Keeping A Gratitude Journal: Tips and Resources

While writing my last post, I didn’t realize it will open up such interesting conversation threads with my readers. That post connected with many. Some went down memory lane remembering their own old diary. Whereas, some shared how their outlook towards life has changed ever since they started practicing meditation, gratitude-journaling, or journaling in general. Some asked me thought-provoking questions in different forums where the link was shared. 

Going through those queries, I felt my last post had an incomplete ending. The readers expected more. Some takeaways, or practical insights that they can implement in their lives. Especially the ones, who are new to the world of journaling.

Honestly speaking, it was an impromptu post. Something that I felt like sharing as an aftereffect of revisiting my old journal. And I am glad I did. I wasn’t prepared for such heartwarming direct messages and engaging WhatsApp conversations. I always thought my audience profile is mainly folks from product and marketing backgrounds. As that’s the kind of content I mostly share here. But I was in for a pleasant surprise. Personal stories have a charm of their own. Especially when they connect, entertain, or inspire you to act. 

Three of my close friends have decided to start their journey to journaling after my last post. Now, what more can I ask for as a content creator? If my post can inspire even one person to act, it’s rewarding beyond words. 

They had lots of queries. Where to start from? What’s the right way to start? Do I download any app? And more. Most of these questions weren’t even on my radar while writing the last post. But I totally understand their concerns. Like every other topic, the information overload that’s available on the internet for this subject too can be overwhelming for a newcomer.

But trust me when I say this – it’s simple. Don’t overthink, just start!

Based on the discussions with my friends, here’s an effort to simplify gratitude journaling for anyone who is new to it. Most of these answers are applicable to journaling in general.

• It’s simple until we make it complicated. First thing first, you don’t need any template, app, fancy stationery materials to get started. Just a simple notebook and pen would do. Of course, if you’re someone who likes decorating your notes, please go ahead with it. If you are more comfortable typing on screen than writing on paper, download an app. But if you ask me, what do you “need” to get started? My answer – paper, and pen.

• Habit is what keeps us going. Journaling is a lot about habit. And like any other habit formation, this one would require commitment too. Commitment to start, stick and show up daily. You can start with just 5 mins every day and maybe increase it to 10, reflecting on your day gone by and planning for the next one.

• Be personal and specific. Especially, when you are journaling about gratitude. Just start with a simple line – Today, I am thankful for… If you want to go a step further, break it down to “people” and “thing”. This helps us reflect on more aspects like relationships, work, etc. There are some templates on breaking it down into four and six sub-sections too. Do what helps you get into the zone of “I”, i.e., personal. Again, I am no expert psychologist, just a human who has been doing it for decades. Starting with the above-mentioned sentence helps me connect with my thoughts.

• Flowing not forcing. While journaling is an intentional activity, it’s something that shouldn’t be forced. Neither on self nor on others. The intent to do it should come from within. When it becomes a forced activity, it gets monotonous. It helps when you sit calmly for a couple of minutes, think, visualize and write only when you genuinely feel like writing it down. Otherwise, it will end up being a daily attendance log. 

• Sometimes the soul grows by subtraction, not addition. There are days when we feel low, stuck, or lost. We don’t feel happy about anything. And that’s perfectly fine for a person like me. Not everyone can be super optimistic always. When you go through that feeling of – ‘there is nothing to be thankful for in life’, try the subtraction method. Instead of mundanely writing “I am thankful for”, try imagining your life without some person, or minus your job, house, etc. You might realize, you still have a lot to be thankful for.

Resources to get you started.

A lot actually. From prompts to templates, you will find zillions of help materials. My preference is to do it the older way but in case you would like to refer to some interesting resources on gratitude journaling, here’re some that I liked:

How gratitude changes you and your brain – a very interesting post by The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

Magic of mindfulness –  a famous post by Tim Ferris with lots of useful links and help materials. 

Gratitude journal prompts. Earlier I didn’t believe in prompts for this topic but I realized, it helps those who are new to it. 

What is positive psychology – a wonderful video that sums up the whole science behind gratitude in less than 5 minutes. And if you have more time, you may listen to this 14 mins talk by David Steindl-Rast

• Apps? I haven’t used any but I am mentioning the two most recommended in my circle – Five Minute Journal and Happy Feed. I plan to try the first one, though I must say I am very happy and satisfied with my diary :).

In case you have your own prompts or templates or you would like to recommend some resources that have helped you personally, do let me know in the comment section below. I would be happy to add them to this list above.

Wrapping up:

I hope this post helps the ones who are new to the world of journaling and gratitude journaling. Do give it a try, but do it only when you believe in it. Habits like these are meaningless and unsustainable when done half-heartedly. Anyways, we all have too many things on our plates. Why add more unless we genuinely want to experience it? 

Good luck to the ones starting it.

Let it out. Let it flow.

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