Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to intentionally focus your attention on the things, people, or situations that you appreciate in your life. Gratitude is a great way to reduce the stress, anxiety and fear that often arise when our mind’s attention is fixated on worrying about what might go wrong.
At any given moment, there are often more things in life to be grateful for than your brain will acknowledge. This is because the brain has a negativity bias that makes it easier for worries to stick. But the great news is that gratitude helps you counterbalance this negativity bias and trains your brain to enjoy the goodness of being alive more often.
By using a gratitude journal, you allow yourself to feel the ease and happiness that comes from knowing that life is full of resources, opportunities, and simple pleasures to enjoy in each moment. Practicing gratitude also helps you relate to others and to yourself in a kinder way. The more you appreciate others, the easier it becomes to see the good in them. The more you appreciate yourself, the easier it becomes to take care of yourself in better ways.
What is a gratitude journal?
A gratitude journal is a powerful tool for reflecting upon and writing down the things that you appreciate in your life, no matter how small or big they are.
A gratitude journal can be a physical journal or notebook that you buy or create. It can also be something you keep electronically on your computer. While either way of recording your blessings will work, there are several advantages to keeping a physical gratitude journal. Handwriting activates many physical areas of your brain, which may make it easier for you to feel the associated emotions of gratitude in a stronger way.
A physical gratitude journal is something you can bring with you anywhere so that you can add more gratitudes to it as they happen or flip through it to boost your mood in moments of stress. Yet there are also many benefits to keeping track of your blessings through gratitude apps so you can add to your list on-the-go when you don’t have your physical gratitude journal handy.
So why should you have a gratitude journal? It offers benefits that help you deepen your mindfulness practice, cultivate a more positive attitude, and enjoy life’s little treasures more fully.
Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.
– Eckhart Tolle –
The benefits of keeping a gratitude journal
Increases happiness and enhances the benefits of gratitude
Using a gratitude journal helps you reap all the benefits of practicing gratitude. Scientific research has consistently shown that gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness. Practicing gratitude can also help you:
- Feel more joy and presence in your life
- Reduce stress and ruminating thoughts
- Strengthen resilience to deal with challenges
- Improve emotional regulation
- Increase self-awareness
- Relate to others and yourself from kindness and compassion
Deepens your experience of the good things in life
It’s one thing to mentally note that something is good but another to actually write it down. When you experience something in your life that you enjoy, you may feel warmth or a sense of comforting expansion in your heart. To experience these beautiful heart-opening sensations on a more consistent basis and keep them well remembered, it helps to bring more focus to them.This is how you can cultivate and nurture the attitude of gratitude that can help you go through life as a happier and more resilient person. By writing about the things that make you feel appreciative of being alive, you’re using more parts of your brain and body which strengthens your ability to feel those feelings more often.
Helps you stay consistent with your gratitude practice
If you don’t establish a gratitude practice, it can be easy for a whole day to go by without actively pointing out the things that you’re grateful for. Keeping a gratitude journal can be a fun activity that you look forward to on a daily basis. You can pair it with another activity like mindful journaling or morning meditation to make it part of a powerful daily self-care routine. Having a gratitude journal easily accessible means that you’re more likely to actually use it, so keep it somewhere that you’ll see it every day.
Can help you shift out of stressful and worried thoughts
Because of our brain’s negativity bias, it can be easy to focus on the things that go wrong in our lives. That’s why cultivating gratitude is so important. What you practice gets stronger. So when you (often unintentionally) repeat thoughts about what could go wrong, you strengthen your brain’s ability to worry. Practicing gratitude on the other hand, allows you to strengthen the neural networks associated with feeling appreciative and grateful. This makes it easier to soak in the good experiences and to feel them more fully. Mindfulness allows you to recognize the power to direct your attention in any way you choose. This means that you recognize the space from which you can consciously bring your focus to the things that make you feel good.
When should you use your gratitude journal?
You can use your gratitude journal anytime throughout your day to note the positive things that make you feel glad to be alive. It’s also great to have a consistent practice where you either start or end your days with gratitude (or both).
In the morning: Tie your gratitude journaling practice to another self-care routine that you enjoy. Write down at least 3 things you’re grateful for right upon waking up.
At the end of your day: Set aside a few minutes to reflect on your day, journal about what went right, and bask in the feeling of gratitude as you drift off to sleep. Here are some free guided meditations you can use to end your day with gratitude.
Weekly gratitude reflection: At the end of every week, you might have a practice of reflecting back on the previous week to write down the things that delighted you most that week. Use this as an opportunity to celebrate your accomplishments and to rejoice in the simple pleasures that brought you the most joy.
Start your journal with a gratitude journal template
Not sure where to start when putting together your gratitude journal? Here are 3 gratitude journal templates that include journal prompts that you can use to start your gratitude journal practice today:
You can use these gratitude templates on a daily basis or leverage them as inspiration to create your own gratitude journal.
Get inspired with a few gratitude journal prompts
Along with the journal templates above, here are some sample gratitude journal prompts that you may consider using for your gratitude journal practice:
- List 3 things that happened today that made you smile
- Make a note of 5 things in the natural environment around you that you appreciate
- Write down 3 things that you’re grateful for about the place where you live
- What do you most appreciate about yourself?
- What experiences are you most grateful for that have led you to where you are?
- Who are the people in your life that make you feel appreciated? What do you appreciate most about them?
You can also bring more gratitude into your life by journaling specifically about these things:
Gratitude for yourself and your body
Journal about some of the things that you enjoy most about yourself including your inner strengths. This can help you overcome the inner critic and build greater confidence and resilience. Feel grateful for your body and your health.
Gratitude for amazing experiences
Journal about the fun and delightful experiences that made you smile or laugh throughout the day.
Gratitude for Food
Take some time to be mindful of everything that had to happen in order for the food you eat to get to your kitchen table…from the food growing from the earth to the delivery to the store or the person who prepared. Journal about the most enjoyable foods you had each day.
Gratitude for Challenges
Reflect on the experiences in your day or in your life that you may have considered difficult. Then think about how they may have led to something positive that you can now be grateful for. Consider how challenges may have strengthened your character or courage.
Get inspired with other gratitude journaling ideas by checking out these 13 most popular gratitude exercises and activities so you can feel the benefits and joy of feeling more gratitude in your life on a daily basis.