HOW TO START A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
May, 10, 2021
Imagine if there was a way to make yourself happier, strengthen your relationships, make you more in tune with your life, thoughts, and emotions, and it only took a few minutes of your day.
Gratitude journaling has been studied to be a very powerful practice to accomplish these things and so much more. Gratitude journaling can truly be anything you want or need it to be, and at its core, is a tool that will help you find more joy in life and change your perspective.
WHAT DOES GRATITUDE MEAN?
Gratitude is defined as the “expression of appreciation for what one has.” Through history, gratitude was traditionally used as a fundamental practice in religions such as Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, and stems from the Latin word gratus which means ‘pleasing, thankful’.
It was not until recently that gratitude rose to the forefront of our society as a powerful emotion and tool. In early 2000, psychologists began researching and studying the emotion of gratitude to explore its benefits and how it has an impact on our lives and relationships.
Gratitude can motivate our behavior and interactions with others, change how we see ourselves and the world, guide how we think and react, and even has the power to rewire our emotions. Gratitude is one of the most powerful forces we have, and starting a gratitude journal is a wonderful way to harness the emotion of gratitude.
PURPOSE OF A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
A gratitude journal will serve as an exercise to increase awareness of all the things you have to be grateful for in life. It is a tool, and when you use it often enough you will retrain your mind to look at life as a glass half full rather than half empty.
When you focus on what you lack you lose what you have, and the gratitude journal ensures we never lose what we have. It is a great way to keep your day positive, increase your overall happiness and is a powerful act to keep gratitude top of mind.
The purpose of the gratitude journal is to see your life through a brighter lens and shift your perspective in order to change your life. It helps you see the small gifts that you would normally be numb to, like a bright sunny day, a beautiful breakfast with family, or fast Internet that lets you chat with loved ones.
Gratitude is quite literally a gift that you are giving to yourself every single day that continues to give back to you.
HOW TO USE A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
The practice of gratitude journaling is incredibly simple which means it will be a seamless thing to implement into your life.
The most important thing to keep in mind as you begin journaling is to always be mindful and intention. Gratitude journaling is a tool that can provide you with many benefits if you let it, but you cannot simply go through the motions. It is a time for reflection and having an open mind.
All you need to do to begin the habit is purchase a gratitude journal and writing utensils, set aside ten or so minutes of uninterrupted time, and follow the prompts.
50 GRATITUDE JOURNAL PROMPTS
While a gratitude practice may be deeply personal, there are many prompts that people use to help them focus on their blessings and all of the wonderful things they have in life. We have 50 gratitude journal prompts to share with you, to inspire you to feel grateful!
- The best day I ever had was _____
- The person I love most is _____
- I am proud of myself for ______
- I make a difference by ______
- My favorite memory with my family is ________
- Something I did for myself this week was ________
- My best personality trait is _____
- When I am alone, I have time to ______
- _____ was a small personal win I recently accomplished
- _______ always puts a smile on my face
- I was proud of myself when _____
- ___ is someone I can always count on
- I can connect with nature through _____
- A small act of kindness I experienced this week was _____
- Something in nature that I appreciate is __________
- This week I laughed at ______
- My favorite family tradition is _____
- _____ is something about my body that I am grateful for
- Hearing music from ______ brings me happiness
- This week, I ate the delicious meal of ____
- I have a talent of ____
- A childhood memory that makes me happy is ____
- Recently I accomplished ______
- Three things I currently do well are ______, _______ and _______
- A favorite place I have visited is ____
- Something I take for granted is _____
- ________ made a positive difference in my life
- _____ shows me love
- ______ was an obstacle I recently overcame by ______
- ____, ____, ____, ____, and ____ are 5 things I love about myself
- ______ recently brought me peace
- _____ is my most cherished possession
- My pet ____ brings me so much joy when _____
- ______ is my favorite season of the year
- ______ is something in the room that I am grateful for
- I recently took a trip to _____
- My great accomplishment in life was ______
- My favorite part about mornings is ______
- I love to move my body by _______
- I made a difference in someone’s life this week by ______
- Even though I have a hard time connecting with ______, something I like about them is ____
- ______ makes me feel safe
- Something good that happened in my community recently was ______
- My favorite moment today was when ______
- _____ was the best part of my day today
- The most thoughtful gift I have received was ______
- Something I love about my weekly routine is ______
- In the last year, I have experienced change by ________
- ______ is someone who inspires me
- _____ was a recent act of kindness I experienced
TIPS FOR KEEPING A GRATITUDE JOURNALHere are our top tips for starting and keeping a gratitude journal practice.
