Gratitude Journaling - What is it, and Why Should You Start One ASAP!

I’m sure you’ve heard of a gratitude journal or seen some floating around the internet. Even if you haven’t, don’t worry! This article has everything you could need to know about starting a gratitude journal of your own, so you can start working on finding more gratitude in your daily life.

What is a Gratitude Journal?

A simple definition of a gratitude journal from PositivePsychology.com says: “A gratitude journal is a tool to keep track of the good things in life.” I personally consider it the habit of recording and/or reflecting on things that occur in your day that you are grateful for. The important message here is that a gratitude journal is really whatever YOU want it to be. One person’s definition of their journal can be completely different from your own, and that is perfectly okay!

What are the benefits of having a gratitude journal?

  • It can help to lower your stress levels -- perfect for college students who are constantly stressed out!
  • It can help you to feel calmer, especially if you write your entries at night.
  • It can help you to feel more positive about life. 
  • It can help you to figure out what matters most to you in your life, and at times can help you to see things you might not have been paying attention to.
  • It’s private -- you can choose what you want to put in it and you don’t have to worry about being judged by others for it.
  • When you have a bad day, or are just feeling sad, you can look through old entries in your gratitude journal to help you remember all of the good things you have in your life, and helps you to feel more positive.

How do you get started?

First, pick out a journal. It might be an old diary you have lying around, or you can go out and buy a new one that you really like and that makes you want to use it. Or, you can just use a random notebook you have in your room. Where you put your entries isn’t nearly as important as actually completing an entry is. So for your first entry, just grab a spare piece of paper if you want!

Next, set a goal for yourself. Do you want to write an entry once a day? Once a week? Once a month? Some people recommend writing entries in your gratitude journal daily to get the most positive effects from it. If that’s too much for you though, that’s okay! Maybe start with trying to write one entry a week and if you like it, start writing one entry every day!

If you are going to write entries daily, it’s a good practice to write at around the same time everyday. This will help you to get into the habit of writing in your journal every day, as it will just become a part of your daily routine! As mentioned earlier, writing an entry in your gratitude journal at night can be especially calming, so maybe try writing an entry before you go to bed and see if you like it!

What do I write in a Gratitude Journal?

I’m sure you’re thinking -- this all sounds great and everything, but what the heck do I actually put in the journal? If you are, good news! I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite gratitude journal prompts to help you get started:

  1. Name a highlight from your day.

  2. What are three things you are grateful for today?

  3. What made you smile today?

  4. What made you laugh today?

  5. What about your day today brought you joy?

  6. What in nature are you grateful for?

  7. What memory are you grateful for?

  8. What book are you most grateful for?

  9. What place are you most grateful for?

  10. What abilities are you grateful for?

  11. What moment this week are you most grateful for?

  12. What small thing that happened today are you grateful for?

  13. What talent or skill do you have that you are grateful for?

Remember, there’s no pressure to your journal! This is just for you, so don’t worry about whether you are doing it “right” or not. Just focus on what you like writing about and what makes you feel the best after doing it. Whether that’s just writing everyday a list of three things you’re grateful for that day, or trying to do a different prompt everyday you write in your journal, that’s all up to you! Everyone has a different way of writing in their gratitude journal. Some people choose to write a list of things they are grateful for daily, while others choose to write longer entries once or twice a week about something they are grateful for. There are no rules to gratitude journaling, just do whatever feels best for you! 

I personally would recommend just starting off my trying to make a list of at least five things (Feel free to write more if you are feeling extra thankful!) you are grateful for that day. This is a good way to get started, and if you like this method you can keep writing entries like this, or you can explore some other prompts like those I outlined above.

If you need some extra inspiration, there are plenty of prompt ideas on Pinterest, or on a number of different websites. Just type in ‘Gratitude Journal Prompts’ and I’m sure you will be able to find some you like!

My Gratitude Journal Journey

Over winter break, I decided, after thinking about starting a Gratitude Journal for a while, that I would finally do it. I went out and bought myself a new journal to write in, one that I thought was very pretty and would make me want to write in it everyday. Then, I started making a list of three to five things I was grateful for each day. It was definitely weird at first, and it was difficult to remember to write in my journal everyday. To help, I started doing my entries every night at the same time, this way it started to become part of my daily routine and made it easier to remember to do. Once it became a habit, I started looking forward to writing in my journal every day, and it became something that made me feel extremely peaceful and - you guessed it - grateful! 

As a college student who is trying to balance all of my coursework while also looking for a summer internship, I tend to get pretty stressed at times. Part of the reason I wanted to start this journal was because I had read about how it can help to reduce stress, and I figured it was worth a shot. In the beginning, I found myself feeling a bit awkward about what to write in my entries. Once I accepted the fact that my journal is mine and no one else’s, and that there are no right or wrong ways to make a gratitude journal, I found myself making bigger lists everyday. What started out as just writing down three things a day has now become eight to ten a day in most entries! 

Now that I’m back at school from the break, I have already noticed a difference in my overall mood and stress levels. Usually at the beginning of a semester I feel overwhelmed with my courses and the amount of work each one will require. This semester, I have found myself focusing more on the positives of my days instead of the stress, helping me to feel calmer and happier!

 

What I really want people to understand in reading this article is how truly simple starting a gratitude journal can be. If one of your New Year's resolutions was to feel happier this year or start practicing some extra self care, this is an amazing way to work on that!