The Gratitude Journal. Surprising Benefits, How to Start and How to Squeeze It into Your Day.

How you start your day is how you live your day. How you live your day is how you live your life.

-Louise Hay, Author

It’s a powerful quote, isn’t it? There are sentences out there when you hear them hit you hard. This one from Louie Hay is one of those. They hit hard because there is a part of you that knows this to be true. They connect in a way that can sometimes be surprising to you.

This is one of the reasons I started a Gratitude Journal and I’ve reaped the benefits of it for years now.  For those of you who want to start or just want to know more about keeping a journal or want to give it a try thanks to the amazing community on Instagram, I hope you find the sections of this post useful.

If you want to quickly jump to a section then choose one of these quick links:

  1.  The Gratitude Journal
  2. 10 Benefits of Keep a Gratitude Journal
  3. How to Keep a Gratitude Journal
  4. The 5 Minute Gratitude Journal
  5. The 3 Minute Gratitude Journal
  6. One Line A Day Journal
  7. Gratitude Journal Prompts

The Gratitude Journal

A gratitude journal is a place where you write gratitude notions regurarly. It can be a virtual journal or a notebook. It can be any kind. As long as you like it and you want to write in it and you can review it regurarly then this can be your Gratitude Journal.

Gratitude is “The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

So a Gratitude Journal is somewhere that you can practice this appreciation. No one ever has to see this journal other than you so the idea is to be as open as possible when you write. It is at it’s heart a mindfulness practice. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time in your morning, more on that below.

Okay but how? Where do these thoughts come from? and I’m still not sold on why I should.

If Louise’s quote above did hit you hard then let’s take a look at ten benefits of keeping a Gratitude Journal:

10 Benefits of a Gratitude Journal

1.It Helps You Sleep Better

This was a big one for me. I have trouble sleeping and during the pandemic, my sleeping habits got even worse. Spending a few minutes each evening writing down my thoughts helps my mind to stop wandering. A few positive statements written in a favourite place each night can help you move to a peaceful more restful sleep. If you’re interested in studies on this pop over to Psychology Today and learn more. It might surprise you.

2.It Reduces Stress

Again as a busy working mum, it was easy to feel overwhelmed each day which increases the amount of stress you feel. However, stress is our body’s natural response to change. We all feel it from time to time. Robert Emmons, a well-known mental health specialist, conducted several studies on stress and health which indicated that gratitude effectively releases stress hormones and increase positive emotions like happiness. 

Gratitude asks us to accept that we are sad and focus on how to reduce it. It is not a quick heal or an immediate relief for stress. What it does is helps us to process it.

3. It Increases Positivity

Practising daily gratitude statements can help you to become more positive. When you focus more on the good things in your life you slowly become more optimistic. You choose to look at things in a more positive way and writing them down helps to reinforce this thought process. When you read back over your own thoughts from your subconscious it helps everything to feel more real and concrete.

4. It Improves Self-Esteem

When those negative thoughts of “I’m not good enough” or your mind is wandering into a comparison trap start becoming more prevalent in your everyday thoughts a gratitude journal can help to balance and reframe. Showing gratitude can reduce your resentment towards others which in turn reduces the need to compare yourself to others. Your journal is a record of your gratitude and achievements so when you read back over it when you are feeling low it can increase your self-esteem and you can have a strong belief in yourself.

5. It Makes You Happier

Keeping a gratitude journal means that you are thinking and writing down positive thoughts regularly. By doing this you are acknowledging all of the good experiences in your life no matter how large or small. Enjoying these experiences helps you to build a grow a happier more content life. There is also research that shows that gratitude does indeed make you happier.

6. It Builds Resilience

This may not be something that you initially think of when you start to keep a gratitude journal. Resilience is ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.’ By regularly focusing on what is good in your life it helps you to process and move past things more quickly.

7. It Builds Appreciation

When you are focusing more on what’s good in your life you start to really appreciate what your body and mind can do. You begin to appreciate not only yourself but also take more notice of those things that others do that make your life easier/better.

Over time this becomes a cycle. You start o notice more things you can be grateful for which in turn has a positive effect on your body and mind. This was especially helpful for me when I wanted to develop a healthier lifestyle.

8. It Helps you Gain Clarity and Perspective

Ah who wouldn’t like more clarity and perspective in life.  By writing down what you are grateful for, you will gain clarity on what you want out of life. Yu gain a new perseptive on whats important to you. Which in turn means you can also see what you can cut or remove from your daily tasks and routines.

9. It Reconnects You to Your Inner Voice

Another reason I journal is to reconnect with my inner voice. When you write so much for others you can sometimes forget what it’s like to write in your own voice. You can focus on your own thoughts and find a flow again. Your inner voice is an important aspect of you who you are as a person. Listening to it can reconnect you to your creativity. In fact, a large part of the Artist’s Way is dedicated to gratitude.

10. It Reduces Knee Jerk Reactions i.e. You become more Optimistic. 

Committing yourself to keep a gratitude journal means that you are making a promise to yourself that you will flip situations to ones that inspire you. You start to see the positive even in negative situations. This means that you are giving yourself the space to process things, think them through and deal with them in your own time. People who do this also practice ‘flipping the script’ and become more optimistic about life in general.

How to Keep A Gratitude Journal

Do you know the difference between a planner, a journal, a diary and a notebook? This extract from Positive Psychology explains it brilliantly:

  • Gratitude journaling focuses on what you are grateful for;
  • Filling out a planner focuses on what you need to do;
  • A diary’s focus is on what happened in your day;
  • Notebooks are for taking notes about the present, or future events, to help you remember important points.