- Select a journal that is a good fit for you. There are so many incredible journals out there meant to guide you through your gratitude journaling, and while they are all similar, they are all very unique, too. Some have straightforward prompts, some are composed of lists, some multiple pages for a 2-a-day entry, but they all offer the same benefit: a personalized way to practice gratitude.
- Find a time that works with your routine. Find a time when you will not be distracted and can give your full attention to your journal. All you need is a few minutes, any time of day. There is no right or wrong time. Some people use their gratitude journal first thing in the morning to start their day on a positive note of reflection. Others choose to use their journal at night, so they can log the blessings of the day. No matter which time you choose, consistency is key.
- Get creative with your entries. You can be precise, you can be descriptive, you can just jot down a few nouns - but there is room to include other things! Maybe you want to tape a concert ticket to the page, to remind yourself of the memories. Maybe you took a walk that day and want to press the wildflower you found into the pages of the journal. Your practice can move beyond words if that speaks to you and you are able to use tangible items or powerful visuals to work through your practice.
- Don’t write down negative thoughts. The purpose of this exercise is to focus on the positive and reflect on the purity of the beauty of life. That said, sometimes negative situations yield gratitude in us. These can serve as a powerful reminder that even in darkness, we can find reasons to be grateful, and if you feel called to write about that one day, that is okay, too. It is important to note that we absolutely can be grateful for negative things. Challenges and obstacles are how we grow, so while you journal, be sure to keep this in mind too. We do not need to ignore the darkness or hardships in our lives as we journal but instead find a way we are being blessed even in the midst of adversity.
- Remind yourself of the benefits. The reward is often what propels us forward. We work hard at our jobs for the Friday paycheck. We read self-help books to expand our minds. We call our friends to laugh and strengthen the bond. We indulge in an ice cream cone because it tastes so delicious. Gratitude journaling comes with many rewards. It will yield a more grateful heart which also brings a more joyful spirit, it will make you more positive and productive, it will decrease your stress levels, it will center and ground you, and it will fight depression and anxiety. These are all scientifically proven! You can read more here.
- Set the stage. This practice offers you the gift of gratitude every single day, but in order to get the most out of that gift, it is so important to find depth in your practice. You can do this by creating an atmosphere that allows you to dig deep without interruption. It may be conscious breathing, candles and dim lights, soft music – whatever helps bring you to a place where you can quiet your mind and reflect on all you have to be grateful for. The more you are able to focus and move into the right mindset by creating a space that allows you to focus, the deeper you will be able to go.
RESEARCH BEHIND A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
Many prestigious universities have studied the effects of a gratitude journal. There has been extensive research that shows that gratitude not only has external benefits but internal benefits as well. Psychologists have conducted extensive research on gratitude in order to learn how it shapes our minds and actions, improves our relationships, and helps us manage negative emotions. The science and research to back the impact of gratitude is rich and extensive.
Yale studies say a gratitude journal itself yields “higher alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, and energy”. The school holds classes and workshops centered around gratitude, to encourage participants to view life more positively.
Stanford offers a highly sought after class which leverages gratitude and gratitude journals, which made students 27% less stressed. The class was conceptualized when Stanford experienced record-high student suicides the precious year, and wanted to help students find happiness in their lives. They used gratitude to help the students improve their quality of life,
Harvard has conducted several studies showing how gratitude improves our health and strengthens relationships. The research shows how when partners express their gratitude to each other, they feel more positively about the other person. Harvard defines gratitude as “a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals–whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”
UC-Berkeley research indicates a gratitude journal improves sleep and decreases illness. Berkeley has dedicated countless efforts to studies over the last ten years that specifically focuses on gratitude’s benefits-- including how gratitude has lasting effects on the brain. They used an fMRI brain scanner to measure brain activity in people that were paying it forward, and found that the participant’s brain activity was distinctly different when they experienced a negative emotion.
UC-Davis research found that people who practice gratitude are more likely to have other healthy habits. One of their studies found that people who kept a gratitude journal were more likely to exercise more and have a more positive outlook on their lives.
The benefits of a gratitude journal and incorporating more gratitude in your own life is extensive. More research continues to emerge constantly on the power gratitude can have to our physical health, our relationships, our mental health, our happiness, and our overall well being. The research is especially powerful, as it educates the public on a gratitude practice and how it benefits us and those around us.
