Gratitude Journals And Why They Worked For Me

“Be grateful for what you already have while you pursue your goals.
If you aren’t grateful for what you already have, what makes you think you would be happy with more.” 
   – Roy T. Bennett


What Is A Gratitude Journal

Similar to another type of journal, a gratitude journal is a log of entries in which you express what you are grateful for.

Typically entries are made daily and each entry contains a list or narrative describing people, objects, events, feelings or anything else that you are grateful for.

Ultimately, this journal will serve as a reminder of what:

  • What is good in your life?
  • What makes you happy?
  • What is the most important people or things in your life and what truly concerns you?

Gratitude for…?

Anything. There are no rules on what you have to be grateful for or for how long you are grateful for it

However, most people tend to focus on the following areas for inspiration.

People: Family, pets, friends, co-workers or random people who have a positive influence on your life or help you become a better person.

Objects: Possessions or other objects that bring you happiness, joy, comfort or pleasure.

Events: Occasions or one-time occurrences that you are happy to have experienced or look forward to because they brought pleasure, joy or happiness.

Feelings: General feelings of happiness, joy, content or excitement that make your day good, keep you motivated or make you a better person.

Anything Else: Really anything that you are happy to have in your life because it has a positive impact on you.

How To Write A Gratitude List

Again there is no proper way of doing this. There is no limit on how many items you add to one entry.

Some people choose to use lists because it is easier for them to fill out. Others like to write out narratives and paragraphs describing each thing that they are grateful for, why they are grateful and what impact it has on their lives.

Despite which method you choose, it is important to select one that will allow you to be consistent as well as earnest and honest.

If you really don’t have the time to write out paragraphs nor do you feel compelled to explore why you are grateful for each item in your gratitude journal then it would not be prudent to follow that method.

I adopt the list method because time is limited for me and I want to ensure that I am able to make entries daily.

In addition, I find that the list method is sufficient enough for me. I do not need paragraphs or narratives to remember why I am grateful for that thing and how it has impacted my life.

I like to make a list of three items:

What am I grateful for at this moment (small): This is a feeling, event or thing that I briefly interacted with in the morning that put a smile on my face.

For me, this is typically the sun shining with blue skies making the morning bright. A well-rested sleep or a good dream. Nothing too complex or complicated. I usually just go with the first thing that comes to mind.

What am I grateful for today (medium): This is something or someone that that has made/will make today a good day. This can also be something that I am looking forward to.

For me, this is typically a fun or interesting book that I am looking forward to reading. A work presentation that I am excited to give because I have been working at it. A movie or dinner that I have been looking forward to going to.

What am I grateful for consistently (big): This is something or someone that has made this month, the year or a large part of my life good.

For me, this is typically my girlfriend who has been my rock and best friend during highs and lows. This is also my family who provides me with love and support to keep striving for better.

My Gratitude Journal Sample

Here is a sample from my gratitude journal to provide some ideas on how to write a gratitude entry.

October 15, 2018:

Item #1: It is a sunny warm morning in October. It is not raining and a pleasant feeling seeing bright blue skies and sun this morning.

This is something small and at the moment.

This feeling will last me or only a few hours and is just enough to make my morning good. It was something I realized within an instant of waking up and it filled me with happiness and joy. 

It will make me cherish it more because I know how rare it is for days like this to be possible in Seattle in the Fall.

Item #2: I just saw myself in the mirror and my body is shaping out. The workout program and supplements that I am using are really effective and I am looking in better shape than I have ever looked.

This is something medium. This good feeling has kept me motivated and happy for today and possibly tomorrow.

I will go into the gym and work extra hard knowing that I am seeing progress. It will motivate me to not skip a workout and to keep on the program because I know it works. 

It will make me appreciate and cherish my body that I have a healthy functioning body that is capable of changing and growing for the better. This will make me appreciate the body that I have so far because I know that with age, I will not be able to do this forever and eventually my body will get old, fat and saggy.

Item #3: Having my girlfriend. She has been my rock during the past month in which we have dealt with a lot of uncertainties and non-relationship problems. I am so glad to have her to calm me down when I get anxiety or stressed out. Together we form a strong team that can overcome any obstacle.

This is something large. It has comforted and kept me happy for the past few weeks. 

This will comfort me when I feel that I am all alone dealing with these issues. This will give me the confidence that we will get through anything that life throws at us because we are together strong.

It gives me the motivation to keep fighting because I want to be a rock to her just as she is to me. I want to cherish what we have even more and realize how special it is.

When In The Day To Journal

There are no rules of when to record entries in your gratitude journal. Some people find it easier to write when the day is over and they can reflect on the holistic state of things. Others like to write at the moment as and when they feel grateful.

Regardless of the time that you choose, it is important to do what is honest and feels comfortable. Any entry you make should not feel forced or a chore.

I gratitude journal daily in the morning. I do this because it is when my mind is fresh and untainted by outside world factors like Work, Bosses, Deadlines, Bills, Traffic..etc.

The morning is when my mind is raw. I feel that the morning is one of the few times when I can be 100% real and honest with myself. I have nothing to hide. I have no outside influence. I have no outside pressure. It is just me and my mind.

I also find the morning to be the time when I am most grateful.

