The Mood-Changing Magic of Gratitude Journals: Why & How to Start
You’ve probably heard the advice that gratitude journaling will make you happier, but could gratitude really be so magical? Experts say: Absolutely! In fact, researchers have found that gratitude “can improve sleep, mood and immunity… decrease depression, anxiety, difficulties with chronic pain and risk of disease.” What’s more, gratitude may have fulfilled an evolutionary purpose, helping our ancestors to survive in growing societies. Pretty amazing!
With such powerful magic within easy reach, starting and keeping a gratitude journal should be a no-brainer, right? Unfortunately, with our busy lives and lots of things to draw our attention away from self care, it can be hard to build this healthy habit. That’s why it’s important to make a plan to harness this mood magic, and we’ve got a step-by-step guide for you. Let’s go!
Step 1: Decide where you’ll write down your gratitude
Your gratitude journal can be anything you want it to be. It could be a standard notebook from the school supplies aisle, a fancy designer journal with “Gratitude” embossed on the cover in a curvy font, or even a mobile app if digital journaling works well for you. Into aesthetics? Go for a journal with colorful pages and a rainbow of pen colors to liven up the contents. More of a minimalist? A sleek and simple notebook with a fine black pen will do the trick. If you’ve already got a bullet journal, you can even just designate monthly pages where you add one line of gratitude daily. The important thing is that your journal reflects your own lifestyle and makes you excited to capture your daily sparks of gratitude.
Step 2: Pick a time to reflect & schedule it
Gratitude journaling delivers the greatest benefits when you make it a consistent habit. Think about your daily routine and find a pocket of time that you can dedicate to your gratitude journal.
- It could be first thing in the morning while sipping your coffee, which can have you starting the day with a more mindful and positive perspective.
- You might choose to journal during your lunch break, encouraging you to look on the bright side in the middle of a tough day.
- Probably the most popular choice is in the evening as you wind down before bed, so you can reflect on the day and sleep with a clear mind.
Choose a time that will allow you to reflect without distractions, then schedule it in your planner or set a phone reminder so you won’t forget this important habit. Treat it as a can’t-miss appointment, and show up for yourself day after day.
Step 3: Write how MUCH or how LITTLE you want
Here’s where the best magic happens: actually writing in your gratitude journal. Not too sure what you’re supposed to write? Well, the beauty of gratitude journaling is that there are no strict rules. You can write as much or as little as you want, and there’s no pressure to write beautiful prose. Here are some examples:
- “I’m thankful for the delicious homemade dinner I shared with my loved ones. Family is everything to me.”
- ”A stranger held the door for me today when my hands were full. So nice!”
- ”My cat”
- ”I have enough money to pay my bills this month, and to keep my fridge stocked”
- “Tomorrow’s my day off!”
If you’re feeling stuck, you can also find lots of gratitude prompts online to get your words flowing. Just remember: We're all human, and some days might be harder to find bright spots than others. On those days, it's totally okay to write just one thing that gives you comfort, even if (or perhaps especially if!) it’s something you usually take for granted, like clean water or access to the internet.
Step 4: Recharge the magic daily & watch for highlights
Once you've started your gratitude journaling journey, it's important to keep the magic alive. Make journaling a daily habit in order to recharge the power of gratitude, and don’t forget to review your entries periodically. For example, schedule a few moments each Sunday to glance over the past week’s gratitude and positivity. While the act of writing in the first place is beneficial, re-reading over time helps you relive those special moments, and even sheds light on the things that matter to you most because they get mentioned so often. And when you’re feeling especially stressed or unlucky, reach for that magical book to boost your mood and be reminded of all the things that bring you joy.
Now you’ve got a 4-step plan to get started with daily gratitude journaling! If you’ve already got the ideal notebook or app for jotting down your reflections, there’s no better time to get started than right after you finish reading. What’s something lovely that happened today or yesterday? What’s something in your field of vision that makes you smile? What’s something on your schedule that you’re excited about? Harness that mood magic and add it to your gratitude journal now!