How to Start (and Keep) a Gratitude Journal

A gratitude journal is a powerful daily workout for your heart and soul. Learn how to make the practice a habit this holiday season and carry it forward.

Whether your goal is emotional awareness or optimism, keeping a gratitude journal can add so much to your wellness regimen. While keeping one may seem easier than your early morning run, it’s just as much of a workout for your willpower, and now’s the perfect time to start. The mindfulness practice provides many of the same benefits as meditation … and is perfect for people who aren’t so good at meditating. Here’s how to get started.

How do I find leverage to start?

Leverage is that extra kick that gets us to the “gas station” when our motivation is running on fumes.

Choose your journal. It can be something fun and artistic you found on Etsy or just individual loose-leaf pages held together by a paper clip. Whatever is inspiring and feels right to you is fine.

Write your intentions. On page one, write about how you intend to use the journal. Make sure you include your motivations and commitment by answering these questions:

Gratitude isn’t a one-time thing. It’s the beginning of a new way of being in the world; one that is more connected to joy and beauty. Setting your intentions will help make this practice part of your life.

What do I write?

Gratitude is an act of receptivity, which is active, but is something often misunderstood as being weak and passive. It is all about connecting with the joy of life and the gifts it and other people have to offer. As a result, it also helps your relationships.

Write about gifts. Think about any and every gift in your life. That sounds easy until you actually try to do it.

Write down what you are able to receive. The point here is to eventually realize that everything in your life is a gift. There are no wrong answers here.

Give some details. Be specific. Share how you felt when your friend brought you soup when you were sick. What did you especially love about the dinner your boyfriend treated you to? How did you feel when you were welcomed home from work by a happy, tail-wagging pups?

Look for gifts all around you. As often as you can remember to do so, breathe in your gifts. Notice how it feels. The journal is a space you’ve devoted to holding this practice. Ultimately, practice is about creating habits … and those are with you always.

How do I maintain the practice?

Counting your blessings is like counting your reps: the counting isn’t the point! The exercise isn’t about writing things down, but instead about building your powers of receptivity and appreciation. The journal itself is the free weights; the exercise is being present.

Bring it along. Try bringing your journal with you and writing things down as they come to you throughout the day. This will help keep you in a constant mindset of gratitude.

Don’t force it. Gratitude is something we have to allow to happen, not something we can force. We receive gratitude by creating space for it to enter our lives.

Before you call it quits, stretch the boundaries of what you consider a gift. Ask yourself: “What is there to be grateful for in this challenging situation?” “How does it feel in my body when I think of it?” Open your mind and heart to the possibilities.

Go back to your goals. Remember that first page you wrote in your journal — the one with all your goals and commitments? Reinvigorate your writing practice by reminding yourself of your original intentions.

Practice. Journaling is an awareness practice … and they call it practice for a reason. Let yourself do it imperfectly.

You’ll soon discover from your gratitude journal practice that there’s an abundance of beauty in your life, and many, many things to be grateful for. This holiday season, get in touch with your grateful side and watch your life improve.