Gratitude journal

The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Gratitude Journaling.

A gratitude journal is a place where you periodically write your thoughts on what it is you are grateful for.  This is usually kept in a notebook, but almost anything can become your gratitude journal.

My gratitude journals have ranged from simple notebooks to apps on my smartphone.

In this post, I share my tips to help you succeed with gratitude journaling, my transformative story of gratitude journaling, and the benefits of having a gratitude journal.

Gratitude journal

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Why should I start a gratitude journal?

At the risk of sounding like a cheesy public service announcement, a gratitude journal brings more meaning and richness to life.  I will explain this in more detail later on in the section, "My gratitude journal: 30 days of gratitude".

In the beginning, I wasn’t sure whether a simple writing exercise would add anything truly substantive to my existence.

Did I really want to add another thing to my never ending to do list?  How does it help anyone?

6 simple tips for success with your gratitude journal.

Here are a few tips that I want to share with you if you want to start a gratitude journal but feel a little apprehensive or in need of guidance.

 1.  Schedule some time in your day to do the journal.  I found that the best time for me was during the evening when I was almost done for the day but not too tired to write.  Block out a few minutes to give yourself some time to think and write.

2.  Keep your gratitude journal in plain sight.  The best place is right by your bed, like on a nightstand or a table.  Or you might even want to take it with you wherever you go so you don't miss a flash of insight or a special moment.

3.  Be easy on yourself.  Don't expect to know how to write a gratitude journal right away, especially if you have never written one before.  It was a learning process for me.

4.  Keep it simple.  It does not have to be structured rigidly.  Simply listing one thing you're grateful for is enough.  In fact, a simple format is best.  I found that I disliked anything too tightly defined because it limited what I wanted to write and felt inauthentic.

5.  Write your feelings.  I found it helpful to write down any feelings of joy, happiness, peace, or bliss that I had during the day that I could be thankful for.  Even things that made me angry, fearful, or sad but taught me a lesson also filled me with gratitude.

6.  Have a bonus section just in case you have a "light bulb moment."  These are extra notes that you will probably find to be in alignment with what you are grateful for.

The Five-Minute Journal for Gratitude Journaling.

The benefits of a gratitude journal.

There are scientifically proven benefits of gratitude.  This is an outline of the benefits of having gratitude in an article of Psychology Today:

Opens the door to new relationships.
Improves physical health.
Improves psychological health.
Enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
Gives you better sleep.
Improves self-esteem.
Increases mental strength.

Sounds awesome doesn't it?  But, I was, and still am, a skeptic by nature.  So, when I first heard about writing in a gratitude journal and all the benefits from it, I thought, "Oh sure it does.”

The best way to find out about gratitude was to practice it.  I did this method of journaling for 30 days and learned some new, insightful things about myself that, consequently, brought more bliss into my life.

My 30 days of gratitude.

In the first few days of writing in my gratitude journal, I was so excited.  Admittedly though, I kept writing about the same 3 things, which are my husband, 3 kids and my house.

I didn’t want to sound like a broken record.

Those things will always be a given for me.  So instead, I decided to write at least one thing I was grateful for each day other than my top 3.

As the days went on, writing in my gratitude journal felt more like a chore than a pleasurable activity.  I wanted to quit but my stubborn curiosity really wanted to see this through the end of the 30 days.

Eventually, I started to notice some shifts in my thoughts and perceptions.  I even looked forward to writing in my gratitude journal every night.  So, after 30 days, here is what I learned:

I had more abundance.
Little things brought me joy.
Menial tasks were appreciated.
Light bulb moments increased.
I realized what was most important to me in life.
Felt humbled because I realized what I've been blessed with.

More abundance.

Once upon a time, I was on social media everyday and every hour to keep up with my online friends and family.  Rather than admire their photos, I became aware of what I thought I lacked.  I would feel envious of the vacations, scrumptious dishes and perfect photos.  My gratitude journal helped me to break free from my addiction.

