Showing gratitude is not just saying thank you. It’s an overall shift in your perspective, trying not to spend too much time worrying about negative thoughts and feelings and, instead, allowing yourself time to focus on the positive aspects of daily life. A daily gratitude journal entry can help you keep track of what’s going well – a literal way to count your blessings. We asked Mike Hines,  a psychologist working with Smiling Mind and a mindfulness expert, to explain the benefits of this practice: here are his tips and top gratitude journal prompts to get you started.  

The Benefits of Keeping a Gratitude Journal

Keeping a daily gratitude journal is a creative way to engage in more balanced thinking.

“We all spend a lot of time on autopilot, which means that we can fail to really register and take in the good moments of our lives,” Mike explains. Keeping a gratitude journal can help remedy this, helping us to engage in more balanced thinking. “Unfortunately the human brain is like velcro for negative experiences but teflon for positive ones,” he says. “This innate negative bias was hard-wired into the brain when as a species we had to be on constant look out for threats and danger. But over time, gratitude journalling can help.” 

Spending time reflecting on the things you’re grateful for can increase your positivity and boost self-esteem. Grateful people tend to be less stressed and more optimistic about the future. They also sleep better, according to research, and enjoy improved relationships with their loved ones. Practising gratitude doesn’t mean all your problems will magically disappear… but it does help with your mindset, and that can make things feel more manageable. 

What To Try

Getting Started With Your Gratitude Journal

Start your very own daily gratitude journal by incorporating it into your daily routine.

Are you ready to get grateful? Grab a pen and a notebook and set aside some time for writing and reflection. Lots of people opt for daily journalling but if that feels too much, that’s okay. “While the research is a little mixed on this front, psychologists tend to recommend writing in your gratitude journal once to three times per week,” Mike says. 

The key to keeping up with your journalling practice is to make it part of your regular routine. Whip out your gratitude journal when you sit down with your first morning coffee, or spend 15 minutes at bedtime reflecting on your day. Try to create the optimal environment for introspection – you’ll need peace and quiet, or perhaps play some relaxing music. Light a candle or switch on a lamp, pour yourself a cup of tea or a glass of cool water. Shut out distractions and outside noises and focus inward. This is your time. 

What To Try

The Products You Need to Start Gratitude Journalling

Use a basic lined notebook or a dedicated gratitude journal with prompts and templates to guide your mindfulness journey.

Of course, you’ll need a pen when you start journalling. Look for one that’s comfortable to hold and writes well, like the BIC Intensity Fineliner, which boasts smooth, flowing ink that’s water-resistant and less likely to smudge. Another great thing about Intensity Fineliners is they won’t bleed through most papers. 

Speaking of pages, you’ll need a notebook or journal to write in and there’s a wide selection available. Choose a basic lined notebook, like this charming option or opt for a dedicated gratitude journal with prompts and templates to guide your gratitude journey. We like this one with a recycled linen cover and gold foil detailing. Or check out this option with sections for daily and monthly reflection, as well as a yearly review. “Buy yourself a nice journal or notebook, one that you’ll enjoy reaching for and writing in,” Mike suggests. “Keep it somewhere convenient where you’ll see it and remember to use it. Like so many healthy habits, sometimes the hardest part is simply remembering to do them.” 

What To Try

Daily Gratitude Journal Prompts

There doesn't need to be a rigid process when writing in your gratitude journal – simply do what feels right for you in that moment.

There are no rules when it comes to starting a gratitude journal, so do what feels right for you. You could spend 20 minutes writing freely about your day, or keep things short and sweet with a list of your top five moments or memories from the week. 

“Things to write about can vary from relatively small in importance – for example, ‘The sun was out today’ – to relatively large, such as ‘My family and I are in good health’ ”, Mike says. “Be as specific as possible and go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail carries more benefit than a superficial list of lots of things.”

Prompts may help guide your reflection and keep things fresh and exciting. Try writing about something that cheers you up when you’re feeling down, describe something you’re looking forward to or reflect on a favourite photo from an old album or your digital photo roll. “If you’re finding it hard to keep coming up with new things you are grateful for, you might like to try writing down three things that have gone well today or this week,” Mike says. Here are some prompts he suggests to help you get started: 

  • I am grateful for my family because...
  • I am grateful for my friend/s because...
  • I am grateful for who I am...
  • Today I was grateful when...
  • I am grateful for the small things like...
  • I am grateful for the big things like...
  • I am grateful for funny things like...
  • I am grateful for … (choose for yourself)

Be as creative as you like in your reflection – you don’t have to stick to solely writing, try adding drawings or sketches to your journal, or use an instant camera to document your day and stick in photos, postcards and ticket stubs.

With any mindfulness practice it’s important that you embrace the experience – rather than simply going through the motions. “Really try to savour and absorb the good experiences or things that you are grateful for,” Mike says. “Try and get a felt sense of gratitude rather than it just being a tick box exercise of writing down a few things,” he adds. 

Committing to the practice, and engaging in gratitude journalling regularly, may help you more naturally take in the good… now, that’s truly something to be grateful for.  

What To Try 

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