The Benefits of Keeping a Gratitude Journal

gratitude journal

Find out why it’s beneficial to keep a gratitude journal.

You might call your journal a notebook or diary. It’s the handy place where you store your thoughts, ideas, experiences, and your work, either on paper or in an electronic file.

A journal is an ongoing 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 trying to better themselves might keep a self-improvement journal. Parents may 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 appreciation journal.

What is a Gratitude Journal?

Where do you get your journal writing ideas? Do you ever sit down to write in your journal and find that you don’t have anything to say? When you practice daily gratitude, you’ll always have something to write about.

There are a couple of ways to use a gratitude journal:

  • Once a day spend fifteen minutes writing about one thing you’re grateful for.
  • Each day write a short list of things that happened throughout the day that you’re thankful for.
  • Choose one day each week to make a list of things for which you’re grateful, and then choose one and write a page explaining why you’re grateful for it.

Don’t limit yourself to writing about big, momentous things. Be grateful for the little things, too.

You can use a dedicated notebook for your gratitude journal, or mix your gratitude entries into any journal you’re already using.

Benefits of Gratitude

Over time you’ll find that you have a lot to appreciate. You may also notice people around you who are ether appreciative or unappreciative. These observations can inform your fiction and poetry writing and will certainly influence your work if you write memoirs or personal essays. For example, a gracious neighbor could inspire a character for your novel, just as an ungrateful co-worker could inspire a villain in one of your stories. The people and things you appreciate could become the subjects of poems and essays.

Exploring your gratitude can provide you with plenty of writing ideas, but there are other benefits as well. Here are some reasons why documenting what you’re grateful for 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 appreciation 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.
  • 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.

Over the years, I have kept a gratitude journal on and off. I find that after a few weeks of daily gratitude in my journal, 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?

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About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.


10 Responses to “The Benefits of Keeping a Gratitude Journal”

  1. Mike Busby says:

    I love this idea! It has boundless opportunities for opening the mind to so many positive things, especially our own memories, which often take up an integral part of our own writing!… Thanks Melissa!

  2. Jesse B. says:

    Totally agree. I discovered this webistie by accident a week ago, and I love it! It’s not only inspirational but also instructional which is what I’m looking for. ‘Ppreciate it!

  3. Billie W says:

    Thank you, Melissa for information on journal writing. I have been journaling most of my life on an almost daily basis. It is a great way to process feelings, expand an idea, or just for the sake of feeling myself write. Recently, I began visual journaling, using many of the papercrafting ideas from scrapbooking. It has been a fun and therapeutic way to add dimension to my journaling. I have created gratitude lists sporadically over the years. I like the idea of actually journaling my gratitudes rather than just listing them. Over time, the lists can seem repetitive and boring. I appreciate your wonderful blog.

  4. Dawn Herring says:

    I love the connecting you make concerning gratitude and having great ideas. I agree that when you focus on the positive, that more positive comes to you. Journaling is the perfect tool to initiate that appreciation for the good things in life and make ourselves more aware of how blessed we are. And having a positive attitude IS contagious!

    I have chosen your post, Journal Writing Ideas: Daily Gratitudes, for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on 10/23/12 for all things journaling on Twitter;
    I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog and website Refresh with Dawn Herring, and in Refresh Journal, my weekly e-journal:

    #JournalChat Live is every Thursday, 5 EST/2 PST, for all things journaling on Twitter; our topic this week is Your Journaling: Your Morning Message.

    Thanks again for these fabulous tips and benefits for using our journal for appreciation.

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter
    Author of The Birthday Wall: Create a Collage to Celebrate Your Child

  5. Chris says:

    Great article (as ever), Melissa.

    I use a lovely little app called DayOne on my Mac and my iPhone. It’s specially made for journalling and comes with a built-in reminder to write something – anything. I have days when I haven’t written anything, but I’ll generally make even a short entry.

    It’s been used to document things that have happened to me during the day, major life-events, observations, and ideas for stories. I’d recommend it to anyone.

    Of course I still carry the obligatory notebook with me for those off-the-cuff jottings and when I really just want to put pen to paper – a more organic experience than typing on the Mac or my phone.

    • DayOne sounds like an excellent app. I’ve heard of it before but never got around to downloading it. I’ve just made a note in my schedule to download it and give it a try. Thanks for sharing your recommendation, Chris.