Gratitude journaling is one of the easiest and most accessible ways to strengthen your mental health and gain a more positive perspective on your life. Like all habits, though, journaling requires patience, dedication, and intention. If you're interested gratitude journaling, you might wonder about the best way to get started to ensure success.
Everyone has different preferences and priorities, so only you can decide what approach is right for you. However, there are plenty of tried-and-true tricks that you can use as you establish your gratitude journaling practice. Here is everything you need to know about starting and keeping a gratitude journal:
How Gratitude Journaling Improves Your Life
Keeping the benefits of gratitude journaling at the forefront of your mind will motivate you to continue writing. Gratitude journaling is more than just a passing trend. It has tangible, documented benefits for your mental and emotional health. The following are some of the key benefits of gratitude journaling.
Psychologists Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough have researched and written extensively about gratitude. They report that people who practice gratitude are more likely to feel happy and optimistic throughout their daily lives, which can lead to stronger motivation to work toward personal goals. This, in turn, results in even more happiness and satisfaction.
Not only does gratitude improve your internal emotional state, but it also affects the way you connect with others. When you take the time to consider your gratefulness for your friends, family, or romantic partner, you feel much more secure and satisfied with the relationships.
Most of the research on gratitude and interpersonal relationships focuses on expressing gratitude to others, not on gratitude journaling. However, keeping a gratitude journal can be the first step toward learning to express your gratitude out loud to your loved ones.
Alleviates Mental Health Symptoms
If you're struggling with a diagnosed mental health condition, gratitude journaling shouldn't take the place of professional support. However, it can be an excellent tool to use in addition to counseling.
One study published in Psychotherapy Research explored the effects of gratitude journaling for people in counseling by splitting participants into three groups. The first group completed a weekly gratitude writing assignment, the second wrote about their negative experiences, and the third did not write at all. Those who wrote gratitude letters had significantly better mental health outcomes after a few weeks than those who didn't.
Improves Physical Health
The main benefits of gratitude journaling involve your mental and emotional well-being, but the practice might even strengthen your physical health. Dr. Glenn Fox, a gratitude researcher and expert at the University of Southern California, reports that practicing gratitude can improve sleep, reduce inflammation, and lower blood pressure. The most likely explanation is that gratitude journaling is an excellent stress reliever, and stress is both a mental and physical experience.
As you begin your journal, remember all of these incredible studies and stories so that you look forward to your own experiences. Then, as you personally see the benefits take shape in your own life, sticking to your gratitude journal will be a breeze.
Five Steps to Starting a Gratitude Journal
1. Get the Right Journal
Picking out your journal can be a make-or-break moment in your gratitude journaling experience. The journal you choose should excite you and make the process as easy as possible. Focus on function over aesthetics when looking for a gratitude journal. While you may be tempted to select the book with the prettiest cover, this doesn't guarantee long-term success with your journaling habit.
If you want a journal that you can easily bring with you everywhere, you could download a gratitude journaling app on your phone. This allows you to write entries whenever and wherever inspiration strikes, and you could even set up notifications so that you don't forget to check in.
For most people, though, paper gratitude journaling is the best choice. The physical act of writing can be very soothing, and writing by hand feels more personal than typing on your phone. The simplest option is to use blank paper or any old notebook you have lying around as a gratitude journal. This way, you can get started immediately and don't have to spend any money.
A notebook designed for gratitude journaling is a great investment and can help you turn journaling into a lifelong habit. Gratitude journals often use special formats that work perfectly to keep your thoughts organized.
The best option, especially for new writers, is the Clever Fox Gratitude Journal. While some gratitude journals offer either monthly or weekly prompts, our Clever Fox journal stands out because it provides multiple daily topics as well as weekly and monthly charts so that you can track your progress toward your wellness goals. Get the best possible start with your journaling experience - check out the Clever Fox Gratitude Journal.
2. Decide on a Format
The purpose of a gratitude journal is to record the moments that add joy and purpose to your daily life. Within this broad topic, though, you have so many style and formatting options.
Some people prefer gratitude journals that give specific prompts for you to respond to. Others like writing freely about whatever topics come to mind in the moment. Here are just a few ideas for approaches you can take to your gratitude journal:
- List three things in your life you're grateful for every day.
- Record the best thing that happened to you each evening.
- In the morning, write about one thing you're looking forward to that day.
- Write letters of gratitude to the important people in your life.
- Reflect on lessons you've learned from mistakes in the past.
- Write about moments that made you laugh today.
3. Set Aside Time
Journaling is a habit, and consistency is the key to success. By making journaling a part of your daily routine, you'll ensure that you stick with the practice even after the initial excitement of the new hobby wears off.
Try journaling at different times throughout the day to find the routine that works best for you. Journaling in the morning can put you in a great mindset for the day, but journaling in the evening can help you relax and unwind. You could even journal on your lunch break or as soon as you get home from work.
There is no right or wrong time to open up your gratitude journal. What's most important is that you establish a routine that feels good and keeps you inspired.
4. Find a Comfortable Place
Where you write matters just as much as when you write. While you shouldn't deny yourself the opportunity to journal wherever inspiration strikes, establishing a main location for your journaling practice can help you stick with the habit.
If you're a morning writer, you could keep your journal on your kitchen table and write as you drink your coffee or eat breakfast. If you prefer writing in the evening, you could journal while you're cozy in bed. If nature inspires you, you could set a goal to write outside as often as possible. Feeling calm, comfortable, and secure in your environment will help the words flow out of you.
5. Just Start Writing
You can spend days or weeks planning your journaling practice and deliberating on different styles or formats, but the best way to start is to just start. Don't worry if you feel unsure of yourself or if you don't know what to write. Open the book, pick up a pen, and get some words on the page.
For many people, the first entry in a gratitude journal is the hardest. It can feel uncomfortable to open up on paper if you've never done so before. The practice gets easier with time, though. As you become more comfortable and assured in your writing, you'll find the topics and formats that best suit you.
Gratitude journaling is a wonderful way to set aside time for yourself, focus on the positives in your life, and improve your emotional well-being. Creating a journaling routine is the best way to get started, but this looks different for everyone.
Try to find a structure and approach that motivates you to journal every day. As you discover the impact journaling has on your health and wellness, you'll look forward to creating new entries and reflecting on your past writings.