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How to Start a Gratitude Journal

Studies show that practicing gratitude has numerous emotional, social, career and health benefits, among them improving our friendships, improving our sleep, and making us happier.

One of the best ways to show thankfulness daily is to keep a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is, quite simply, a tool to keep track of the good things in life. No matter how difficult and defeating life can sometimes feel, there is always something for which to feel grateful. The great thing is that it’s an easy habit to form and after a while, you are left with a collection of inspiring material to look back on when you need a pick-me-up.

How to Start a Gratitude Journal Routine You’ll Stick With

If you make a commitment to a gratitude journal (even if only for a short time) it can help you cultivate an attitude of gratitude. That's where you don't need to try so hard to feel grateful—you just will. Here are some tips for starting a gratitude journal routine you will actually stick with!
  1. Specificity is key to fostering gratitude, so be as specific as possible. “I’m grateful that my apartment’s fitness center helps me achieve my fitness goals” will be more effective than “I’m grateful for my apartment’s fitness center” Elaborating on why you are grateful for the things you write down can can help you understand what is truly important to you and what you can cut out of your life.
  2. Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
  3. Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
  4. Revise if you repeat. Variety is the spice of life, so try to list new things as much as possible. Writing about some of the same people is OK, but zero in on a different aspect in detail.
  5. Write regularly. Whether you write daily or every other day, commit to a regular time to journal, then honor that commitment. Set a reminder if you must! And remember, there’s no “right time” – it’s fine to write something early in the day.
  6. Don’t set a minimum number of things to be grateful for every day—aiming for five things is fine but accept that there will be some days when you need to gift yourself understanding and flexibility.
  7. Don’t rush through the process—try to savor the act of journaling.
  8. Be creative!  Feel like adding a picture of your significant other instead of making them into a single line? Do it!

10 Writing Prompts to Get You Started

While there’s no wrong way to keep a gratitude journal, sometimes feeling like we don’t know where to start can keep us from getting going. If you need some help getting started, ahead you’ll find 10 gratitude journaling prompts to help rewire your brain to focus on the positives in your life and in the world. Just remember, the physical record is important—don’t just do this exercise in your head.
  1. Describe your favorite moment of each part of the day
At the end of the day, write three things for which you're grateful: one about your morning, one about your afternoon, and one about your evening. This forces you to search for the good and we promise—the good exists in all parts of the day!
  1. Write about how someone helped you achieve a success
Be sure to describe in detail how you wouldn't be where you are now without said person.
  1. Write about a hobby
How does this hobby make you feel, and why is it so special? Are there specific memories or people you associate with this hobby? Do you make time to practice this hobby?
  1. Write 5 things you're grateful for in the past 24 hours
This is the most common type of gratitude journaling and for good reason. Reflecting on your day will allow you to notice all the smaller moments that were actually quite special, like your partner having coffee ready for you in the morning, or your apartment’s beautiful sunrise views!
  1. Write about one of your life’s best experiences
Explain the experience and then write why you are grateful. What about the experience was unique? Who was with you? Writing about it allows you to deeply feel how you felt in the moment, while also keeping this positive memory alive!
  1. Write a list of 10 things you love about yourself
From your physical characteristics to your personality, write a list of 10 things that make you, you. These should be aspects of yourself that you really appreciate and admire.
  1. Open your phone and describe a photo you like
Why are you grateful for this photo? Who in the photo are you grateful to have in your life? While it's important to not get stuck in the past, reflecting can help us remember (and appreciate) significant moments and people!
  1. Write about a tradition for which you're grateful
Especially during this time of the year, traditions can make you feel a sense of belonging and bring great comfort. In a chaotic world, honoring traditions can add meaning and connection to life. So, what is your favorite tradition?
  1. What is a failure or mistake in your life for which you're grateful?
Recognizing your failures or mistakes can allow you not to repeat them again. Through these perceived failures, you can learn valuable lessons that may make you rethink and reconsider your decisions and self. So why not pick one and write about it?
  1. What's something you're grateful to have today that you didn't have a year ago?
Think big and small! New people in your life or a new job may make you feel grateful, but how about your own personal growth? Do you feel more creative, independent, or determined than you were a year ago? These things are worth celebrating, too!
Starting up a new hobby or practice can be difficult, so don’t be alarmed if you find it to be a difficult, overwhelming, or highly emotional experience at first. Try to lean into the discomfort and keep your commitment to daily gratitude, because greater peace and contentment lie on the other side! The key to sticking with a gratitude journal and reaping its benefits is to have fun with your and remember to make it uniquely “you!”
Have you ever practiced regular gratitude journaling? Are you currently keeping a gratitude journal? Do you have any tips or tricks to avoid some common distractions or difficulties? Let us know in the comments!