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How to Start a Gratitude Journal

Gratefulness feels great! Here’s how to start a gratitude journal and give thanks all year!

Thanksgiving brings memories of warm, crackling fires, cozy family dinners, laughter, and time with relatives (you either longed to see or wanted to avoid seeing). The very essence of Thanksgiving is gratefulness—they say gratitude is the highest attitude.

Our mind has something that psychology calls the ‘negative bias,’ the natural tendency to see the bad first (and for longer) than the good. What do you tend to hold on to when you receive nine compliments and one criticism? Uh huh…

Maintaining a gratitude journal is an easy step you can take to make gratitude a subconscious habit. A gratitude journal is an exercise proven to lower stress levels, facilitate positive thinking, boost self-esteem, keep you focused on your goals, and refresh your perspective on life.

You can also write in your gratitude journal when you feel particularly down. You will feel uplifted and realize that things aren’t as bad as they might seem. Arianna Huffington, says in her book Thrive, “according to a study by researchers from the University of Minnesota and Florida, having participants write a list of positive events at the close of a day—and why the events made them happy—lowered their self-reported stress levels and gave them a greater sense of calm at night.”

Read more about the benefits of a gratitude journal and wow to maintain one on huffpost.com.

Six Simple Steps to Start a Gratitude Journal

  1. Set a particular time to write in your gratitude journal to make it into a mini-ritual. A good time to do this would be at the end of the day, 10–15 minutes before going to sleep.
  2. Write 5–10 things from the day for which you are grateful. At first, you may find it hard to start, but as you begin writing, you will see how your list grows longer and how your day was actually better than you may have thought. However, as research from the University of California Davis suggests, aim for depth over breadth, and focus on elaborating in detail the thing you are grateful for to see more effective results.
  3. Your list can be daily simple, mundane things (had pancakes for breakfast) that may happen every day and that you take for granted. However, this does not mean you can’t add sublime and timeless things like the love of your family and the Beatles to your list.
  4. Be sure to list unexpected, surprising events, as they tend to elicit stronger emotional feelings of gratitude.
  5. Mix it up: Yes, we know you’re grateful for the sunshine every morning, but try to write something new that you are thankful for each day instead of repeating the same things over and over. You will expand your awareness, horizons, and perspective this way.
  6. One of the most effective ways to grow your gratitude is to remember what would have happened if that particular event/ situation didn’t happen or to think about the worst possible scenario.

By focusing on gratitude daily, you’re training your mind to recognize and remember all the things you have to be thankful for. Gratitude is one of the cornerstone habits of long-term happiness, and keeping a journal is an easy way to make gratitude a part of your everyday self-care practice.


i sharma

Isha Sharma, a global nomad native to the Himalayas and raised across six countries. Youth ambassador and Instructor at the Art of Living, E-RYT 300 yoga yeacher, social worker, nutritionist, and mind-body wellness writer.