Perhaps you’re going through a lot of changes in your life, both good and bad, and are in need of an emotional outlet, or you’re simply just in need of some perspective in your life. One way of channeling a perspective of your life specifically, and life itself is to identify what things you are grateful for.
These things can reach far beyond materialistic objects and include anything.
How, why, and when should you keep a gratitude journal? A gratitude journal can be beneficial in many ways than just reminding oneself of what to be thankful for. By realizing what you’re grateful for, you can grow to appreciate those things, feelings, people, etc., on a much deeper level than before.
I’m sure we’re all familiar with the stress and struggles that come along with everyday life, and it’s no surprise that these external forces and can take a toll on us mentally and emotionally over time. By keeping a gratitude journal, you can channel these struggles and gain a positive perspective by trying to find even the smallest thing to be grateful for.
What is a Gratitude Journal?
Gratitude, the state of being thankful and having appreciation, is something we should all strive for in our everyday lives, I mean think about, there are so many things we can be grateful for today, tomorrow and every day for the rest of our lives. Being grateful can start anywhere from within ourselves to the things and people that surround us.
So, you want to learn how to incorporate this simple practice into your life, but not sure where to start? Well, you can simply start by keeping a gratitude journal! A gratitude journal is a fun and easy way to keep track of what you’re thankful for presently in your life. It may sound like a lot at first, but don’t get caught up in the idea of having to find something to be thankful for.
Believe it or not, this is the part of a lot of people find difficult. Sure, thinking about gratitude on a deeper level can be daunting, especially when life gets tough, but naturally, over time, writing what aspects of your life you’re grateful for will make you realize how many things you take for granted on a daily basis.
You’ll be happy to know you don’t need a fancy book or journal bound in leather to serve as a gratitude journal; it can be anything, even a digital notebook! All you need is some time to yourself, what you’re grateful for, an open mind, and the will to write, of course!
“Whether it’s in a regular journal, a notebook, or just some scrap paper, anything can be used to simply take note of the things you are thankful for. The key is to just do it both intentionally and consistently.”
Using a gratitude journal has been proven to improve the overall outlook on life and increase the attitudes of those who utilize it for the better as well. Especially now in the climate of 2020, many are confused as to where to look to for comfort and certainty.
Both cannot be guaranteed, but a gratitude journal makes it easier if you just make the time.
How is a Gratitude Journal Used?
To use a gratitude journal, all one simply needs is something to be grateful for. Some people use diaries or regular journals as gratitude journals. The way in which you use your gratitude journal is completely up to you, and you can make it into whatever you want.
You can make it a personal goal of yours to write something you will be grateful for that specific day and repeat the task daily. Another way to use your gratitude journal is to list something that you want as a means of propelling you to appreciate what you have. I know from personal experience; this method is great for gaining perspective in life.
We as human beings will always have wants and desires in life, many for things we don’t need nor will never obtain, but we can always seek gratitude and find it. The late motivational speaker and YouTube blogger, Claire Wineland, wise beyond her time, said, “You can never get what you want until you want what you have.”
Think about it, there are so many things that you want in life, but until you learn to appreciate what you currently have, you won’t be able to garner that same appreciation for the same things you wished for when and if you do finally obtain them.
The way in which you use your gratitude journal is solely up to you, but for the best experience, it’s recommended that you really dive deep below the surface of materialism and genuinely think about what you’re grateful for. Some additional ways you can use a gratitude journal include:
- Be grateful for the negative, not just the positive—being grateful should be a positive experience, but it doesn’t always have to be for positive things. Sometimes it’s beneficial to think about what your life would be like presently without something or if some significantly bad occurrence didn’t happen. There are many blessings that come out of dark and difficult moments in our lives, and they are worth being grateful for. Furthermore, you can also think about what life would be like without these blessings.
- Think of people you’re grateful for—a natural part of life is seeing people come and go, and this is all the more reason to be grateful. It’s so easy to be grateful for things, but being grateful for the people in your life and you’ve come by over the years is gratitude on a more personal level. Life is truly too short, so try thinking of those whom you’re grateful for and use your gratitude journal to record your relationships and experiences with those people.
- Don’t overthink it—remember, this is supposed to be an activity for your own enjoyment, not something to overthink and spend hours figuring out what to write. Keeping a gratitude journal should be for boosting your happiness, not for stressing you out. Not overthinking it also comes with not overdoing it. Don’t feel obligated to write every single day; instead, come up with a routine that accommodates you.
- Keep it for the good and the bad times—because life naturally has its ups and downs, you might not necessarily feel like writing what you’re grateful for at times. Having a bad day is the perfect opportunity to use your gratitude journal to help you find even the smallest thing to be grateful for. Trust me, one day, you’ll look back and be grateful for that bad day and how it helped you gain more gratitude.
