The benefits of gratitude are endless, but often easier said than done if we’re stuck in a slump. Getting started can feel overwhelming and building a habit can take time.
One of my favourite ways to practice gratitude is using a gratitude journal. Use these tips on how to start a gratitude journal to help get you started and stick to your gratitude practice!
This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I do not promote anything I do not wholeheartedly believe in or stand behind. You can click here to read my full affiliate disclosure.
What is Gratitude?
To put it simply, gratitude is feeling thankful for all the positive things in our lives. It seems like a simple thing, but it is something that many of us overlook.
When we focus on the bad, we neglect to say thanks for all the things that are actually good. This is when our attitude can change to ungrateful and negative – not ideal.
By actively practicing gratitude we can focus our attention on these positive things that we might otherwise overlook. This can have life changing benefits!
What are the benefits of practicing gratitude?
1. Gratitude breaks the cycle of negativity
Forcing yourself to look at the positive in life can break the cycle of negativity. It’s easy to get sucked into downward spirals, particularly if we suffer from mental illness such as anxiety or depression. It can become impossible to see the good in our lives when it reaches this point.
One of the best benefits of gratitude is that it forces us out of this state and to actively focus on the good. This positive thinking can have significant effects on our mood and general outlook on life.
2. Gratitude = mindfulness
The active “searching” for the positive in our day forces us to be mindful. Instead of going through life on auto-pilot and letting our subconscious dictate what we focus on, we take back control and become much more mindful of things to be thankful for in life.
3. A gratitude practice encourages self-reflection
Again, it’s easy just to go through life without ever questioning our thought processes. But a gratitude practice can really promote self-awareness and reflection.
When we practice gratitude, we can identify the things in our lives that we might be taking for granted or overlooking. We can become aware of our negative tendencies and thought patterns and identify room for improvement.
The first step to change is self-awareness, and a gratitude practice is a great tool for this!
Related: Journal Prompts for Self Discovery
4. A regular practice promotes self-discipline
Like any practice, practicing gratitude regularly encourages self-discipline.
It’s all too easy to pick up bad habits and not commit to good ones. But really committing to a gratitude practice is a beneficial way to hold us accountable and keep us in check.
This goes for all methods of self-care too! If you want to take advantage of a regular self-care routine check out these 52 self care ideas for good and bad mental health days!
5. The Law of Attraction
If you’re unfamiliar with the law of attraction, I encourage you to read about how you can implement the law of attraction for a happier and more fulfilling life.
But essentially, the law of attraction is the theory that everything you put out into the universe you attract. So if you put out positive thoughts, positive things happen!
When you practice gratitude you are essentially telling the universe “I like this thing and I wouldn’t mind more of it”. For example, if you practice gratitude for the money you DO have (even if very little) the universe will respond by giving you more of it!
Now, I realise that the law of attraction won’t resonate with everybody. But what we can be sure of is that what we focus on most, we notice more. This is basic neuroplasticity. So the more we give thanks, the more we will notice the things to be thankful for!
How to Start a Gratitude Journal
1. Pick your preferred method of journaling
There is no right or wrong method here. Whether you want to buy a premade gratitude journal or use a gratitude app, find what works best for you.
Premade gratitude journals
Premade gratitude journals have the advantage of having everything already laid out for you in a template. I find journals like this SO helpful because they can help to reduce overwhelm and give you a clear structure to follow. Here are some great options:
Use a printable
Printable gratitude journals have similar benefits to buying a gratitude journal, but they are often much cheaper in price and more flexible. For example, you can print out a page for each day (or few days) that you take to work or school, rather than having to lug around a whole book.
I’ve created a free gratitude journal that you can get your hands on for completely free! All you need to do is sign up to my email list where you can receive updates and other great resources (for free!)
Write in a notepad
You don’t NEED a premade template, and you might even prefer to set up your own template in a notepad that works for you. Or, if you prefer simplicity, you can simply write the things you’re grateful for on the page and call it done. You’re still practicing gratitude!
Use an app
Gratitude apps can be great options if you work better in digital format and you don’t want to deal with extra things to carry.
This gratitude app sets reminders to practice gratitude throughout the day and can be a great tool to keep you mindful and consistent!
Related: the Best Premade Bullet Journals to Save You Time and Money
2. Set aside time each day to practice gratitude
So you’ve picked your journal. Now it’s time to dedicate time to gratitude journalling. Creating a new habit is HARD. But there are ways you can make it easier.
For example, anchoring your gratitude practice to something that is already a regular part of your day can help to solidify the habit. You might choose to journal over breakfast, before you meditate or while the kids have their afternoon nap. Whatever works best for you!
3. Start small
The key to creating a consistent habit is to start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself by making yourself commit to writing 30 things you’re grateful for each day… it’s just unrealistic.
When we first start practicing gratitude it can be incredibly difficult to think of things we’re thankful for. Thanks to neuroplasticity, our brains like to go down our regular routes of thinking. So if we’re programmed to be negative, thinking positive thoughts is a real challenge!
Start by writing down one thing each day. As time goes on you might notice that you can notice more positive things in your life. Over time, you can increase to 3 things to be grateful for a day. But you needn’t commit to any more than that, unless you really want to.
4. Save a list of gratitude journal prompts
Like I said before, thinking of things to be thankful for can be very difficult when we’ve been stuck in negative thinking for so long. This is where gratitude journal prompts come in.
Having prompts can make it that much easier to start a gratitude journal. They can help you identify the things in your life to be grateful for that you might otherwise overlook. Check out my favourite gratitude journal prompts!
5. Stop overthinking
When we first start practicing gratitude, it may seem silly and unnatural. That’s because we’re not used to it. But stop overthinking! It will get easier.
You don’t have to have a private yacht to start a gratitude journal. Some days we may simply be grateful for a roof over our heads and food on the table. It’s all relative.
6. Stay consistent
Now is the hard part… staying consistent.
The key here is to stop making excuses! Of course in some circumstances we can let ourselves off, but little excuses like “I’m too tired” won’t cut it!
You can afford to take 5 minutes out of your day to gratitude journal. You owe it to yourself!
I hope these tips on how to start a gratitude journal have helped you come up with a plan to get started.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be extravagant and 5 minutes is really all you need.
Let me know if you use any of these tips to start a gratitude journal!
Sign up to get your free printable goal planner!
Esther is the founder of Through the Phases. Her mission is to guide others to grow to their full potential and create their dream life using spiritual and personal growth practices. Read more about her story here!