Gratitude journaling is an excellent way to begin the practice of gratitude. Here in the U.S., it’s Thanksgiving time. This is one week when many people think about the things they are grateful for in their lives. But gratitude isn’t something we should only focus on for one week a year.
Gratitude is a cornerstone of maintaining a positive mindset. And that mindset piece is imperative for achieving the goals you set for yourself.
Journaling increases happiness, gratefulness, and positivity. By writing down your thoughts, you can uncover hidden feelings that are causing stress.
I’ve talked about the benefits of journaling, but if you’re not a writer, journaling can feel like a lot of work. You don’t need a fancy notebook or pens—unless that’s what you want. I know for some people, having that pretty notebook is motivation to write.
But you can keep it as simple as you’d like. If that means opening a Word or Google doc and using that, that’s okay. Maybe you want to use your Notes app because you always have your phone with you, so you’ll always be able to write if you forgot. Another option is to create a gratitude jar where you write on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. As the year goes on, the jar gets filled.
Just like the tools you use, being grateful doesn’t have to be elaborate, either. Often, when we think of gratitude, we think of the big things: our family is healthy, we have a nice house to live in, and we have food on the table. And, yes, those are things we tend to take for granted. But you can also look to the small things to be grateful for.
Maybe someone let you merge during construction traffic. Or a coworker brought you a coffee. Or your kid got excited about the lunch you packed. Recognizing and practicing gratitude for the small things teaches us to appreciate the world around us. We start to pay attention more to the people in our lives.
As you begin to practice gratitude journaling, you will find more to be grateful for. It’s a snowball effect. If you start being consciously grateful for what you have in your life, the big and the small things, you will start doing it automatically.
Using journal prompts is another easy way to start a gratitude journal. Prompts will give you a structure to get you started so you’re not staring at a blank page or blinking cursor. As a beginning journaler, you can use these prompts to inspire you. If you don’t have an answer to a question, you can think about it and come back to it. Or you can use it as a jumping off point to talk about something else.
Just like with any habit you want to build, you need to just start. You can’t wait for the perfect time or place or materials. You need to just do it.
If you want to get started with gratitude journaling, but you’re not sure how, use the journal prompts below. Once you get into journaling, you’ll start developing your own prompts or ideas to write about. You don’t have to do these in order, nor do you have to use them all. Pick and choose the ones that resonate with you.
Since gratitude journaling is a new routine, choose the prompts or topics that you think will be easiest to write about. Once you get in the habit of writing in your gratitude journal, you can tackle more challenging topics. If you find it too hard to write when you first start, you’ll be more likely to give up.
Gratitude Journal Prompts:
- Who makes you feel loved? How do they do that?
- Write down 3 things that made you smile today.
- Name one thing you love about your body and why.
- What is your best quality?
- Jot down something that made you laugh today.
- What is your favorite part of the morning?
- What is a challenge or obstacle you faced and learned something from?
- Write down some good news you’ve received.
- Write down an event or activity you’re excited to participate in.
- What is your favorite memory?
- What is the best compliment someone ever gave to you? Why was it the best?
- Why are you excited about journaling? What do you hope to get out of it?
- What is a personal strength you’re grateful for?
- Name a song you have to dance to (or sing along with).
- Write down something you’re grateful for in your home.
- What is something you’re looking forward to in the next day?
- What quote has a special meaning to you? Why is it special?
- In what ways can you show being grateful toward yourself?
- Jot down something you love about your job.
- What mistake do you look back on fondly? Why?
- Name your favorite day of the week and explain why it’s your favorite.
- What is something you can be grateful for no matter how bad your day was?
- What song makes you feel nostalgic or sentimental? Why does it evoke those feelings?
- Who do you look to for inspiration?
- What are you proud of?
- Write down the last truly beautiful thing you saw.
- Write about the little moments of your day that you’d like to remember or reflect on.
- What always brings you immense amounts of joy?
- What is something that you think is under-appreciated?
- Who do you have unconditional love for? Is it mutual?
Gratitude is a simple concept that can have a huge impact on your life. Regardless of how you acknowledge gratitude, it’s important to do it on a daily basis so you get the full benefits.
Research shows that gratitude journaling is most effective if done consistently, but building new habits takes time. You need to put in the effort to add this into your daily routine so that it does become a habit. Set a goal for yourself and a specific time that you will journal.
If you forget to journal, instead of beating yourself up, reflect on it. How do you feel? Can you make a note for yourself to journal later? Maybe there’s something on your mind and you can take a few minutes to process it and then add it to your journal.
Building a journaling habit begins with considering what you want and why you want it. A gratitude journal can be used to help you maintain a positive mindset as you work on your other goals. Using journal prompts can help you get into the groove of writing every day because it takes the pressure off of trying to think about what to write.
But you can also just write when you’re inspired to record something or when you need an extra bit of gratitude. Other times, maybe you don’t write it, but you think about it. The important piece is remembering to practice gratitude.
Once you get into writing in your gratitude journal, you notice changes not just in your mood or attitude, but in your overall mindset.