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Seeing The Good: The Benefits Of Owning A Gratitude Journal

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

As I wrap up my junior year of college with bittersweet nostalgia, I find myself longing for the simpler days of freshman year: easier classes, a fresh start, and so much left to explore at the University of Connecticut… though, in reality, I spent much of freshman year missing high school and the comfort of my life at home. And back in high school, I was always yearning for earlier years, when I was much younger and college still seemed far off and distant. 

The truth is, when I reflect on just about any past time of my life, my instinct is to remember everything that I had then that I don’t have now. Whether it be less academic stress, a better job, or even just the anticipation of good times ahead, I romanticize the past and regard it as much more glamorous than it actually was, all under the guise of nostalgia. It can be very easy to get stuck in this loop of idealization, especially when you take for granted your present circumstances. 

If you also catch yourself taking the present moment for granted too often, I recommend taking a swing at gratitude journaling to serve as your own reminder of positivity. Without further ado, here are some thoughts on how to make the most of your new best hobby!

picking the journal

Thanks to my emotional dependency on journaling, I take journals themselves very seriously. While this is something that I personally like to let myself splurge on with a trip to Barnes & Noble or Target, of course, literally any journal will do. Whether it’s a cheap marble notebook from Walmart or a pricy journal from a bookstore, it’ll get the job done. My current journal is one of these decomposition books that I got at Target a while back; I mostly just chose it because its appealing cover motivates me to pick it up often. Of course, select whatever type of journal speaks to you — and feel free to personalize it however you like (i.e. decorating it with inspiring photos of some of the things you feel most grateful for).

No journal? No problem! You can easily show your gratitude without the use of a physical journal. A simple notes app list is always effective, or you can try your hand at using a virtual organizer, such as Notion, for your lists.

Gratitude prompts

When I need guidance in figuring out what I want to write about, I will occasionally use a specific prompt from online to guide my journaling. Just looking up “gratitude journal prompts” will yield thousands of relevant searches, but here are some prompts I recommend trying to get a feel for gratitude journaling:

  • What is one thing I often take for granted?: I love this prompt because it forces you to zoom in on the little things in life that might go unnoticed day-to-day. Responses to this can be as plain as a close friendship that you don’t tend to think twice about, or simply just being in good health.
  • What made me smile today?: Perfect for reflection after long days, both good and bad, but especially after a rough one where seemingly nothing has gone your way. Focusing on even the smallest moments of happiness can give way to hope for a better tomorrow.
  • What am I grateful for in this moment?: This prompt can be helpful in periods of high stress, as it forces you to slow down, zoom out, and channel positivity.
  • Who are three people in my life that I am grateful for?: I enjoy responding to this question when I am feeling particularly thankful for those around me, oftentimes for my closest friends. Taking the time to ponder this prompt can really help shed some light on how lucky I am to have the support system I do, which always makes me feel less alone.
  • What do I appreciate about myself?: Conversely, this is the perfect prompt for self-love. It’s important to show yourself some gratitude, too, not just the people and things you’re surrounded by. (Plus, making the effort to engage in journaling can be an answer to this in and of itself. Easy enough!)

gratitude lists

Generally, I tend to opt for a simple list of anything and everything that comes to mind when I think, “What am I grateful for?” Even just jotting down a few things can help me ground myself and focus my attention on the good. Sometimes, when I have the time to put more energy into my lists, I will give myself a topic to focus in on. For example, before returning to school every fall and spring, I like to go in with a positive mindset by writing down all that I am grateful for about school as a whole, as well as anything that I have to look forward to that semester in particular (i.e. an exciting new class, upcoming social events, etc.). On other occasions, I might challenge myself to find, say, thirty things I am grateful for. While this always seems like a lot at first, I find that once I start identifying the positives in my life, it can be hard to stop. Of course, do whatever works for you! The beauty of journaling is that it is completely by you, for you — you can start with writing as much or as little as you want, and go from there.


For a while, I had been turned off from keeping a gratitude journal under the assumption that I would have to keep up with it a few times a week, if not daily, to see any effects on my mindset. This seemed daunting enough to the point where I decided against getting into it at all. Having now been using the same journal for nearly two years, I realize how counterproductive this line of thinking was. Something is always better than nothing! While I do find that staying consistent with journaling is always beneficial, there are times when life gets in the way and I unintentionally go weeks on end without it. While this was discouraging for me at first, I now find comfort in knowing I can always pick it back up whenever I feel the need to. My advice for anybody starting out would be to not set an unrealistic goal that might wind up as more of a setback than motivation — again, getting anything jotted down counts!

I hope this overview has left you feeling inspired to pick up a pen and start writing, and may your gratitude lists always serve as a reminder of positivity in your life!

Kim Goldman

U Conn '25

Kim is a junior double majoring in Psychology and Human Development & Family Sciences at UConn. Beyond Her Campus, she is also involved with UConn's Academic Achievement Center and works at the UC cafes on-campus. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with friends, journaling, attending concerts, and reading.