Being Thankful: Making a Gratitude Journal

Updated 11/21/2023

Live Better with Gratitude Journaling

The Journal of Psychology recently published an article called, "How a Gratitude Intervention Influences Workplace Mistreatment," a timely article around Thanksgiving.

In this study, 200 participants at a data management company kept a gratitude journal for two weeks. Participants reported less negative ostracizing behaviors such as gossiping, after using the journals.

This reminds me of Shin Buddhism, whose founder, Shinran Shonin, lived a life of humility and thankfulness. He looked at, "everything in life as a gift," according to Dr. Alfred Bloom. With this perspective, people can find inner peace and harmony in their hearts.

It seems that introducing a gratitude journal into our weekly routine may be helpful in these stressful times. What better time to try than Thanksgiving?

Benefits of Maintaining a Gratitude Journal

Here are some of the many benefits of writing in your gratitude journal:

  • Better sleep
  • Being healthier
  • Being happier

Based upon the popularity of Yale’s "Happiness" class, many people definitely seek to find ways to be happier!

How to Start and Maintain a Gratitude Journal

Developing mindful gratitude through journaling can be developed as a part of your weekly routine. Like exercise, the positive feelings that you will experience when writing in your journal will soon make this a weekly habit.

All you will need is a simple notebook and a writing utensil. You can get one of those fancy gratitude journals, but it is not necessary. You may also decide to write digitally. The important thing is the actual practice of being mindfully grateful.

Each week start writing in your gratitude journal at least one to three times a week. Researchers have found that writing in the journal daily lessens the impact of savoring the "gift of gratitude."

In each entry, record five things for which you are grateful.

Robert Emmons of University of California at Davis, is widely considered the leading expert of gratitude.

He recommends these tips in maintaining your journal:

  • Be as specific as possible; it is the "key to fostering gratitude."
  • "Go for depth over breadth."
  • Focus on people and how you are grateful towards them
  • Do not just write about what people add to your life. Also write about will happen without them.
  • Good things = gifts. Equating the two will improve your perspective about not taking others for granted.
  • Savor surprises, which increase feelings of positivity. The aspect of surprise is the reason why experts do not recommend writing daily, as the positive feeling caused by surprise is lessened.
  • Repeating gratitude is possible, if looking at the event in a different way.
  • Write regularly to make the act of writing in the journal habitual.

A gratitude journal is a great way to boost your self-esteem.  Another way is to also add a Strength Use Plan to your daily ritual!

Strength Use Plans, Another Way to Live Better

I first mentioned this method in another blog, "An Inside Look at an Outsider: Using Strength Use Plans!"

The idea, like a gratitude journal, is to focus on the positive, which will increase your self-esteem.  In this case, focus every day on your strengths instead of improving your weaknesses.  Focusing on weaknesses may paradoxically make us feel even more negative.

To review, create a list of ten to fifteen of your strengths, as suggested by Therapist Aid:

  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Love of learning
  • Bravery
  • Honesty
  • Love
  • Kindness
  • Social awareness
  • Leadership
  • Forgiveness
  • Humility
  • Self-control
  • Optimism
  • Humor
  • Spirituality
  • Flexibility
  • Persistence
  • Appreciation of beauty
  • Gratitude
  • Enthusiasm
  • Teamwork

Every day, choose one of your strengths and list something that you will do that day to reflect that strength.  You can use the same strength for several days or use a different one each day, the possibilities are endless!  The main idea is to focus on something positive about you!

Please send me any questions in the comments section!

Books About Gratitude (many available from Link+):

Even Happier, book cover
Gratitude Project, book cover
Gratitude Works, book cover
Thanks!, book cover
The Little Book of Gratitude, book cover