If there’s one “trend” we love, it’s the recent focus on practicing gratitude that’s been showing up in recent years. It’s making headlines on major media outlets like O Magazine and NPR, and there’s even SEVERAL apps for that.
But being “grateful” goes beyond simply minding your manners and thanking the barista for your morning coffee. Practicing gratitude is about taking the time to truly sit down and think about the things in your life you’re thankful for, and actually writing them down. And while you certainly could download an app, study after study shows that when you write things down, you’re more likely to remember and act on things (in fact, according to an article in Forbes, people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals). That’s why today, we’re talking about why and how to start a gratitude journal.
The Benefits of Practicing Gratitude
Research shows that taking the time to reflect on what you’re grateful for can lead to a happier, more content life. According to a study by researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida, having participants write down a list of positive events at the end of the day — and why the events made them happy — lowered their self-reported stress levels and gave them a greater sense of calm at night.
It also helps you focus more on the positive. On days when you’re feeling just a little down in the dumps, jotting down a few things you’re grateful for or even going back through the last few days in your journal, could be just the attitude adjustment you need.
According to Psychology Today, practicing gratitude can help you strengthen your relationships and help you gain new friends, improve your physical and mental health (because grateful people are more likely to take better care of themselves), and help you sleep better.
- Choose A Journal
If you were looking for an excuse to go to Target, you’re welcome. Or if you prefer, browse the hundreds available on Amazon. A few things to consider: Do you want lined or unlined pages? Will you be carrying it around with you or keeping it in one place? Where would you like to do the bulk of your writing? Will you want to journal in bed before going to sleep? Can you steal a few minutes alone in the den each night? Choose a design that makes you happy and a size that’s practical for you.
- Set Your Writing Time
You truly only need 5-15 minutes a day in order to make this effective. We recommend journaling first thing, or right before bed. If mornings are typically challenging for you, try making this practice a part of your morning routine. Writing it down first thing can help start your day on a positive note. On the other hand, if you find you have a hard time sleeping, try doing this right before bed. Studies show that writing down what you’re grateful for right before trying to fall asleep can help you sleep better and longer.
- Make it Routine.
Like with any new routine, it takes time to build a habit. And until it becomes a habit, we recommend setting a reminder on your phone or your smart home assistant. Another prompt could be keeping your journal on your nightstand or on your desk, on top of your laptop. Create a little routine around your journaling. Maybe it includes taking a walk to your favorite outdoor bench, or pouring yourself a cup of tea or coffee before you begin.
- Start With Gratitude Journal Prompts
If you’ve never journalled before, this may feel unnatural or silly. We’ve got you covered. Try starting with one of these prompts to get your words flowing:
- Write about a time you were grateful for something a loved one did for you.
- List three silly things your kids did today.
- What are three ways to thank someone without saying “thank you”?
- What’s your favorite spot in your house and why do you like it?
- What do you like most about the city or town you live in?
- What is something that makes you unique that you’re grateful for?
- Look out the window, what’s something you’re grateful for outside?
- Write a letter to you from 10 years ago, and tell them how your life is today.
- Pick a random photo, and write about why you’re grateful for that memory.
- Write about something you’re looking forward to.
- Write about something in your life that you have now that you didn’t have a year ago.
- List three things that made you smile this week.
- Think about someone who helped shape the person you are today, and write about what they mean to you.
- Think about a time you were able to help someone else.
Of course, you can write as many things as you want in your gratitude journal, but aim for at least 5-10 things. Think beyond the obvious things (“I’m grateful for my children”) every day and really go through the moments in your day to find something new (“Today, I walked my dog, and the weather was so amazing”).
Many people find that their whole attitude changes once they’ve been keeping a gratitude journal for a while. They tend to notice things throughout the day that they may want to include in the journal, things they wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.
- To maintain a more optimistic attitude, be sure to write regularly.
- If you find yourself skipping days with increasing frequency, gently remind yourself why you’re maintaining the gratitude journalin the first place.
- Be grateful that you are able to get back into the habit of writing again anytime you want. Enjoy!
Lastly, our hope is that all the gratitude you’re putting down inside your journal makes its way off of those pages and into your everyday life. Tell the people in your life how much you appreciate them. Savor that morning coffee a little bit longer. Notice the beauty around you when you walk outside. We’d love to hear what’s working for you. Share in the comments below.