ALTERNATIVE IDEAS FOR A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
A gratitude journal may not be for everyone, and it may not be for you. Maybe you rather practice gratitude with visuals or an activity, or simply in your mind. We see you- there is not a one size fits all when it comes to gratitude journaling. The important thing is to find a gratitude practice that best fits your unique preferences. These alternative ideas to a gratitude journal may be a better fit for your personal gratitude practice:
Old fashion handwritten letters are an incredible way to express gratitude, strengthen relationships, and show how much goodness can be found in people.
Take 15 minutes to write a gratitude letter to someone. Start by identifying the person you want to write the letter to, and write as though you are speaking directly to them. Identify three things about them that you are grateful for. These three things can be character traits, accomplishments, what they mean to you, or anything that will make them feel special.
Write as much or as little as you would like, but be sure to be descriptive. You have the option to keep the letter for yourself, but there is so much more power in sending the letter to them and letting them know how you are appreciated.
Gratitude letters are a beautiful way to see how gratitude can be contagious. It may start with you reflecting on someone you are grateful for, but when you send that letter to someone you are igniting the flame of gratitude in their hearts. If a handwritten letter is not for you, you can instead send an email or leave a voicemail, too!
Meditation is all about mindful reflection. Traditionally, meditation is the act of clearing your mind completely and focusing on your breath. It is a great way to train your mind and strengthen your self-awareness in practice.
However, you can use meditation as your gratitude practice. There are many ways to meditate on the things you are grateful for. You can use guided meditations, soft music, silence, mala beads, prayer, or anything else that will help quiet your mind to meditate and enter into a state of reflection.
For gratitude specifically, use your meditation to focus on three main things: yourself, the people close to you, and your present-day blessings. There are limitless present-day blessings you can identify, ranging from music to nature to food to work to possessions. Use your meditation to focus on your blessings, and allow gratitude to guide you through the meditation practice.
This is a great option for people who are on the go more or have a difficult time being confined to a routine. Pick a physical item that you will be able to see every day. It can be a piece of jewelry, a small stone, or an object of value. Whenever you see or touch the item, identify one thing you are grateful for in that moment.
A gratitude jar is a wonderful way to get creative with your gratitude practice. A gratitude jar can be a jar you keep at home or work that you fill with things you are grateful for. You can fill the jar with handwritten notes, but you can also fill it with memorabilia and small keepsakes that are special to you.
As a bonus, here are 3 easy steps for making a gratitude jar:
1. Gather your supplies: Gratitude Jars are a wonderful way to unlock creativity and engage in an artistic side of gratitude. Grab colorful pencils, paper, and any large jar you have handy and organize everything in a highly visible place in your home.
2. Fill your jar: Every day or every other day, write down something you are grateful for. It can be a memory, something that happened that day, or an old fashioned list of a few things you are grateful for that day.
3. Reflect on the contents: Seeing a jar filled with slips of gratitude is so powerful! At the end of every month, you can reread all of the slips you recorded gratitude on, and take time to dwell in the emotion of gratitude!
This is a great, interactive exercise for partners or a family. Find a notebook and keep it out in the open of your home. Whenever you see the notebook, write down something you are grateful for about the people you share the space with. This could be for your roommates, your children, or your partner.
This gratitude practice is extremely engaging. It will cultivate deeper feelings of appreciation. It will also hold you accountable as others are participating and writing entries of gratitude for you as well. The law of reciprocity will ensure that you and everyone using the notebook continues to use it for an engaging gratitude practice.
A gratitude collage is a visual way to express gratitude. If art and pictures are more natural to you than words, this is a beautiful exercise that you can also cherish as a homemade prized possession.
Sort through all your old photos, and create a collage of people, memories, and places that you are especially grateful for. The collage helps you unlock creativity, and can be a wonderful activity for the entire family to do together as well. Once your gratitude collage is complete, hang it somewhere you can see all the time. This way, you will keep gratitude top of mind and be filled with thankfulness every time you see the collage.
Gratitude Visual Album
Keeping an album on your phone is another way to keep gratitude top of mind, and it is so simple to do. In your phone, set up a new album to hold pictures of the things you are grateful for.
Then, start taking pictures during your day of things you feel gratitude for, like a beautiful sunset, a cute picture of your dog, a silly family selfie, or any other small moments that bring you joy and appreciation. You can also scroll through the album to reflect on all your blessings and use the digital album as a way to practice gratitude.
Now, it’s time to practice!
You are now familiar with research that shows why a gratitude journal, or any gratitude practice, has the power to change your life. You can make gratitude journaling a habit, and while this may take time, it will undoubtedly unlock more positivity in your life.
It is time to discover the power of a gratitude journal for yourself! As always, we are always here for you, and want to support your gratitude practice in any way we can. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, ideas, or thoughts.
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