Stuck on what to write in your gratitude journal or need a little boost of inspiration? No worries – our gratitude journal ideas (along with some handy prompts) are to the rescue!
First though, let’s have a quick debrief on the basics behind a successful gratitude practice.
What is a Gratitude Practice?
A gratitude practice is the simple, regular act of writing down what you are thankful for and (here’s the most important part) feeling the emotion of gratitude resonate inside you.
Sounds easy, right? And it is – mostly!
The hardest parts are usually keeping up with the habit long-term and not letting it turn into a boring chore. To overcome these, you first need your “why”.
Why Practice Gratitude?
Gratitude makes us healthier. Gratitude helps us sleep better. It makes our relationships stronger and makes us more optimistic.
Gratitude has the power to change our lives completely.
If you haven’t yet found your “why” – the driving motivator behind your practice, reading about some of these benefits might help you find it.
Gratitude has been proven to:
- Increase life satisfaction, hope, optimism, and quality of sleep.
- Decrease levels of depression, anxiety, and envy.
- Reduce symptoms of physical illness.
- Improve job satisfaction, especially in a high-stress, demanding job.
- Increase the long-term success in relationships and personal well-being, and reduce the likelihood of divorce.
- Increase altruism, generosity, and healthy social behavior.
- Reduce impatience and the need for immediate gratification (aka better impulse control, less debt, healthier eating, etc.).
How Should I Practice Gratitude?
There are actually a lot of different ways to practice gratitude! For example, you can use a gratitude jar, do a gratitude meditation, write a gratitude letter, or keep a gratitude journal to name a new.
But for the sake of this post, we’re going to focus on how you can best practice gratitude by keeping a gratitude journal.
The most important part of a gratitude practice is feeling the emotion of gratitude. What you write or how long your list is doesn’t actually matter as long as you elicit that emotion.
Having said that, there are certain techniques for feeling gratitude more deeply. For example:
- writing an in-depth journal entry instead of a short and quick list
- writing about a person instead of a thing
- writing about specific situations instead of general ideas
These techniques typically inspire a deeper sense of gratitude which in turn allows you to reap greater benefits from your practice.
You can also create a ritual around it if you need to – light a candle, play some music, create a soothing environment that helps you look forward to writing in your gratitude journal.
How Often & When Should I Practice Gratitude?
Whenever! For real.
Studies have shown benefits journaling three times a week, twice a week, once a week, or daily.
And journaling at different times of the day can have different benefits – a morning practice helps you start your day on a good note, and an evening practice invites better sleep and lets you reflect on the positives of your day.
The most important part of timing your practice is that you’re able to make it a habit.
Gratitude Journal Ideas (with Prompts!)
Now that you know what a good gratitude practice looks like and have found the driving “why” behind your practice, let’s dig into some ideas and prompts to give your practice a little more oomph and inspiration.
So without further ado, here are some gratitude journal ideas to explore when searching for what to write.
Write About the People in Your Life
We cannot exist without others, and being grateful for those who appear, however fleetingly, in our lives can be the most rewarding and beneficial part of a gratitude practice.
Try thinking of all the interactions you’ve had with people recently – family members, friends, coworkers, strangers at the grocery store. Do any stand out as memorable? Perhaps a passing comment or helpful gesture from someone made you feel a positive emotion that you can be grateful for.
Any gesture, however trivial, can elicit gratitude. Once I observed a small kindness between strangers at the grocery store that left my heart feeling full for the rest of the day.
You can even be grateful for a negative interaction if you’re able to pull something positive from it. Perhaps you learned something about yourself, were reminded of a valuable lesson, or could help another person as a result. When you focus on the positive, you’ll find the negative has much less power or influence.
Someone who I helped recently was __________. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve them because __________.
My friendship with __________ feels like a gift because __________.
Today I talked to __________. I am grateful we had that conversation because __________.
Animals and Pets
When my dad passed away during a time in my life when my depression was so bad that I had closed myself off from all my close friends and felt more alone than I ever have, my dog was my sole reason for getting up each morning. My gratitude for him is unending, and I tear up every time I think about how lucky I am that he is in my life.
Pets can save us, and they can also share their small joys with us each day – their infectious excitement when you say a magic word, their playfulness with an old toy, their mischievous moods, their warmth when they snuggle up to you, their eye contact or nudges full of affection. What has your pet done recently that can inspire gratitude in your life?
Pets aren’t the only animals we can be grateful for. This summer I had the wondrous pleasure of watching a nest of baby mockingbirds grow up in a small tree just outside my kitchen. Two years ago I came back from a late night ice cream run to find a buck napping in front of my window. Have you had experiences with animals that have left you feeling awe-inspired?
I love my wonderful pet __________ because __________.
When I saw a __________ with her babies, I felt a sense of warmth and gratitude for __________.
