Counting your blessings, not your problems, is good advice for your well-being, but how do you put that into practice?
Practicing gratitude is taking note of things for which you are thankful.
One of the easiest ways to start is by taking notes using a gratitude journal.
“A gratitude journal is a healthy practice that has far-reaching benefits for your mind that can carry over into other areas of your life,” explains Marni Amsellem, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist specializing in journaling for positive growth and clarity.
Here are reasons and tips for starting a gratitude journal.
1. Turn the page on negativity and anxiety
“Practicing gratitude helps shift your mindset to notice the things that are positive in your life,” says Amsellem. “There’s quite a bit of research which has focused on the health benefits of expressing gratitude, such as coping with stress better.”
Studies have found practicing gratitude has benefits for both your mind and body.
2. Choose a format that feels good
The best gratitude journal is the one that feels right to you — and one that you’ll actually use.
“It might be a notebook with a beautiful cover,” says Amsellem. “But there’s no harm in having it on your computer if that makes more sense for where you think and do other things.”
You can also jot things down on sticky note reminders or record voice memos.
“It can be nice to keep everything in one place as an organized repository of good things,” Amsellem says.
She recommends dating entries as a record keeper to go back to and see where you’ve been, but it’s a personal preference, not a requirement.
3. Write when it’s right for you
You can incorporate a daily gratitude journal into your morning ritual to start the day positively or before bedtime as a way to calm your mind.
“Doing this consistently helps to naturally release feelings of anger, frustration, or being stuck,” recommends Emily Capuria, LISW-S, CHHC, an Ohio-based psychotherapist.
Consistency is good, but you don’t have to journal every day or spend hours writing long entries.
4. Start with three things
The most common gratitude journal prompts, or gratitude journal templates for what to write are listing three things you’re grateful for each day.
“I usually suggest the format of ‘Today, I’m grateful for [blank] because [blank],” says Capuria.
It’s an easy place to start, but you’re not limited to three or a template.
5. Focus on big and small reasons
“Challenging yourself to think of multiple things helps you get beyond the easy go-to reasons you’re grateful, such as the people in your life,” says Amsellem.
“It’s good to focus on a mix of big and little things like feeling comfortable in your home,” she adds.
6. Switch it up and grow with it
Once you’ve gotten into a gratitude journal groove, you can avoid hitting a rut by changing it up.
You can add variations to the three things template, such as things you’re grateful for right now or in the past week, recommends Amsellem.
7. Turn it into an outlet
“If a person is feeling stuck, I encourage them to start with that area. For example, if you’re struggling with your job, think about three things that worked or went well in your workday,” says Capuria. “It helps to bring more balanced thinking to that area.”
8. Stay in the lines or stray all over the page
“There are no rules for a gratitude journal,” says Amsellem. “Anything goes, and there are no constraints.”
You can use colored pens, have lined or unlined pages, add sketches or illustrations, or write a short entry one day and a long one the next.
Keeping a gratitude journal works to help you feel positive and aware of things you may take for granted or overlook.