A journal is a log, usually with dated entries. Some journals are topical (dream journals, travel journals, freewriting journals), while others are left open to explore just about anything.
Many topical journals are meant to improve the quality of life. For example, people who are working to lose weight might keep a diet and exercise journal. Folks who are focused on professional success might keep a career journal. Parents might keep a journal of their children’s development. But there’s another type of journal that suits just about anyone, writers and non-writers alike, and that is the gratitude journal.
What is a Gratitude Journal?
A gratitude journal is a notebook or electronic document where you practice gratitude, usually on a daily basis. Here are a couple of ways to use a gratitude journal:
- Each day, spend about fifteen minutes writing about one thing you’re grateful for. This is a good practice for morning journaling.
- Each day, write a short list of things that you’re thankful for. You can write a short, simple list, or you can elaborate on each thing you’re grateful for. You can focus on things that happened that day, or you can write about anything in your life that you’re grateful for. If you want to list things that happened that day, this is a good practice for evening journaling.
You should feel free to adjust your gratitude journaling practice so it fits into your routine, schedule, and lifestyle. For example, morning journaling is ideal, but if your mornings are busy, you can do it at some other time of day.
Benefits of Gratitude
Over time you’ll find that you have a lot to appreciate. Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean we ignore the negativity in our lives or dismiss real problems. But it creates a much-needed sense of balance and promotes positive thinking, which means you’ll be better equipped to cope with negativity and solve serious problems, because you’ll be thinking more clearly.
Here are some reasons why documenting your gratitudes can be beneficial:
- A great way to start your day. It’s not always easy to roll out of bed and propel yourself into your daily routine. Some days it’s downright dreadful, like when you know you have to attend a long, boring meeting, take a test, or see the doctor. If you write in your gratitude journal in the morning, it will start your day on a positive note, and a day that starts well is less likely to turn sour.
- Good for the soul. The process of thinking about what you’re grateful for and expressing your gratitude just makes you feel good. This could be contagious, and other people around you might absorb some of that positive energy. This makes life better for everyone.
- Cultivate observational skills. Observation is one of the most powerful skills a writer can develop. The practice of gratitude teaches you to pay attention to everything around you, and that means you’ll take in more of your surroundings, which can inform your fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction writing projects.
- Promote positive thinking. Because the things for which you’re grateful are the positives in life, when you focus on them, you’re directing your attention away from the negatives. You’ll think better thoughts, feel better, live better, and write better.
- Generate new thoughts and ideas. This is especially useful for creative people, like writers. When you force yourself to sit down each day and think about something, the result is a string of thoughts and ideas. Some of these will be great fodder for articles, stories, and poems.
- A great way to end your day. When it’s time to wind down and shift into relaxation mode, thinking about the good things in life will help you clear your mind and put you in a lighter, brighter mood. That’s an excellent way to prepare for a decent night’s sleep!
- Daily writing. We writers know how important it is to keep our writing muscles in shape by writing every day. Any kind of daily journal forces us to write regularly, but a gratitude journal has all these other positive benefits.
Tips for Gratitude Journaling
Here are a few tips for keeping a gratitude journal:
- Don’t limit yourself to writing about big, momentous things. Be grateful for the little things, too.
- Ideally, you’ll practice gratitude at the same time every day, such as in the morning while sipping coffee or as a before-bed ritual. This helps to build a habit.
- You can use a dedicated notebook for your gratitude journal or mix your gratitude entries into any journal you’re already using.
- Don’t set unrealistic constraints on your gratitude journaling. There can be some days when you write about one thing you’re grateful for and other days when you make lists of things you’re grateful for. Be flexible.
- But be committed. The point of a practice such as gratitude journaling is to do it regularly and to stick with it. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a day, especially if there’s a good reason for it. But get back to it as soon as possible.
Over the years, I have kept a gratitude journal on and off. I find that after a few weeks of daily gratitude, being thankful becomes second nature. Though some days there’s not enough time to write down my thoughts, I try to start off each day by thinking about at least one thing that I’m truly grateful for. The result? My attitude is more positive, it’s easier for me to put a smile on my face (even when I’m dealing with adversity), and minor annoyances tend to roll off my shoulder. I feel better overall. I’ve also found that thankfulness in myself and others (or lack thereof) has given me plenty of writing ideas, especially when I’m creating characters. And maintaining that positive attitude has done wonders for my writing. I’ve found it even wards off procrastination.
Try it yourself and see how beneficial a gratitude journal can be!
Do you keep a gratitude journal or any other kind of journal? Have you ever written a list of things that you’re thankful for? What are they? Do you spend much time writing in a journal?