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10 Tips For Keeping A Gratitude Journal

woman writing in gratitude journal

Last Updated on June 18, 2022 by Lori Geurin

Did you know that one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself is intentionally focus on what you’re grateful for? In fact, research shows that having an attitude of gratitude improves your mental health. More precisely, studies show that people who take inventory of all they’re thankful for experience more happiness and less anxiety and depression.

Author Ann Voskamp explains it like this:

“Being joyful isn’t what makes you grateful. Being grateful is what makes you joyful.”

and,

“Joy is always a function of gratitude – and gratitude is always a function of perspective.”

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Gratitude Journal Benefits

Keeping a gratitude journal can help you improve your life in many ways. Here are 10 reasons why!

1. Boosts Physical Activity

According to one research, people who wrote in gratitude journals exercised 1.5 hours more each week than those who didn’t. [*]

2. Improves Mental Health

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a world-renowned gratitude expert, has conducted several studies on the connection between gratitude and mental health. According to his study, gratefulness boosts happiness and lowers depression.

3. Reduces Aggression

In 2011, researchers studied a group of teenagers to see whether gratefulness predicted aggressive behavior. Their results revealed that gratitude is linked to lower levels of aggressiveness. [*]

4. Improves Heart Health

Dr. Paul Mills and his staff discovered that individuals who kept a gratitude diary for eight weeks had better heart health than those who did not. [*]

5. Improves Sleep

Before going to sleep, people who focused on gratitude (versus contemplating issues) slept deeper and longer. [*]

My Experience with Gratitude

As you can see above, the benefits of gratitude are far-reaching. In the past, I’d always viewed myself as a positive person. But sometimes we don’t know how good we have it until something devastating turns our life upside down.

Amirite?

Since becoming chronically ill with Lyme disease, I’m acutely aware of how easy it is to focus on our pain (physical and mental) and allow thoughts of hopelessness to creep in.

Unfortunately, no matter how natural this may seem, it’s destructive and only hurts you and the people you love.

I’ve often thought about all I have to be grateful for. But when I became sick it became a daily struggle to focus on anything besides the pain. When you’re stuck in a bed day after day…fighting for your life and struggling to get answers and treatment the good is often clouded out by all the pain you’re feeling 24/7.

Many things were put on the back-burner to deal with later – out of necessity. If you’ve ever lived with chronic pain or illness you likely understand where I mean.

But, when we take people and circumstances for granted (our health, job status, family, and friends) and focus more on our problems, we can easily succumb to this negative mindset. Sadly, it only makes our health, jobs, and relationships more difficult to manage.

Printable Gratitude Journal PDF

Do you wish to begin practicing daily thankfulness? It’s simple to get started, and it has a beneficial impact on almost every aspect of your life. To document all the wonderful things that happen to you every day, print out a gratitude diary or tracker like the ones we created for our Etsy store.

You can check out our Gratitude Wellness Journal and Daily Gratitude Tracker to get started!

gratitude wellness journal tracker
Printable Gratitude Wellness Journal

Choosing Thankfulness Over Negativity

Like many good things in life, gratitude is a choice.

Learning to be intentional about thinking and expressing gratitude has been life-changing for me and it can be for you too!

This article gives you 10 simple tips for keeping a gratitude journal & will show you how doing so can improve your happiness, health & life.

I’d dabbled in journaling in the past, but became especially inspired to keep a gratitude journal after reading Ann Voskamp’s best-seller, “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are.” In her book, she shares 1000 things she’s thankful for, the gifts.

I was amazed by how the gifts she named were

so.

simple.

How could it be this easy? I thought.

Yet this process of focusing on all the good that was everywhere around her had such a profound impact on her life. And on the lives of the people around her.

So let’s take a look at some different ways you can keep a gratitude journal.

Daily Gratitude Journal Format Ideas

  1. Handwritten Gratitude Journal – The traditional way, with pen and paper. You can go the simple route with a notebook from the dollar store or you can buy yourself a special leather-bound journal, like this one.
  2. Online Journal – There are several websites that allow you to keep an online journal. Some let you choose if you want your journal kept private or shared publicly. My hands and thumbs often hurt so I don’t enjoy writing with pen and paper as much as I used to. When I do I keep things short and sweet. I recently signed up for a free online journal account on Gratefulness.org and I’m loving it! Plus, they have other features you can use to exercise your gratitude muscles such as a word for the day, free e-cards (I just sent one to my hubby this morning), and a daily gratitude question for you to answer. So check it out because you might love it as much as I do.
  3. Gratitude Journal App – There are many excellent journaling apps available. I use the 365 Gratitude Journal app on my cell phone (so I never have the excuse that I don’t have my paper journal or wi-fi access). It’s offered for both iPhone and Android operating systems – yay. Now that you’ve thought about which journal format appeals to you most, keep reading for some quick and easy tips to help you get the most out of your journaling experience.

Now that you’ve thought about which journal format appeals to you most, keep reading for some quick and easy tips to help you get the most out of your journaling experience.

writing in a gratitude journal

10 Tips For Keeping A Gratitude Journal

Wondering how to write a gratitude list? We’ve got you covered!

1. Keep it simple.

You don’t have to write a book every day. In fact, one study showed that writing one or two times a week is more beneficial than journaling every day. Just do what works best for you.

Related: 20 Simple Ways To Express Gratitude This Year

2. Make it personal.

Decorate a simple notebook with pictures of your loved ones, images of nature, or inspiring quotes. Include drawings, concert or sports event tickets, pictures – anything that feels like you.

3. Be specific.

For example, instead of writing, “I’m thankful for my health” you could say, “I’m thankful I can walk a mile pain-free” or “I’m happy my blood sugar has been lower because I’m eating healthier and avoiding sweets.

4. Focus on the positive.

While journalling about difficult situations can definitely be helpful, keep a different journal for those thoughts. Stick to writing positive thoughts and words of gratitude in your gratitude journal – unless you can turn a negative into a positive (see #10 below).

5. Commit to the process.

Many experts say it takes twenty-one days to form a habit, so give it some time before you evaluate how well it’s working.

6. Have your journal with you all the time.

If you keep your journaling medium (journal or cellphone app, etc.) with you all the times, you won’t have to worry about forgetting your thoughts later. You could simply carry a small pad of Sticky Notes and a pen. Jot down a word or phrase to jog your memory later so you can add it to your journal.

7. Journal outdoors or next to an open window to capture the beautiful scenery.

It amazes me how being outside in nature causes me to think of things I might otherwise forget – such as flowers in bloom, a blue sky, or a tiny bird singing melodious tunes.

8. Nothing is too small or insignificant to include in your journal.

Becoming more aware of anything and everything you’re thankful for can train your brain to look for the good in every situation.

Here are 120 gratitude journal prompts so you never run out of things to write about.

9. Don’t be legalistic about journaling.

Don’t worry about writing a set number of items each time; Keep in mind that each entry may look different. One day you might make a short bullet list and another day you may want to write out a longer story of something significant that happened. If you’re artsy, or even if you’re not you could even doodle a drawing or sketch one day.

10. Find the positive in difficult situations.

One of the positives of recording your gratitude is learning to see the light in dark situations. For instance, “Even though our home was damaged in the tornado, I’m thankful our insurance will cover the repairs.”

Or, “I may have lost my job, but this is just a bump in the road. I’m thankful for good health, a strong body and mind, and a family who loves and supports me. I’m going to begin my job search tomorrow and am confident I’ll find something new that will be even better than before.”

For more articles about gratitude, be sure to check out:

journaling tips

Summary – Tips For Writing in a Gratitude Journal

To sum everything up, keeping a gratitude journal is a wonderful way to infuse your life with happiness and boost your health. There are several ways to journal, including writing in a paper notebook or leather-bound journal, using phone apps and websites.

I hope these tips inspire you and give you a basic framework to record your gratitude and set your mind on all of the good things in life.

“Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot”
-Hausa Proverb


Do you write in a gratitude journal? What have you noticed? Share below!

This blog post has been updated.

12 thoughts on “10 Tips For Keeping A Gratitude Journal”

  1. I kept a gratitude journal in the past. I need to do this again as I remember it made me feel truly blessed with all I had in my life. It wasn’t material things, it was my family, daughters, their husbands, my sweet grandchildren, health, etc. on day I was down and I saw a beautiful blue jay and made a point to write it in my journal. It made me happy to see something beautiful on a downer of a day.

    1. This is inspiring, Kathie! Thank you for sharing your experience with keeping a gratitude journal. When I’m intentional about recording (or even speaking aloud) what I’m grateful for it changes my whole perspective. X, Lori

  2. I love that you utilize this to fight through your pain. I like the idea of writing it down- I try to focus each day on all that I am grateful for, but never thought to journal it before!

    1. Thanks, Brittany! That’s great that you’re intentional to focus on what you’re grateful for.

      I love the journaling too because if I’m having a rough day it gives me something positive to go back and reflect on.

  3. I really need to commit to a gratitude journal. When I get busy, I tend to overlook all of the positive things in my life and it just isn’t right.

  4. I really need to start doing this. I suffer from Endometriosis and battle with pain episodes. I love that there’s an app I can use so I can practice even on bedridden days. I will definitely be trying this out! Best of luck with your battle with Lyme disease. Sending positive vibes your way!

    1. Hey, Lisa, I’ve heard Endometriosis can be so painful – so sorry you’re dealing with this. I hope you start feeling better soon! Hoping you enjoy the app…I’m loving it!

  5. This is such a great post and so helpful for people who think about starting a gratitude journal but never get around to it. I keep a small spiral notebook in my purse and make a point of writing 3 things a day I am grateful for. When it gets full, I get another one. When I’m sad, I read what I have written. I do believe gratitude is a very important part of staying optimistic. Thanks for all the great ideas!

    1. Thank you, Bonnie! And thanks for sharing how you focus on what you’re thankful for throughout the day. This is such a great example of how we can use gratitude journals in our everyday lives!

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