With Thanksgiving having recently passed, chances are good that you have spent a bit of time thinking about the things that you are grateful for. One great way to keep thankfulness at the forefront of your mind is to keep a gratitude journal. This is a journal where you write down the large and small happenings in your life that you are thankful for. Read on for some tips on keeping a gratitude journal.
Benefits of Keeping a Gratitude Journal
It might seem trite for you to keep a running list of things you’re grateful for, but hear us out: There are actually benefits to writing in this sort of journal.
First, it can keep you in a more positive frame of mind. You are a busy person: You have school projects to keep track of, you have chores at home, you might have a romantic relationship, you might have a part-time job or a school club or team that you have obligations with, and that doesn’t even account for the time you put aside for your own personal goals, time with friends, volunteer obligations, and so on. It is very easy to get bogged down and to forget to think positively. Keeping a gratitude journal forces you to take a few minutes to reflect on what you have been doing and to record some of the good things.
A gratitude journal can also be a great way to keep track of all of your achievements. Rather than feel disappointed that you didn’t score any points in your team’s last basketball or volleyball game or upset that you only got a B on a science project you were sure you’d ace, you can feel good about your coach saying, “you’ve really improved!” or about the places on your project where your teacher wrote encouraging marks. Maybe you have earned a small raise at your job or you were able to help a lost child find his parent at the grocery store. These are little things that you might forget, so writing them down gives you a book full of encouragement to look back on.
Finally, keeping a gratitude journal can help you feel less stress and anxiety. It can even help you wind down before you go to bed. You might have heard that looking at your phone before bed can disrupt your sleep; if, instead, you are spending 15 minutes journaling before bed, that can help you get more rest, which, in turn, makes you both physically and mentally healthier.
Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal
Now that you know how keeping a gratitude journal can help you, it’s good to have some ideas on how to most successfully keep one. First, keep in mind that this isn’t anything that will be graded or read by others. So don’t stress out about your handwriting, your spelling, or any mistakes that you make. Unless you choose to share parts of it with someone, it will be for your eyes only, so anything goes!
#1 Don’t Worry About Writing in It Every Day
While you certainly can write in your journal every day, making it into a chore will make you less likely to want to spend time reflecting. Also, you might get into the habit of writing the same types of things over and over again. For example, you might watch the sunset while eating dinner every evening and you might be thankful for it, but writing that each day can get boring. Instead, aim for writing in it once or twice per week, and if something happens in between that you’re really thankful for, go ahead and write it down.
#2 Use Prompts If You Find Them Helpful
Don’t let writer’s block hold you back. Check out some Internet resources for prompts for your gratitude journal. You can also purchase a diary to write in that will prompt you each day or each week. Remember that you don’t have to stick to one template or another. Some days, you might be eager to write about something in particular, and other days, you might want to rely on a prompt. This should be a stress-free activity, so don’t overthink it.
#3 Go for Depth Rather Than Breadth
One suggestion is to write a paragraph (or more!) about one specific event, person, or thing in your life than to make a list of the top 20 things you’re thankful for each week. This will give you something interesting and engaging to look back on in the future. Again, that’s only a suggestion, and if you want to make a list most days and write a longer entry only occasionally, that’s perfectly fine, too.
#4 Focus on People Sometimes
Sometimes you will want to write about events and things that you’re thankful for, but you can also write about the people in your life for whom you are grateful. You could think about the value that your parents, your friends, your extended family, your teachers, and even acquaintances have in your life and write about that.
#5 Look for Silver Linings
Everyone has bad days, and those might be the best days to take out your gratitude journal. Rather than focusing on the negative things that happened to you that day, think instead about the good things that came about alongside or as a result of those bad things. For example, maybe you had an argument with a friend that made you feel bad, so you called your friend and the two of you had a heart-to-heart conversation and understood each other better. Focusing on your stronger friendship would be healthier than focusing on the argument.
Keeping a gratitude journal is an excellent way to remain more grateful overall. If you are interested in starting one, just look for any notebook or journal; it doesn’t have to be anything special or fancy. Try to integrate this as part of your routine and see whether you notice any benefits!
Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.