Have you ever considered keeping a gratitude journal? I started one on January 1st, 2017, and it was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made this year! Now that I’m all about them, I’m here to explain what they are, how they work and why you should keep one.
While the decision of when to start is ultimately up to you, I do think either November or January are great times to try out gratitude journals for the first time. November because Thanksgiving puts us in the mood to think deeply about what we’re thankful for and remember to show our appreciation for those things more often… and keeping a gratitude journal reminds you to notice these things all year round. January because the new year is a common time to take up new habits.
But it’s really up to you.
The first thing you need is to get a notebook! Obviously. I bought Gratitude: A Journal by Catherine Price, but you can also DIY one. (I’ll get to that in a sec.) It was inexpensive, nicely designed and perfect for my first-time gratitude journal self because some of the pages included writing prompts!
You don’t NEED a notebook designed specifically for keeping a gratitude journal, though. Find a cute notebook or decorate a plain one. THAT’S IT. YOU’RE DONE.
(…interrupting myself here to say that if you absolutely despise writing by hand and would rather type, you could totally create a gratitude journal blog on WordPress, Blogspot, Tumblr or the like and set it to private if you’re not comfortable with anyone and everyone viewing it. It would also give you the opportunity to upload photos and videos of what you’re grateful for, if you’re into that!)
Next? Get writing. Three or five items per day is a good amount to aim for.
I like to write in mine at right before I go to bed, since it helps me to relax and process what happened that day. A blanket + a large mug of tea + my gratitude journal = one happy, sleepy Elizabeth.
Don’t censor yourself or compare your gratitude journal to others’. Write about whatever you’re truly grateful for, whether it’s “I’m grateful for my best friend because she changed my life,” or “I’m thankful that I got pizza today after class.”
The best piece of advice I have about gratitude journals is that they’re for YOU and no one else. So please don’t feel self-conscious. Be authentic. If something makes you truly happy, that’s all that matters.
Last of all, don’t forget to reread your journal from time to time! It’s a lot of fun to notice patterns: What do you write about a lot? If it’s a particular person or group of people, be sure to let them know how much you care! If it’s an activity, try to make more time for it in your schedule. You get the idea.
The longer I kept a gratitude journal, the more grateful I was for myself. I promise that’s not as self-centered as it sounds! Like, rereading old entries where I talked about feeling grateful that I studied hard for a test or, conversely, backed off and took a break when I began to feel burnt out and overwhelmed made me proud of my past self for those good decisions. Yay for being healthy and responsible!
Perhaps the most profound thing I realized thanks to my gratitude journal is that certain periods in my life weren’t nearly as bad as I thought they were at the time. The daily grind can really get you down! Looking through past entries showed me that, for example, I’d been super productive here or had some amazing times with friends there. I stopped thinking of so many days/weeks/months as failures. It felt great to be kinder to myself in that way.
I know the idea of a gratitude journal can be daunting, especially if you’ve struggled to keep any type of journal before. Just take baby steps! Try to keep one for a week, then two weeks, then a month. Keeping a daily gratitude journal takes no time at all but pays off SO much the longer you maintain the habit!