in all different shapes and sizes. Depending on your goals, there is a type of gratitude journal that meets your needs. From different templates, designs, styles, and prompts, there are so many different options to navigate journaling. 

Whenever you start a new habit, you want to choose something that suits your lifestyle and goals. These different types of gratitude journals below are designed to meet a variety of needs. Which of these gratitude journals speaks to you?

  • Gratitude planner: Though many don’t associate planners with journaling, they very much serve a similar purpose. With a gratitude planner, you have a space for sharing your goals, special moments, and highlights on a daily basis. 
  • Intentions journal: Another alternative is an intentions journal. This is a short-form type of journal focused on writing daily, weekly, or monthly intentions around your mindset. 
  • Bullet journal: Bullet journaling is the practice of creating a journal in bullet form, rather than long-form sentences. This fast-paced type of journal is ideal for those who like logical, fast journaling. 
  • Gratitude workbook: For more hands-on help, a gratitude workbook inspires you through prompts, reading passages, and self-help guides on gratitude. 
  • Gratitude blog: A blog can also serve the role of a gratitude journal. An online space where you share your daily musings, thanks, and feelings is just as meaningful; plus it allows you to share your gratitude with others digitally. 
  • Gratitude app: For those who prefer to take their journaling on the go, it’s also possible to create a gratitude journal through a digital app. Apps like Gratitude and Presently make it easy to respond to daily prompts within a simple mobile platform. 

Like all things related to journaling, there’s no one-size-fits-all. Some choose to have multiple gratitude journals, or they switch types over time. Continue reading to learn how to start your own gratitude journal, no matter your goals. 

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. 

Gratitude Journal Entry Examples

Starting a gratitude journal for the first time can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know what to expect. Reading through examples of existing entries can help shine a light on how these entries can be formatted. However, keep in mind this journal is entirely yours. There are no rules for how to format, shape, or write your gratitude journal entries. 

Short and sweet gratitude list example

“Today I am grateful for…

  • The smell of the roses in my garden
  • My coworker’s baked cookies in the break room
  • Clean sheets
  • My cat’s playful attitude”

Detailed daily gratitude entry example

“It was my friend’s birthday today. I was invited to join her family for dinner, and it was a wonderful time. Her family is so welcoming and fun, and I am grateful that they invited me to this special day. I am also so thankful for my friend Miranda. She’s been with me through a lot, and I’m proud of all we’ve been through together. 

The dinner itself was also excellent. We enjoyed a homemade pizza made by Miranda’s husband, and he clearly went to great lengths to make this meal special. After dinner, I brought a delicious cake from my favorite bakery in town. It was chocolate, her favorite and mine too. Most importantly, I am grateful to have so many lovely friends that feel like family.”

Prompt-focused gratitude journal example

“Prompt: What’s something you’re looking forward to? Right now I’m looking forward to spending time at home this weekend. I really cherish having free time, and it’s nice to have a break from daily chores. During this weekend, I plan to watch a new movie, cook something delicious, and call my parents. Sometimes the simplest weekends are the best. Beyond my weekend plans, I’m also looking forward to an upcoming dinner celebration with my partner. We’ve been planning it for weeks, and we love French food. Though I’m not yet sure what I want to eat, I’m sure it will be amazing.” 

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. 

Get personal

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.  

Where to Find the Best Gratitude Journals Online

Now that you know how to create a gratitude journal, where can you find some online? There are many gratitude journals online for free that you can download, access, or use for inspiration. Additionally, you can also purchase gratitude journals online to make your own. Here are some of the best recommendations for finding gratitude journals online.

Amazon

First, the well-known retailer Amazon is a source for all types of journals, including gratitude journals. Amazon is a trusted online retailer, and you can find many of the most famous journals as well as smaller publishers on this platform. Better yet, many are available for digital download or through Prime shipping. 

Etsy

Similarly, the creative marketplace Etsy has a variety of unique gratitude journals. From physical journals to digital downloads, this is the most flexible option. An instant download makes it possible to create a journal of your own design. Another perk is that you’re supporting a small designer with their craft. 

Papier

Papier is a premium notebook retailer. Though you can find their stationery and planners in some stores, the largest selection is online. Their Wellness Journals are designed to help you set healthy, mindful habits along with practicing gratefulness. Customizable and personalizable, Papier is a great source of high-quality gratitude journals. 

Positive Psychology

Some providers create tools, templates, and online resources for those hoping to start a gratitude journal on a budget. Positive Psychology makes it easy to download unique templates to your device, creating a gratitude journal with the things you already have at home. 

Therapy Notebooks

At Therapy Notebooks, experts create psychology-backed notebooks designed to make positive mental health habits accessible to all. Their online shop has a variety of notebooks designed to create healthy habits, from lessening anxiety to practicing gratitude. Though more costly than other providers on this list, each book comes with 100+ journal entries and structured exercises. 

Best Self

Lastly, Best Self has a large collection of gratitude journals, planners, and tools designed to build mindful habits. With prompts and daily reminders, these are a helpful, hands-on way to create gratitude in small moments. Starting at $19.99 for 30-day journals, Best Self is one of the best providers of gratitude journals. 

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. 

If you're looking for more on self-reflection, read our guides on self-reflection quotes and self-reflection questions.


Sources:
  1. “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Berkeley.edu.
  2. Marsh, Jason. “Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal.” Berkeley University: Greater Good Magazine. 17 November 2011. Berkeley.edu.

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