- Try to channel positive energy into the motions—positivity is the best medicine for becoming a more positive person! Try not to harbor negative feelings while using your gratitude journal. Instead, allow yourself to feel the bad energy and use it to find something positive to be grateful for. If you don’t feel you can do this, then take some more time to recover before writing down anything. Don’t just write just to write, be mindful, and make a conscious decision to positively be grateful.
- Write on a deeper level—instead of trying to come up with a million things for which you’re grateful for, choose one thing and elaborate on it in great detail. Anyone can come up with a list of what they’re grateful for, but not everyone can describe why and how they’re grateful. Try to go beyond the superficial surface and really contemplate on why you’re grateful for the things you’ve written.
When to Use a Gratitude Journal
There is no wrong or right time to start keeping a gratitude journal, you can start today, you can start tomorrow or whenever you feel like it really. The same applies to when you should use a gratitude journal. The great thing about keeping a gratitude journal is that it serves as another area in your life that you have complete control of.
There are many aspects of our life that we have no control over, but the way in which we approach them, deal with them, overcome them, and improve them is all in our hands. Your gratitude journal is one of those things, and so it should be something that you use freely and on your own terms.
Whether you’re in a good place mentally, emotionally, and physically, in a bad place, or in between, you can use a gratitude journal to escape life for a few moments and jot down some things you are grateful for. Everyone has their own routine, but it is helpful to be mindful for a few moments and really think before you start writing.
If you feel more energized and reflective in the morning, then stick to writing in your gratitude journal before you head out the door for the day. If you’re like me and feel most thoughtful in the evening, take what you’ve experienced throughout the day, perhaps and write down a few things before you go to bed.
The trick to keeping a gratitude journal is not necessarily what moment in time you use it, but more importantly, that you’re using it on a consistent basis. You’re not required to be a whiz at keeping a gratitude journal, and you’re definitely not expected to write every day, but even writing so often as two to three times a week is fine.
How Using a Gratitude Journal Can Help You Improve Your Life
I promise all of this talk about gratitude journals has not been without a significant cause; keeping a gratitude journal can actually improve your life. I can’t promise it will make you land that job you’ve been eyeing, or help you live 20 years longer than the average human, but I can promise it will help you gain a more positive outlook on life.
Better yet, I have the research to prove it! People from the likes of prominent motivational speakers and lifestyle bloggers and even significant public figures like Oprah Winfrey have sworn by the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal.
“Sixteen years ago, Oprah started a gratitude journal and, every day began writing down five things she was grateful for. From fresh flowers to the kindness of a stranger, Oprah says acknowledging these things made her more receptive to the goodness in her life.”
Source: Oprah’s Gratitude Journal
In fact, the well-known and beloved source of public radio, NPR, published an article highlighting the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal back in 2018. The content for the article was taken from NPR’s daily news segment, Morning Edition, on which lifestyle blogger Aileen Xu was interviewed about her experience detailing gratitude.
In addition to Xu, psychologist Laurie Santos, and professor of psychology Sonya Lyubomirsky were also interviewed. Both women study happiness and well-being as well as educate their students on expressing gratitude.
Though Xu, who is also a prominent blogger on YouTube with nearly 750K subscribers, in a way, sells her idea and experience of keeping a gratitude journal, there are those like Santos who doesn’t believe that something like gratitude can be sold nor bought, but rather believes that gratitude is free.
“And noting your gratitude seems to pay off: There’s a growing body of research on the benefits of gratitude. Studies have found that giving thanks and counting blessings can help people sleep better, lower stress, and improve interpersonal relationships.”
You can find the full interview/article and the research behind it here on NPR.
How to Start a Gratitude Journal
There are so many ways to start a gratitude journal, and no way is better than the other. At the end of the day, how you start your gratitude journal depends on how you want to use, why you want to use it, and when you want to use it. For this reason, try to think of ideas for your gratitude journal beforehand to make it all the more special.
If you’re completely unsure of how to go about doing this, however, there are some steps you can follow to make the process somewhat of ease. There’s no one way to start a gratitude journal, but here is a simple guide that outlines the basics.
You can even take a few of these steps and add your own touch once you have a more concrete vision for your journal.
Simple steps for creating a gratitude journal:
- Think about what, when, and why—this is where the core of your energy should be focused, besides what you’re grateful for, and where the whole concept of your gratitude journal will manifest from. You’re more than welcome to go into starting your gratitude journal blindly, but it makes the experience so much more worthwhile when the purpose behind it is clear. Identify why you want to keep a gratitude journal, how you plan to use in order to improve your life, and when you will write what you’re grateful for.
- Come with gratitude—apart from actually starting a gratitude journal, this is the easiest step by far. Coming fully vulnerable to your gratitude journal as often as you choose to can be made so simple by just showing up with a little bit of something, I like to call gratitude. Coming with gratitude is the easy part, diving deep and thinking about why you’re grateful can be the hard part. As long as you make it a priority to come with gratitude, the writing part will come easier over time as you practice it.