The day has not started yet and so I am not aware of what the day has in store for me. I have not been jaded by the good or bad events and interactions of the day.

Despite what will happen later, at this moment, I am healthy and feel fine.

I have a roof above my head, clean drinking water, and heat. I have a comfy bed and a room where I am safe and protected. These are definitely things to be grateful for every day and I do not take them for granted

I used to gratitude journal at night but I found that this did not work because I was jaded or biased from the events of the day.

If the day had good events or something positive for me then it was a good day and I could be grateful. However, if the day was bad and things went wrong then it was a bad day and I could not be grateful for anything.

Journaling at night would often lead me to forget. There are a lot of distractions towards the end of the day and often I found myself forgetting to journal because I was trying to watch a show, watch youtube or get ready for bed.

I also found that at the end of the day, I had no motivation for journaling. Since the day was over, I did not see the value or purpose of gratitude journaling.

I figured that since the day was already over if it was good or bad did not matter. It was done. Thus, documenting what I was grateful for would only be forgotten or would benefit me for the next day (if I remembered it).

As mentioned before, there are no rules on the timing nor frequency of gratitude journaling.

These are just what worked for me. Everyone will be different and it is not uncommon for people to find it more beneficial to gratitude journal at different times than me. You have to find what works for you and try it.

If it does not work then try something different.

How Often To Journal

There might not be any rules on what time of day, the format or what to be grateful for but the one key condition is that you write consistently.

Like most journals, the power and benefit of the gratitude journal only come from consistency.

Gratitude Journaling is like a good habit. Just like any habit, it has to become part of your routine for you to see the value. You have to do it consistently enough to get the benefit.

Although there is no requirement to gratitude journal every day, I have found that daily is the best frequency to receive the most value and impact.

Daily reflection causes you to focus on the little and medium things. These are often neglected and without daily reminder are easy to be dismissed or forgotten how important they are to overall happiness.

When I would gratitude journal occasionally, I found that I would only log when big things happened like getting a promotion, carrying out a presentation successfully or enjoying a relaxing vacation.

These are great. However, they are temporary.

The small and medium things that you are grateful for are what keep you going forward even when things are bad. They are the foundation of your happiness and positivity.

Gratitude journaling in-frequently does not lend itself to identifying patterns and consistencies.

When I would journal once a week and I looked back at my previous entries I would only see the big items. I could not clearly see things that were making me happy or grateful in between those big milestones.

I very little data to analyze to identify what I needed to  double-down on  and remember those when times are bad

Where To Journal

The answer here is pretty straightforward. Use any tool or method that allows you to:

  1. Write as much or as little as you would like
  2. Keep a record of past journal entries
  3. Keep your writing private

A notebook or word document are typical tools to use.

However, in my experience I have found a lot of benefit from apps that are tailor to gratitude journaling. The one I used during my month experiment was the Grateful App

Image result for grateful app

This app provided an organized and convenient way for me to journal everyday.

It contains writing prompts to help me organize my ideas. It creates a backup of all previous journal entries. It offers reminders to keep you on-track. It also allows for adding pictures to your entries to help you better recall your thoughts when reading them in the future.

What Did I Learn From A Month of Gratitude Journaling

When I heard about the practice I had associated this with “woo-woo” science. However, I was honestly amazed at how much I learned about myself and happiness after only a month of doing it.

I learned how to be specific. When you force yourself to reflect and write every day, you start to build the ability to get to the root cause. I was able to trace general good feelings and happiness to specific people, objects and events.

I learned to appreciate the little things. When you journal every day you can easily identify the pattern of things that are consistently leading to your happiness and well being.

I started to cherish and value these contributors because they are the foundation of happiness.

I learned that they are consistently there to comfort us when things are bad and good.

These are the things that we want and need to survive and move forward. They are also the things that we miss the most when they are absent or gone.

I learned to appreciate the outside influences in my life. Over the month I realized how much outside influences had an impact on my happiness.

9 times out of 10, my gratitude came from an external person, object or event.

I made it a point to let those people know that I appreciate them. I also tried to return the favor and ensure that I am there for them just as they have been there for me.

I learned that big things do not lead to overall happiness. I figured that only entries in my gratitude journal would be those of big events.

However, you soon realized that these are just contributors to temporary happiness.

Whenever something big happened (Job Promotion, Vacation, Purchased New Items) it would make me happy for only a day or two. But then it would shortly disappear from my journal and I would move on and forget about it.

I  started to look at them less as contributors of my happiness but rather rewards of my happiness.

The state of mind that enabled me to achieve these big-ticket items was what I started to crave.

It has humbled me. As I mentioned earlier I used to consider gratitude as “woo woo” science. However, the overall experience has opened my mind to the power of humility and being humble.

Gratitude journaling provided me perspective on what is small vs big and what is important vs not important.

When I realized I had things backward, I started focusing on the people and small things.

This is where my happiness comes from and this is where I should be investing my focus.

How Do You Gratitude Journal?

What I’ve shared above are experiences and learning from my own gratitude journaling, however, I am still constantly trying to refine this process for myself. I would love to hear what tactics or techniques have worked well for you. Feel free to comment below with an example or identify an area I might have missed. Please share so we can learn and possibly incorporate ourselves.

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