Stories that Touch You
Perhaps you recently read a book, watched a film, or played a game that pulled some emotion out of you – a cathartic cry, a needed laugh, a heartfelt reminder of something important. Emotion is at the core of who we are as humans. Try writing about why you’re grateful for that laugh or cry or important feeling that the story evoked.
When I read __________, it made me feel __________. I am grateful for this because __________.
Today I saw a play/film called __________. This inspired a sense of gratitude in me because __________.
__________’s story brought tears to my eyes and a sense of gratitude to my heart because it __________.
Nature can be an awe-inspiring, fearsome thing.
But it can also be just what you need in the small moments – the gentle caress of a cool breeze on a hot day, the whir of a hummingbird to keep you grounded in the present, a beautiful field of wild flowers, the warmth of the sun at the beach, a family of geese crossing the street.
Find gratitude for your ability to experience one of these precious moments, and if you can, dig into why it’s special to you.
My favorite part of being outside is __________. I am grateful for the opportunity to experience it because __________.
Today I went for a hike, and along the trail I saw __________. This made me feel gratitude for __________.
Be grateful for yourself!
(Even if you might not feel worthy of gratitude, the miraculous event of your birth – that out of an infinite number of possibilities you, who is unlike any other person to ever exist or who will ever exist, were created – alone makes you quite magnificent and plenty worthy.)
You can be grateful for your incredible existence, or you can drill down and get specific – an aspect of your personality that you value or was recently helpful, like resilience in the face of a difficult situation or a moment that your kindness helped another person; a part of your body that accomplished something good like fingers to tie a child’s shoelaces, the muscles to open a jar for someone, or the height to pluck something off a tall shelf; or your mind that came up with a creative idea or solved a problem.
You have so much to offer. Recognizing and feeling grateful for all of it is an excellent part of a gratitude practice and a great way to practice self care.
Physical movement is a blessing. The body part that I am most grateful for today is __________ because __________.
I am grateful to have the personality trait of __________ because recently I was able to __________.
Today I helped __________. Without my __________ I would not have be able to do this. I feel gratitude for __________.
Today especially, I am grateful that I was born because __________.
Science and Technology
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how lucky we are to live in today’s age. Video calls, texting, even multiplayer online games allowed us to share special moments with loved ones while we isolated to protect the vulnerable in our communities. And the quick production of a vaccine finally allowed a small sense of normalcy back into our lives.
Technology has brought so many advances and conveniences to our lives. Is there a specific piece of technology or science that has made your life better recently or that you feel grateful for?
The piece of technology I am most grateful for is __________ because __________.
Modern medicine is a blessing. Today I feel gratitude for __________.
When __________ was sick recently, __________ helped me/them get better. I feel gratitude because __________.
Music and Art
Art and music have long been tools to express emotion and inspire action. Is there a song that recently helped you through a rough time or connected you with an important feeling? Is there a piece of art that inspired your creativity or progress on a project?
Try writing about this small inner journey that the art inspired and why you’re grateful for it.
My favorite song is __________. It helps me feel __________ when __________.
Recently I created __________. I am grateful for the opportunity/ability to create it because __________.
At the museum I saw __________, and it inspired gratitude in me when I thought about __________.
The Five Senses
Touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. Not only can we be grateful for the depth each of these senses adds to our lives, but we can find specific moments that a sense made more special.
For example, the aroma of baking cookies might have reminded you of a memory with your grandmother. Or the sound of baby birds chirping might have filled you with a sense of warmth and love. Write about the gratitude you feel for that moment.
I enjoy stepping outside and practicing mindfulness as another expression of gratitude. I’ll close my eyes and listen mindfully to all the sounds around me. Or on a windy day, I’ll focus only on the sensation of the wind against my skin. I’m fully in the moment and eternally grateful to experience it.
Today I felt __________ on my skin and it reminded me that __________.
The taste of __________ makes me feel __________ because __________.
My favorite smell is __________. I love it because __________.
Recently I was outside and I saw a beautiful __________. I feel gratitude for this because __________.
I am grateful for my ability to hear __________’s voice because __________.
If nothing else, there are always the basic necessities to be grateful for – food, shelter, and clothing. And beyond that, other basic needs like clean air, sleep, physical safety, love and belonging, and self-esteem.
We might not have all of these necessities all the time, but most of us have at least one of them, and that is something to be grateful for.
The weather today is __________, and I am grateful for the roof over my head because __________.
I am grateful for this food that nourishes my body because without it I __________.
When I am outside doing __________, I am grateful for the air I breathe because __________.
The clothing I own (or borrow) is important to me because __________.
Gratitude Can Change Your Life
Gratitude journaling is a simple practice that helps us focus on the good things in our lives. It also encourages us to appreciate the little things in life, such as the beauty of nature or the kindness of strangers.
Use the ideas and prompts in this post to help you express your appreciation for the blessings in your life, reap the benefits of a great gratitude practice, and slowly but surely change your life for the better.
References, Sources, & Further Reading: