The Beginner's Guide to Starting a Gratitude Journal
Updated: Nov 5
Welcome to the beginner’s guide to gratitude journaling! If you’ve been feeling stuck or unmotivated lately, gratitude journaling is an excellent way to boost your overall happiness and wellbeing. If this sounds like a fitting activity for you, then keep on reading.
In this article, we will introduce the concept of gratitude journaling, explain its variety of benefits, and then give you an easy guide that’ll help you get started on your journaling journey.
What is Gratitude Journaling?
Gratitude journaling is a simple yet powerful technique that can help you find meaning and purpose in your life. At its core, gratitude journaling is more than just a collection of words on a paper; gratitude journaling is a specific and structured practice that involves regularly reflecting on and writing down the things, events, or people in your life for which you are thankful.
What are the Benefits of Gratitude Journaling?
Since gratitude journaling is becoming such a popular self-care option, we wanted to talk about how it offers a wide range of benefits to those who actively practice it. Here is how gratitude journaling brings care to one’s life:
1. Improved Mental Health
Reduced Stress – Gratitude journaling can lower stress levels by shifting your focus from what’s lacking to what you have.
Decreased Depression Symptoms – Studies have shown that expressing gratitude can contribute to reducing symptoms of depression and improve overall mood.
Here’s more on how Gratitude Combats Depression
2. Enhanced Emotional Well-Being
Increased Happiness – Regularly acknowledging the positive aspects of your life can lead to increased feelings of happiness and contentment.
Boosted Self-Esteem – Gratitude Journaling can improve self-esteem and self-worth by focusing on your strengths and positive experiences.
Greater Resilience – Gratitude helps build emotional resilience, making it easier to cope with life’s challenges and setbacks.
3. Better Relationships
Improved Relationships – Expressing gratitude toward others can strengthen relationships by fostering a sense of appreciation and mutual respect.
Increased Empathy – Gratitude can enhance empathy and compassion, making you more attuned to the needs and feelings of others.
4. Physical Health Benefits
Better Sleep – Gratitude journaling has been linked to improved sleep quality and duration, leading to better overall health.
Lower Blood Pressure – Reduced stress and enhanced relaxation from gratitude practices can contribute to lower blood pressure levels.
5. Increased Positivity and Optimism
Positive Outlook – Focusing on positive aspects of your life can shift your perspective, leading to a more optimistic outlook on the future.
Increased Positivity – Gratitude journaling can help you notice and appreciate the positive moments in your day-to-day life, leading to a more positive attitude overall.
6. Boosted Decision-Making
Enhanced Decision-Making – A positive mindset from gratitude can improve decision-making skills, allowing for better choices in various aspects of life.
Motivation and Goal Achievement – Gratitude can increase motivation, making it easier to work towards and achieve personal and professional goals.
7. Promotes Mindfulness and Presence
Increased Mindfulness – Gratitude journaling encourages mindfulness by prompting you to be aware of the present moment and the positive aspects of your life.
Greater Presence – Practicing gratitude can enhance your ability to be present and fully engage in your daily activities and interactions.
8. Encourages Altruism and Kindness
Inspires Kindness – Gratitude can inspire kindness and generosity, motivating you to give back and help others in meaningful ways.
Encourages Altruism – Gratitude can lead to a greater sense of social responsibility and a desire to contribute positively to the community.
By gradually incorporating gratitude journaling into your routine, you can experience these long-term benefits as well! All it takes is practice, consistency, and a grateful mind!
The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Gratitude Journal
As discussed above, gratitude journaling brings a numerous number of benefits to those who practice consistently. It is a practice we as holistic therapists regularly recommend to our clients to shift perspective and combat guilt / negative thinking patterns. So, we put together an informative, step-by-step list that helps beginners feel prepared and ready to start journaling today!
1. Gather Your Tools
Select your Journal – Choose a notebook, digital app, or any platform where you can comfortably write down your thoughts. Pick something that inspires you and makes you want to write regularly.
Try out this local spot in St. Pete that sells journals: The Merchant
Get a Pen – If you’re using a physical journal, select a pen that feels comfortable to hold and write with; tactile experience can enhance your journaling process.
2. Establish a Routine
Set a Time – If you need extra motivation to keep up with journaling, try to dedicate a specific time each day to write in your journal. This could be in the morning to start your day on a positive note, during a break in-between your day, or at night to reflect on the day’s events. On a personal note, I aim to journal twice a day: the moment I wake up and the last hour of my night routine.
Start Small – If this is new to you, it may feel overwhelming to try and cover a ton in one day. To help ease you into comfortability, you could start by writing down three things you’re grateful for each day. As you get into the habit, you can expand your list.
3. Practice Gratitude Mindfully
Be Specific – Write specific details about what/whom you’re grateful. You can also enhance your creative mind here; instead of “my family,” you can write, “the laughter shared with my family at dinner.” Not only does it help keep journaling interesting, but it could make it more fun to read back on in the future.
Explore all Areas – Consider various aspects of your life, including relationships, experiences, nature, achievements, and even challenges. Gratitude can be found in both big and small things.
Explore the 8 Dimensions of Wellness and learn the importance of balancing all areas of your life (physical, emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual, environmental, financial, and occupational).
4. Express your Feelings
Reflect Emotions – Remember, gratitude journaling is meant to be a safe outlet for you to release your authentic feelings. So, alongside listing what you’re grateful for, write down how these things make you feel. Acknowledging your emotions enhances the impact of your gratitude practice.
Use this Emotional Wheel as a guide to help you understand how you’re exactly feeling in each given moment while journaling.
Use Positive Language – Frame your entries positively. Instead of focusing on what you lack, concentrate on what you have and the positive aspects of your experiences.
5. Embrace Consistency and Reflection
Make it a Habit – Try and commit to journaling every day. The more consistent you are, the more effective the practice becomes.
Review and Reflect – Periodically read your past entries; reflect on the journey of gratitude and observe how your perspective and mindset evolve over time.
6. Integrate Gratitude into Your Daily Life
Practice Mindfulness – Stay present and mindful throughout your day. Notice the small things that often go unnoticed and find gratitude in them.
Express Gratitude Verbally – Don’t limit your gratitude to your journal. Express your appreciation directly to the people who contribute positively to your life.
By taking a few moments each day to reflect on the positive aspects of your life, you’ll cultivate a mindset of gratitude that can bring lasting fulfillment. Start your journey today and watch as your perspective on life transforms through the power of gratitude.
Gratitude Journaling Prompts to Utilize
If you’re struggling to figure out what to write in your gratitude journal, prompts can be incredibly helpful. They can guide your thoughts and help you focus on specific areas of your life that you might overlook. Here’s a variety of standard prompts to get you started:
What are three things that made you smile today?
What made you laugh recently, and why?
Describe a small pleasure that you often overlook.
What recent accomplishment are you proud of, no matter how small it might seem?
Write about something your loved one did recently that made you feel appreciated.
What qualities do you admire in your best friend?
Describe a memorable kindness and a stranger.
Write about a teacher or mentor who positively influenced your life.
Nature and Environment
What do you love most about the changing seasons?
Write about a natural landscape that brings you peace and why.
What is your favorite time of day, and what do you appreciate about it?
Describe a specific starry night or sunny day that you remember fondly.
Write about a personal skill or talent you possess.
What is something about your personality that you appreciate?
Describe a recent decision you made that you are proud of.
Acts of Kindness
Write about something kind someone did for you today or recently.
Describe a way you helped someone recently and how it made you feel.
Write about a cause or organization you care about and why it inspires gratitude in you.
What are three things you are looking forward to in the future?
Write about a goal or dream you have and what steps you are taking to achieve it.
Describe a future event you are excited about, whether it’s a vacation, celebration, or personal achievement.
Feel free to choose prompts that resonate with you or use them as a starting point to inspire your own gratitude reflection. Over time, you might find that your gratitude practice becomes more natural, and you won’t always need prompts to guide your entries. Furthermore, once you build more comfort, you may even find yourself creating your own journal prompts!
Do you need help starting your own gratitude journal, want to work on building optimism, or anything else? BYBS can help!
Meet three of our licensed clinicians, who have personal experience with gratitude journaling and can help transform your mind into one that actively expresses gratitude!
Areas of expertise: trauma, mindfulness/meditation, anxiety, depression, codependency, life transitions, young adults, LGBTQIA, existential issues, men’s issues, stress managements, and work-life balance.
“I’m most passionate about helping people heal from traumatic experiences, such as early childhood trauma, physical/emotional/sexual abuse, and other adverse events. It’s not uncommon for trauma to create lasting patterns, like depression, dissociation, codependency, low self-esteem, panic attacks, or relationship issues. My goal is to help you feel empowered to release these patterns, decrease your traumatic stress symptoms, and feel safe in your life again. Every person is unique, so especially during the early stages of treatment, I’ll focus on getting to know who you are and what approach feels best for you. Then we can work together so that you can walk away from therapy having successfully reached your goals!”
Read Hall’s Blog about Meditation: Why It’s Not as Easy as It Seems.
Areas of Expertise: stress management, anxiety, depression, trauma, grief/loss, family issues, life transitions, communication, women’s issues, family issues.
“As a natural strategist and information gatherer, I focus on learning about you! This includes your past, present, and future. Therefore, my approach to therapy is person-centered and holistic. I have found that many of the things that hinder us from moving forward are our own coping mechanisms, something that may have once served us well in the past but is no longer working for us now. I will teach you techniques to manage ruminating thoughts or other anxieties you may be struggling with by exploring the root of these thoughts and practicing strategies together in a safe and comfortable space. My experience in teaching taught me that we are curious creatures, and that education can hold a lot of power in healing! Understanding what is happening in your brain and body can help you increase self-resilience and patience. I can help you develop a deeper understanding of your own thoughts and behaviors as well as how to use meditative techniques such as grounding, guided imagery, and deep breathing to release your stress and overwhelm and feel more grounded and calmer.”
Check out Rochelle’s Blog about Journaling: Activities That Calm the Mind: Journaling.
Areas of Expertise: anxiety, depression, stress reduction/burnout, life transitions, chronic pain, spiritual health and wellness, and relationship issues.
“My approach to therapy is holistic, highly somatic and draws on eastern philosophies centered around awareness practices, breathing techniques, and acceptance and compassion training to help regulate both the body and mind and guide one’s energy towards a fuller and healthier expression of who they are. I believe that when one dedicates themselves to self-study and a more compassionate way of living, they can discover unhelpful habits and patterns of thought that perpetuate stress, trauma and discontent in daily life. When we learn how to be more mindful, we can find what it means to stay grounded, move energy that is stuck in the body, and ride the waves of this crazy thing called life.”
If you’re interested in scheduling a free 15-minute consultation with Rochelle Young, Nicole Malene, or Hall Birdsong, Get Started Here!
Hi everyone, Alayna here! Thank you for reading, The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Gratitude Journal. As a person who personally benefits from journaling, I wanted to help spread the word of how it’s beneficial to your health and how to get started! Also, as a person who experiences writer’s block, I hope you find the prompts helpful to get started/keep going!