Ideally you would like keeping a gratitude journal to become a habit. Something that just becomes part of your day that isnt’ stressful or adding to your to-do list. You want this to be an easy, positive experience. the sole purpose of this is to appreciating the positive things in your life. So here are some tips on getting started and how to keep a gratitude journal:

Choose a place where you enjoying writing

It can be anywhere but somewhere that is comfortable for you. I mean this both as a place to sit while you write but also choose a journal – digital or paper in which to write. I’m a tactile person so the journal cover, the paper I use even the pen I use to write with all matter to me. I like the weight of my favourite pen the look of my ink on the pages and the overall aesthetic of the journal bring me joy.

Not everyone is going to look at this to this level but if you enjoy where you are and what you write in then you are more likely to keep going.

Simple & Consistent

Two words to keep in mind as you journal. You dont need to write pages and pages of gratitued in fact most of us practice in 5 minutes or less. A simple routine is one that you can pick up, do and move on. In turn this helps you to keep consistent.

In the beginning you don’t need to write every day but you do want to be consistent. If that’s daily, once a week or every second day the idea is to build it into a habit that fits into your life.

Don’t Get Stuck in your Head

Another way is to say don’t overthink things. If you pick up a pen or put your fingers to a keyboard you will start to write. If all you want to say is that you are grateful for this new tea you found that’s one of your gratitude statements. They can be as little or large as you like.

Create Reminders

If you are trying something new and you’re already busy try creating reminders in your phone that pop-up. If you miss your morning routine you can practice gratitude on your break, on your commute, in your car before you set off. Take whatever time you have that day to think of 3 things you are grateful for. Sometimes they just come to you as they happen during your day!

The 5 Minute Journal

I first encountered The Five Minute Journal from Intelligent Change. This journal splits your gratitude practice into short quick morning and evening routines.

Now we know from reading the rest of this post that short moments of gratitude have a large impact so don’t get wrapped up in the time you have available.

Their morning routine questions focus on starting your day as you mean to go on. They consist of:

  • 3 things I am grateful for
  • 2 What would make today great?
  • Your Daily Affirmation. I am……

The night routine questions are best carried out before you settle down to sleep. To end the day on a positive note to help you have a more restful nights sleep. These questions are:

  • 3 amazing this that happened today
  • How could I have made today even better?

That’s it. Each page in the journal has spaces for you to fill these in and you can flip back through the pages to see a positive daily record of your life. To see why they focused on these questions and to get a better in-depth understanding of their choices pop over here.

This journal is a great place to start if a blank notebook casues you stress. This is a rather seemless integration into your daily life and the journal is quite nice too.

The 3 Minute Journal

If 5 minutes is too long for you, you can take a look at the 3-Minute Morning by Michael S. Sorensen.

Again this journal is split into quick and easy morning and evening routine and each page starts with an inspirational quote.

The morning Routine Questions are:

My Life is Great because … (3 reasons)

I will move closer to my goals today by…

Today I will brighten __’s day by…..

The night routine is very simple. The question is:

Today was great because…. (3 reasons)

This journal is also available in multiple colours and is also availbe from Amazon.

by A Freckle A Day on Instagram

One Line A Day

If all of this seems too much then maybe try the ‘One Line A Day’ practice. I like this one because it can fit into bullet journals, notebooks or diaries we already have. All you have to do is write one line about today that you are grateful for or something that was great!

I love following this on Instagram by my favouite journalists like A Freckle A Day.

Daily Printable Gratitude Journal Prompts by The Cottage Notebook
Daily Gratitude Journal Prompts by The Cottage Notebook

Gratitude Journal Prompts

Over time I believe you develop your own system. My own is housed within my planner and its a series of questions that I alternate. I find that at different times I need different things from journaling so I print out a few sheets at a time depending on what I need from my practice.

IF you would like to write them out I will list my journal questions here and if you’d like to print them out I have them in A5, A4 and Letter size in my free printables section here.

If you do use them please do tag me on social I’m @cottagenotebook on all platforms and I’d love to know if they helped.

Morning Gratitude Journal Prompts:

  • What 3 things am I grateful for this morning
  • What can I do today to make _’s day better?
  • Daily Affirmation
  • What’s one of your personality traits that you’re grateful for?
  • I will move closer to my goals today by…..
  • What would make today great?
  • A situation that might trip me up today is? And how would my best self react?
  • What can I do today to make my goals easier?
  • How do I want to feel at the end of today?
  • What am I ready to welcome more of into the world?

Evening Gratitude Journal Prompts

  • What did you accomplish today?
  • What could have made today even better?
  • What are you proud of today?
  • What made you smile today?
  • What surprised you today?
  • Who had the biggest impact on your life today?
  • What song have you had in your head today? What does it remind you of?
  • What was today’s simple pleasure?
  • Did you help anyone today? How?
  • What was your favourite moment from today?
Gratitude Journal Printables by the Cottage Notebook

If you would like a full set of journal printables to get you started you can also find my full gratitude planner inserts in my shop here. They have the dashboard, notepaper, prompts and also the guided morning and evening note sections. These are the inserts I use in my own gratitude journal.

I hope this guide has helped you start your own gratitude journal. Please do let me know in the comments if this has helped at all or tag me on social @cottagenotebook if you’re taking part in the #showmeyourplanner or #showmeyourjournal tags.

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Nadia.

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