Have you been wondering how to start a gratitude journal? It’s something that’s often suggested in self-care and mental health posts, with good reason. Gratitude is powerful stuff.
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If you don’t already have a regular gratitude practice, though, getting started can feel overwhelming. You might also be a bit puzzled about why a gratitude journal is a good idea, and how it can help you. So, this post is for the absolute beginners of the gratitude world.
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Why You Should Keep a Gratitude Journal
Is it really helpful to make a list of things to feel grateful for?
Short answer, yes, obviously, otherwise why would I bother writing this post.
Longer answer coming right up…
A lot of the time you probably focus on the things that are going wrong in your life, the things that need fixing.
We’re more likely to write an Amazon review for the one product that broke the first time we used it than for the hundreds of perfect things we’ve bought. Trip Advisor is full of disgruntled people who want to tell the world about their experiences.
Starting a Gratitude Journal Interrupts the Pattern of Negativity.
Deciding to start a gratitude journal is deciding to take a moment every now and again to run through the things in our lives that are working, the things we do have.
My kids play a game in the car where they hit one another every time they see a yellow car. Before this game, I’d have said there weren’t that many yellow cars on the road (my first ever car was a yellow Fiesta, and, back then, it was a pretty common colour, but not so much anymore). Now, though, we’re all tuned in to the yellow cars, and we spot loads of them.
It can work the same way with gratitude.
The more you look for something, the more you see it.
Once you begin actively looking for things to be grateful for, you’ll start to find more and more of them, and that is how gratitude helps you feel better about your life.
We all know people who have mountains of crap in their lives, but always seem to roll along with smiles on their faces and a happy attitude. We also all know people who have pretty good lives, but always seem to be feeling crappy about everything. The difference between those people is often gratitude.
This article goes into more detail about how keeping a gratitude journal benefits you, including improvements in your physical and psychological health, better sleep, and improved relationships with others.
How do You Start a Gratitude Practice
Ready to figure out how to start a gratitude journal? Let’s jump in.
- Start small – it doesn’t even have to be a journal. Beginning with a tiny habit that you can build on later can be a good idea, not just for gratitude, but for anything you want to incorporate in your life. Choose a micro-action to begin your gratitude practice. For example, think of one thing you feel grateful for every time you brush your teeth. Anchoring your gratitude to things that already happen automatically every day can help make the habit stick. (Other good anchor points might be every time you wash your hands or every time you boil the kettle or open the lid on your computer).
- Create a routine – pick a time to focus on your new gratitude practice, and stick to it. I like to take a few moments right at the end of the day, just as I’m getting into bed. It doesn’t need to be a huge chunk of time, five regular minutes are better than an ad hoc hour.
- Have supplies you adore – I’m not the only stationery geek here, am I? If you’re going to buy a specific gratitude journal, choose something you’ll feel excited to write in. Seeing a beautiful journal on your bedside table, with a pen in a colour that makes you smile (turquoise, always turquoise), will motivate you to use your journal even after the novelty has worn off.
Need a Little Help Getting Started?
Some of you will be able to list hundreds of things to feel grateful for without even thinking too hard.
Some of you are reading this and thinking, ‘Why should I be grateful, my husband’s useless, I’ve got a pile of debts I’m never going to be able to pay off, and my kids are fighting all the time’.
It’s completely normal to struggle when you’re first learning how to start a gratitude journal. That’s why there are prompts and templates to help you out.
If you’re going to buy yourself a gratitude journal, then consider something like this which provides you with prompts to help you get started. You’ll also find a lot of gratitude journal prompts on Pinterest, as well as beautiful examples of bullet journal spreads for tracking gratitude.
Gratitude Journal Ideas
Still not really sure how to get started with your gratitude journal? Try these suggestions and see how you get on:
- Pick a theme for the day. You could list everything about your home that you’re grateful for. Or your family, your food, the town you live in. Once you get started, you’ll think of more and more things to add to the list.
- Design a gratitude journal spread for your bullet journal that just has space for one sentence each day.
- Put ‘gratitude journal ideas’ into Pinterest and save your favourite suggestions.
- Get a tiny notebook to carry everywhere, and make a point of writing down one thing you feel grateful for every time you’re waiting in a queue somewhere.
- Just do it! Pretty much anything will work if you do it. Reading a blog post about gratitude, and looking at some beautiful bujo spreads isn’t going to be life-changing, but picking an idea and sticking with it for a while just might be.
Alternative Gratitude Journals
I love my pen-and-paper journals, I’m definitely an analogue girl in that respect. Not everyone feels the same way though, so here’s a quick introduction to some alternatives to a traditional gratitude journal.
If, like most people, you’re pretty much superglued to your phone, maybe a gratitude journal app would suit you? The Bliss app guides you through the process with recurring reminders – perfect for helping you build the habit.
You could also try a Happiness Jar – it’s a super-simple idea, and can be a great way to get the whole family on board with your new attitude of gratitude. All you need is a big jar, and a supply of little slips of paper. Every day, or whenever you remember, take the time to write down something you’re grateful for, and pop it into the jar. You can empty the jar out and read your gratitudes anytime you need a happiness infusion.
You can also use a site like gratefulness.org to start a gratitude journal online that you can access wherever and whenever you like.
Choosing the Best Gratitude Journal for You
Are you ready to get started? Take some time to think about the best gratitude journal for you. If you’re going for a paper journal, choose one that you find beautiful. Keeping up the gratitude habit is going to be much easier when you’re writing in a notebook that makes you feel really good. Maybe choose something with quotes to inspire you or one that just has a beautiful cover.
Making it Stick.
Whatever you choose, the key is to make it as easy as possible for you to stick to the gratitude habit. Actually, that’s the key to getting any habit to stick. Set a notification in your phone’s calendar to remind you to write in your gratitude journal every day. Or, tag it onto an existing habit, something you already do, every day, that’s so automatic that you’d never consider skipping it. Right after you get into bed, before turning out the light? Or maybe while you’re waiting for your first coffee to brew in the morning.
This isn’t something that has to take a huge amount of time, and once you get things rolling, you’ll quickly find your brain turns to gratitude at other times of the day too.
Gratitude Journals: The Micro Version.
- Gratitude is awesome because it helps you take a more positive outlook on your life.
- A gratitude practice can be as easy as thinking of something you’re grateful for every time you boil the kettle.
- Anchor your new habit to a time or event that will make it easier to remember.
- Choose beautiful tools, or a digital version that works for you.
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