Writing the things down that I was grateful for each day forced me to look around at all that I had.  My attention was diverted from what I lacked to what I already possessed.

When I summed it all up, I actually had a lot more to be grateful for than I realized.  I felt more abundant and it was nice for a change.

Little things brought me joy.

After a few weeks, I noticed a change.  I became increasingly joyful and excited to write in my gratitude journal.  They were about little things that I probably would have ignored in the past.  Ordinary objects and activities that I used to take for granted brought me the greatest joy.  Here is an excerpt from my journal:

Gazing at a row of yellow leaf trees.
Listening to classical music.
Cuddling with my 3-year-old early in the morning.
Sipping my morning coffee.
Eating a piece of dark chocolate peppermint bark.

Menial tasks were appreciated.

Of all the valuable treasures that I gained while writing in my gratitude journal, this one sparkled above the rest.  I was washing the dishes and suddenly realized what a miracle it was to stand in front of my sink, with running water, bubbling soap and dirty dishes.

I was thankful for the water, the soap, the dishes, the sponge and everything that my eyes could see.  I thought, how many people did it take to make this soap, or this dish, or this sponge in my hand?

I could thank everyone from the grocery store I purchased it from, to the cashier, to the delivery truck, the delivery person, the manufacturers, the soil, the sun, and the rain.  And that was just for the sponge.

My act of washing dishes (which I hate and my husband can vouch for that) all of a sudden looked miraculous.

Light bulb moments increased.

Gaining more insights illuminated areas of my life where I was thoughtlessly placing dimmer switches.  I began to notice brief, but significant flickers of intuition before my busybody snuffed them out.

One facet of my life that felt more heightened was my self awareness.  I was more sensitive to what my body was telling me through my emotions and feelings.  In the past, I did not discern between their nuances or points of origin.

For instance, if I had a headache, I would be too busy to investigate what the source was and damper it with a non steroidal painkiller.  Writing in my gratitude journal helped me become more attuned to the road signals that my body and mind were flashing at me.

I am able to step on the breaks to slow down and discern the alerts with greater acuity than before.

I realized what was most important to me in life.

My gratitude journal habit helped me to recognize the things that added richness to my life.  It wasn't the grand vacations we would take once a year for 2 weeks.  Or the money we would earn to pay for the grand vacations to keep up our comfortable lifestyle.

I realized that simple and ordinary things were most important to me.  Things like giving my son a bear hug, eating a meal together with my family, receiving a banana bread that was baked by my next door neighbor's daughter or petting my English bulldog.

The things that have the most impact on my life are not planned or set aside for a special occasion.  They happen everyday in real time.  If I was busy spending time focused on making plans for the future or stuck in the past, I would miss the precious moments that are right in front of me.

Felt humbled because I realized what I've been blessed with.

I was able to appreciate all the wonderful things in my life that had ignored before through my gratitude journal.  Even the most mundane tasks, like washing the dishes, was a little miracle because it meant that I had the means to purchase things for my use and enjoyment.

The subtle moments of enlightenment throughout my day, that I nicknamed my light bulb moments, added glimmers of richness to the busy landscape of my life.  Focusing on these positive notes made me feel more abundant.  It was humbling at the same time to know that simply feeling grateful could bring such joy and bliss.

I write down the things I am grateful for in my gratitude journal almost everyday.  It helps my thinking process and gives more substance to my thoughts by writing them down.  Everything I feel and observe are more tangible and full of life energy.

Closing thoughts.

A gratitude journal will enable you to pay attention to your possessions, actions, people you interact with, situations, even your quirks.  You may even find that it is all at once humbling, joyful, abundant, spiritual and insightful.

I challenge you to write a gratitude journal for 30 days.  A few minutes a day for gratitude can impact your life profoundly and at the very least steer you in the direction of gratitude.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end!  I love stories, so please, don't be shy and share your stories of gratitude.


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