- Start out simple—whether this is your first ever gratitude journal or you’d like to create a new one different from your previous journal, start out simple by writing just a few basic things before gradually advancing to the deeper aspects of life to be grateful for. I say this because the easiest things to recognize are the ones that sustain your life, such as a roof over your head, water, food, clothing, etc.
- Look to abilities in times of uncertainty—as I mentioned before, there will be days when you may not feel up to writing about your gratitude toward certain aspects of your life. Even in these times, it’s important to remind yourself of what you can be grateful for, and if you don’t feel you can muster up the energy to do that, you can look to your abilities. We all have abilities from being able to walk, see, hear, or even deeper like being able to love, think, and be a good listener.
- Be descriptive and full of depth—you can write a single line of words outlining who and what you’re grateful for, but sometimes it’s easy to get lost in this repetitive motion, and you can easily lose perspective because of it. Instead, opt to fully write out a paragraph or two detailing your gratitude beyond just a few words. There is no limit to gratitude, so why limit how much you write about what you’re grateful for?
- Think far beyond just people and things—yes, there are many things and people you are grateful for, but have you ever thought about some situations and experiences for which you can be grateful for? These can include graduating from school, waking up in the morning, your wedding day, and so much more. Gratitude can be found anywhere; you just have to start looking for it!
Types of Gratitude Journals
Because the quality of gratitude has become quite a popular trend and topic amongst many lifestyle bloggers on social media, projects for creating the perfect gratitude journal have also become a popular activity for crafters and artists alike.
If arts & crafts is your things, go for! This is your chance to be creative and add your own touch of personality to your gratitude journal.
For all the non-crafters, there are thankfully many types of gratitude journals to choose from. Don’t feel like you’re limited to a few sheets of paper, that old composition book from school you never used, or a plain journal. Gratitude journals come in all shapes, sizes, designs, templates, and so much more!
They can also be used for more than just keeping track of your gratitude.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t get too caught up in the crafty side of creating a gratitude journal. Everything you see online isn’t what it’s cut out to be, and being grateful goes beyond more than just trends, likes, and followers.
Remember, gratitude isn’t something that can be sold or bought; it’s completely free and should always remain so.
Gratitude Journals in the Form of a Book
There are many gratitude journals that come in the form of books with creative prompts, daily words of wisdom and inspiration, and plenty of pages to record all that you’re grateful for. I actually recommend this type of gratitude journal for beginners interested in seeing what a gratitude journal is all about.
It’s more of a guide and inspirational as well.
One great example of a gratitude journal prompts, and all is Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal: A Five-year Record.” This gratitude journal comes with daily prompts and has a few lines on which you can write what you’re grateful for every day for five years!
I will admit because the creative work is pretty much already done for you, this type of gratitude journal is a bit more costly than your old composition book from school. However, I do personally think that prompts and inspirational quotes are great for helping guide one in the train of thought.
In addition to gratitude journals in the form of a book, there are also gratitude journals that are also made to help you grow in faith. These journals act as a place where you can record your daily thoughts, feelings, what you’re grateful for, and reflections on your faith or spiritual journey.
Whether you read the Bible or another religious/spiritual text, you can use this type of gratitude journal to reflect on what you’ve read and even how it might help you to realize what aspects of your life you can be more grateful towards.
Faith and spiritual beliefs can often be guides for how we find gratitude in life and actually go hand in hand in many ways. If your faith and spirituality play big roles in your daily, then don’t be afraid to let them play that role in your journey of finding more gratitude in life.
This type of gratitude journal is also unique because it provides you both prompts for finding gratitude and for reflecting on your faith in spirituality all in one place! This type of gratitude journal can be found online or at your local bookstore
Cute DIY Gratitude Journal Ideas
These ideas go along with the crafty side of creating and maintaining a gratitude journal. Sure, it’s not necessarily the outside that counts, what’s inside is the most important aspect, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t have fun with templates and all.
Another way of creating a gratitude journal is by using a spiral or clip binder and filling it up with templates. Even better, these templates can be found online for free, and there are hundreds of them! It’s almost like creating a scrapbook in a way; you can add pictures, cute illustrations, and favorite quotes if that’s what you’re into.
You can find plenty of templates for gratitude journals here.
Some Additional Resources and Research Behind the Use of Gratitude Journals
The list of resources and research for gratitude journals could go on and on, so to save you the hassle of trying to find them, I’ve compiled a few links to gratitude journals for sale, the research behind the benefits of using a gratitude journal, and more!
For more information about the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal, visit these links:
For more information about coping with the coronavirus pandemic and other stress-inducing events through the use of a gratitude journal, visit:
For a visual guide on starting and keeping a gratitude journal, visit blogger Clean & Delicious’ YouTube channel here:
For more gratitude journals (with all the work done for you of course!), visit here:
For more ideas on keeping and maintaining a gratitude journal, visit here: