A gratitude journal can be a simple yet highly effective way to increase your awareness and feel better about your life.
The definition of gratitude is, “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
The only thing I’d like to add to this definition is that gratitude really is about the feeling. If you write down how grateful you are but you don’t actually feel appreciative, then it won’t work.
What works (and why gratitude is amazing) is it gets you into the state (the feeling of) appreciation and that feels really good. According to the Greater Good Science Center, “Happiness is not simply dependent on a person’s genes. It is a set of skills that can be taught, and, with practice, developed over time.”
While I’m all for you feeling good, there are even more benefits to getting into a state of gratitude that can be brought on through a gratitude journal.
When you’re feeling a state of appreciation (or practicing gratitude), you take positive action. This means you’re more generous, more present, and more confident. This will also have the indirect effect of improving your relationships (amazing added bonus, right?).
The more you can get into a state of gratitude, the better. Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the best ways I know of to do just that (and be grateful on a regular basis).
Keeping a gratitude journal only takes a few moments every day yet it gives you a lasting positive mood throughout the day.
- Related:Being Proud Of Yourself (podcast)
How To Start A Gratitude Journal
Below, you’ll find a list of useful and practical tips on how to start a gratitude journal so you can benefit from this habit.
I think the secret to being successful with keeping a gratitude journal is twofold:
- Keep it doable (stick to doing this for no more than 10-15 minutes per day).
- Check in with how you feel after you write in your journal (always making sure you actually feel the emotion of grateful or appreciation).
While there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to keep a gratitude journal, there are several steps and tips I can offer you to get started and actually keep up with it.
Here is the step by step process to start a gratitude journal…
Step 1: Create a plan for when you’ll write in your gratitude journal.
The first step is to plan when. This means you want to know when you’ll do your gratitude journal so that it becomes a habit. The key is to write in your gratitude journal consistently.
The best option is every day, the next best option is any day you’ll do it.
For some of you with little ones at home, your best might be once a week for 10 minutes. For others of you, every Monday through Friday will work.
The key is to actually do it, so start really small and be sure to follow through.
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Step 2: Get a really fabulous journal and pen
Step two is to choose your materials intentionally—i.e., use a pen and journal that feel amazing to you.
Having a journal to record your thoughts in, with the right pen for you, is only going to uplevel your experience.
Setting up your environment for success is what takes your experience from “I did it” to “wow, that was amazing.”
And luckily, all you need to do to make that happen for your gratitude journal is an amazing notebook or formal journal and pen.
A note about computers—they’re amazing, but they’re not your journal. Use a real pen and paper for this one. You won’t regret it!
If you’re looking for specific journals, you can either use the Five Minute Journal or take a look at my full like of recommended journals here.
Step 3: Write continuously without picking up your pen for 10 or 15 minutes
There’s something magical about a stream of uninterrupted thought. And when you mix a little gratitude in there, it becomes a whole lot more impactful.
So, instead of giving into the urge to check your phone, answer the texts, go to the bathroom, or even reply to the calls for you, be MIA for the 10-15 minutes while you’re doing your gratitude journal, with your pen glued to the page.
Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes are during that time, write, write, write.
Writing without interruption will help you actually get into the state of gratitude or appreciation in a way that you feel it in your body (i.e. the only way this will really work).
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Step 4: Answer one journal prompt every day
When you sit down to write, choose ONE journal prompt to write about.
This will help you stay focused at your one goal: getting into a state of gratitude.
You’ll see my list of journal prompts to get started with below. I also recommend downloading my free guide: 75+ Journal Prompts For Women And Moms.
When you have a specific idea of what you want to write about every day, it makes writing in your journal so much more fun and energizing because you never wonder “what should I write about.”
This is why so many people love the Five Minute Journal (and I do, too!). The one thing you need to be mindful of if you choose this journal is what I discuss below in Step 5…
Step 5: Reflect on what you wrote (and check your emotional state)
This last step will make or break your gratitude practice—it really is the most important.
After you write in your gratitude journal the most important thing is that you actually FEEL grateful or appreciative.
What I don’t want you to do is write (take action) just to “do it” but never get into the state of feeling grateful. This defeats the entire point. In fact, it would be better if you didn’t write in a gratitude journal if you’re doing it that way (and not feeling grateful after).
The reason you’ll feel grateful after writing in a gratitude journal is because you’ll get all your thoughts onto paper that were otherwise thoughts you weren’t thinking about—whether they were unconscious or simply not what you were focusing on that day. By writing them down, you bring clarity and awareness to what you’re thankful for in your life. And this raises your vibration state. And this is what it’s all about.
- How To Reach Your Full Potential (blog post)
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Gratitude Journal Tips
Here’s a look at my best tips to start a gratitude journal…
Tip 1: Find what works for you
Practicing gratitude is unique. Don’t be afraid to be bold and find what really works for you.
You may love the Five Minute Journal then decide you want to free write. Be open to all of it.
- Related: Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Robert Emmons
Tip 2: Start really small (5 minutes is better than nothing)
Spending time on anything extra when you’re a busy woman is something to do cautiously.
Because of that, start really small with how much time you give this.
It’s better to do it consistently for five minutes twice a week than it is to do it once a month for 30 minutes.
Really small baby steps that are done consistently is the way to go here.
- Related: Feeling Empowered (podcast)
Tip 3: Be really specific with what you’re grateful for
There is something you can be grateful for each day of your life.
Yet, if you write down, “I’m grateful for today” you’re likely not going to feel a lot of emotion after one or two days.
Instead, get really specific with what you’re grateful for—whether it’s your morning Americano (like it is so often for me) or it’s your kids not fighting this morning or something else—the more specificity, the better.
Specificity helps you connect with the emotion. So, be specific in your gratitude.
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Tip 4: Be flexible in your approach
While consistency is key, so too is flexibility.
This is something new you’re starting and trying, so be open and curious about what’s working for you and what’s not.
Evaluate whether you actually feel good after you write in your gratitude journal.
Since there are so many ways of practicing gratitude, if you’re open to alternative ways of journaling and doing this as a practice, it can evolve over time.
- Related: Creating An Extraordinary Life (podcast)
Tip 5: Be committed in your consistency
Has it stuck yet that consistency is the glue that holds all this together?!
At the risk of sounding repetitive, I err on including this as its own step because it’s so important.
Doing it matters.
Writing in your gratitude journal will have you feeling happier, increasing your awareness, and appreciating your life more—but only if you actually do it.
I love a daily gratitude practice, but if you do it at least weekly on the same day and at the same time, that will be good enough to get started forming a habit.
- Simple Rules For Happiness (blog post)
- Your Inner Coach And Inner Critic (podcast)
- Grow You (virtual life coaching for moms)
Gratitude Journal Prompts
Here’s a list of gratitude journal prompts to get you started.
- Describe your favorite part of today.
- What’s one small thing that you’re appreciative of from this week?
- Go do a random act of kindness, then write about it here.
- Who is one of your favorite people and why?
- What challenge in your past are you most grateful for and why?
- Describe one of the best experiences of your life and why.
- Write about what you love about your kids.
- Write about what you love about your pets.
- Write about what freedoms are you grateful for and why.
- Write about what you love about this season of your life and why.
For more journal prompts download my FREE Journal Prompts Guide For Moms (with over 75 prompts!).
A Final Note!
The benefits of gratitude are truly endless.
I know personally and professionally, coaching many, many, clients that a gratitude journal can really benefit mental health.
From feeling more positive emotion to impacting how you show up in the world, a gratitude journal helps you focus on the good things in life, when your brain is naturally wired to give more focus to the negative.