Gratitude Journaling: Benefits, Inspiration & How to Make it Stick
Put simply, gratitude journaling is where you take time out of the day to be thankful. By writing down your blessings, you encourage yourself to think about things that you might have otherwise taken for granted.
The way you journal is up to you. There’s no objective gratitude journal definition that you need to abide by. However, in order to receive the gratitude journaling benefits, you must truly feel thankful. Don’t just write your blessings down and expect to unleash the power of gratitude. You need to summon the positive emotion associated with each of the things you write about. By appreciating what you have in life to the fullest extent, you can begin to attract more.
As gratitude journaling has grown in popularity, so too has the number of ways in which you can do it. Download out handy Gratitude Journaling Guide for essential information on the go. We have also prepared plenty of gratitude journal prompts, questions, and exercises that will get you exploring gratitude in new ways.
Gratitude Journaling Benefits
Expressing gratitude has innumerable benefits. You may experience any or all of the following:
- Increased happiness – It empowers you to enjoy what you have, rather than dwell on what you lack.
- Increased mindfulness – Gratitude allows you to be more appreciative of the present moment.
- Elevated self-awareness – It helps you understand how your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions shape your reality.
- Organized and clear mind – Gratitude boosts clarity and helps you understand your emotions on a deeper level.
- Heightened compassion – It encourages you to show others how much they mean to you.
- Increased optimism – When you’re thankful for what you have, you start to see things as if the glass were half-full.
- Less irritable – Gratitude teaches you to accept things that are out of your control and focus on what you can change instead.
- Increased self-love – After going through tons of things you’re grateful for, you begin to realize how amazing you actually are!
- Improved sleep – Drifting off is a lot easier when your mind is calm and positive, rather than stressed or overthinking.
In addition to the benefits, it’s worth remembering the side effects of not gratitude journaling. If you aren’t counting your blessings, you’ll find yourself counting your misfortunes. How many times has that made you feel good? Overthinking everything that’s gone wrong in your past leads to self-blame and doubles your worries. Think of gratitude as the opposite.
How to Journal
First thing’s first, you’ll need a journal. In a pinch, you can text yourself your gratitude list, but it does help to have a special notebook for this exact purpose. Pick one that will make you happy to write in it. There are all sorts of gratitude journals on the market now, specifically designed with gratitude journaling exercises. These are great but an empty lined notebook works fine.
Secondly, grab yourself a pen. Choose your favorite color and ensure it writes smoothly so even the simple act of jotting down your list makes you feel good.
Finally, set a time to do it every day. Everybody’s different so you can choose whatever works best for you but set a reminder so that you don’t forget.
What to do
- Write your list – Choose several things that you’re grateful for and jot them down.
- Get specific – Always ask yourself why you’re grateful for this thing. Does it make you feel more confident? Does it affect your comfort levels? Was it a surprise that you didn’t expect?
At the end of each item on your list, write “because” and give your reason.
- Vary your list – Try to make each entry unique. It’s good practice to be thankful for a wide spectrum of things rather than narrowing your focus.
- Direct your gratitude – To avoid feeling silly writing to yourself, imagine you’re actively thanking somebody or something. Whether this is somebody you know, or a more profound spiritual entity, directing your thanks will enhance your ability to experience the associated emotions.
- Set an intention – This is particularly great if you journal in the morning because you can set your intention for the day when you’re at the peak of positivity. At the end of your journal entry, write at least one thing you intend to achieve today. It doesn’t matter what it is, just that you focus on making it happen.
When gratitude journaling, remember that the more and the deeper the gratitude, the better. A little gratitude can cause a little change, but a lot of gratitude can cause monumental changes.
Gratitude Journal Ideas
You may sit down to write and not be able to think of anything you’re grateful for. This could be because you’re in a bad mood, but there is always something to be grateful for. Take a peek at the following list of gratitude journal prompts if you’re feeling uninspired.
- Physical health
- Emotional health
- Work and career
- Material goods
- Survival necessities (drinkable water, fresh air, food)
- Nature (sunlight, stars, trees, and natural beauty)
- Things that made you laugh
- Entertainment (books, TV, films, games, etc)
How to Turn Gratitude Journaling Into a Habit
People who practice gratitude as a habit tend to fall into one of two categories: the early risers or the night owls. Morning or night, both are easy ways to turn gratitude into a habit because you can leave your journal and pen by your bed and never forget.
Practicing gratitude in the morning
- You start the day in a good mood – Even if you wake up, feel terrible and want to skip gratitude entirely, by forcing yourself to think of the good things, you naturally lift your mood. It’s the best way to guarantee a good start to the day.
- You can set intentions for the day – Prime yourself first thing in the morning to set intentions with tons of positive energy. You’re more likely to hit all your targets if you start with a mindset of gratitude.
- You will feel more productive – After a morning gratitude session, you’re likely to feel pumped for the day. Use it to get things done while you’re in a state of flow.
Practicing gratitude at night
- You end the day with a smile – Gratitude before going to sleep helps you sum up the previous day and bask in happy memories and positive energy.
- It improves sleep – It’s far easier to fall asleep when you’re thinking happy thoughts. By filling yourself with gratitude for how snug you are in your comfy bed, you can’t help but fall asleep fast.
- You’ll wake up feeling energized – Some people prefer to set their intentions for the following day the night before. This helps them wake up with purpose and energy.
If you wanted to, you could do both! It’s a surefire way to double down on positive energy in your life.
Some people find list-making to be tedious though. They lose motivation quickly and stop altogether because it doesn’t stimulate them enough. If that’s the case, then remember, the only limitations are the ones you set yourself. There’s no need to follow rules, and there are countless ways to practice gratitude without having to be so repetitive.
- Delve deep into one thing – Instead of writing a list of many things, try going deeper into one specific thing that you’re grateful for. You could write an essay, a story, or even paint a picture to show your gratitude. The deeper you go, the better the results.
- Choose a different topic every day – This is a great way to freshen up your practice if you feel like it’s a struggle to come up with new ideas. Check out and download our gratitude journal templates and prompts for fresh topics every day.
- Keep a gratitude stone – Keep a smooth tumbled stone nearby that will remind you to be grateful throughout the day. Every time you see it, think of something you’re thankful for.
- Create a vision board – To manifest your goals, be grateful for things that you don’t have yet. Choose pictures of your dream home, car, and life and show gratitude for what will be. Write about them in your next journal session.
- The magic check technique – Made popular by The Secret, get a blank check and write in the amount you wish to receive or earn, as well as the date and signature. Imagine how you would feel receiving that sum of money.
In 1985, Jim Carrey famously wrote himself a check for ten million dollars, for “acting services rendered”, and dated it ten years into the future. In 1995, he starred in Dumb and Dumber and earned the exact amount he’d written. Gratitude for something yet to happen plays a key role in manifesting it.
To reap the gratitude journaling benefits, keep it up consistently. It’ll become a habit in no time, and it might just change your life.
If all else fails, always remember the wise words of Buddha: “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”