Gratitude makes a vital part of our mental health and physical health in general. Therapists, scientists, scholars, and more agree that the mere act of saying 'thank you' can cause an incredible change in your well-being, relationships, and even your work life!
If you're having trouble identifying the good things in your life, don't worry because we'll help you do just that using a gratitude journal and garner the many benefits that come along with it!
In this article, we'll explore the first few steps to take when writing a gratitude journal, showcase some ideas for different age groups, identify different types of templates, and, finally, give you some guiding tips and tricks to ease up the process.
When and How to Start
Although writing what you're thankful for might seem like the tough part, you'll soon find that starting is the most complicated and challenging to get through. So, here's how you can do that in the shortest time possible.
When to Start
Starting a gratitude journal is a good idea for everyone from all age brackets. However, there are certain times and situations when it's necessary. We've listed here some of these situations:
When You’re Feeling Pessimistic
According to multiple sources, optimism correlates with gratitude. So, while you engage in gratitude exercises, you'll find yourself thinking over multiple aspects of your life -like material things in your possession, your achievements, friends, and family- in a more positive light.
Pessimism is hard to get rid of, especially when it becomes proverbial armor protecting you from constant hardships. So, you can expect a bit of resistance (an unconscious effort) when shifting from a pessimistic approach to a grateful, optimistic one.
When You Want to Improve Your Self-Esteem
Typically, one should feel positive about their self-image and their self-esteem in general once they incorporate gratitude into their lifestyle.
Once you notice your strongest fortes, the better bits of your life, and the good way people treat you, your self-esteem will constantly be high.
However, it'll stay that way only as long as you're adopting a grateful lifestyle, which is why you'll need to maintain gratitude journaling as a habit.
When You Need to Improve Your Health
This might sound a bit too far-fetched, but you'd be surprised by how writing a gratitude journal can improve your health exponentially.
Gratitude can effectively help you sleep better at night without you ruminating over the bad things that happened during the day, which, in turn, will reduce fatigue and promote your productivity. You'll also find that you're less prone to burnout if you're more grateful.
When There’s General Dissatisfaction in a Workplace
Whenever someone is contemplating changing their jobs or shifting their career, a workplace's imbalanced, toxic nature could be the reason for that.
Hence, it's the managers' or leaders' job to sense this in an environment and quickly act on fixing it. What's great about gratitude practices is they don't require much effort, and they can make employees feel positive about their work twofold.
On the plus side, gratitude practices, including journals, will increase employees' productivity!
How to Start
The following steps should help you start writing and maintaining a good gratitude journal.
1. Choose a Medium
Despite how insignificant this might sound, you'll need to choose a medium to record what you have in mind.
This mainly depends on your preferences. If you like the feel of pen and paper in your hands, you'd be better off buying a large-sized, durable journal with a design to your liking, as you'll probably use it on a daily basis.
Physical journals are durable, flexible, and aesthetically pleasing. Some people would even find the design enough reason to start writing the first thing in the morning! Additionally, you can take it anywhere and start writing whenever it suits you.
On the other hand, digital journals will offer the same benefits, minus the flexibility part, that is, unless you're planning on taking your laptop everywhere you go. The only pro digital journals have is that they provide infinite space to write in, as opposed to physical journals.
So if you happen to burn through physical journals pretty quickly, you might want to start journaling your gratitude on your laptop.
2. Choose a Timeframe
Most people could be categorized either into early birds or night owls. Whichever works for you, choose that timeframe and set a few minutes for gratitude writing. If that's not the case for you, choose a timeframe in which you feel energetic, and don't forget that it must be free time.
It might feel like a chore initially, mainly if you're not used to writing; however, you can associate gratitude writing with another task to make it feel less like a burden and more like a habit. For example, you can write in your journal as you drink your morning coffee or before you sleep as you listen to music, and so on.
3. Think About Your Content
Once you open your journal, words and thoughts might fail you. For that reason, you'll need to think about topics to write about. For instance, you can write about your friends, family, people you're working with, or even your workplace.
You can also write about material things you're grateful for; it doesn't matter how insignificant and small they might seem, as they'll bear their fruits at the end. Examples for things you can write about: your morning coffee, house, health, food, smells, and tastes.
In short, it doesn't matter what or who makes you grateful; the only thing that matters is that you feel grateful for it, which will make it qualified to be a subject in your journal.
4. The More Specific, the Better!
As it happens, gratitude writers find it a bit difficult to write about specific things and are inclined towards generalizations. While there's nothing wrong with that, it might not give them the results they need.
Gratitude works because you actually feel grateful for something, not because you think you feel grateful for it. For instance, if you feel grateful because today wasn't so bad, it'll have a different effect than feeling grateful because your teammates were very supportive today.
Dive into details, mention the good deeds, even when someone else did them. Focus on trivial details that make you thankful. After all, you're journaling!
Gratitude Journal Ideas
Because gratitude journals can work for almost all age groups, here are some ideas for different age brackets.
Writing gratitude journals works for everyone, children included. In fact, gratitude journals can foster positive behaviors in children if they start them pretty early.
Here's how you can make gratitude journals more inspiring for children:
It’s Story Time!
Nothing is more attention-grabbing for kids than a story, especially the younger ones. If they're having issues grasping the idea of gratitude journaling, you can acquire books about this subject; they'll be an incredible help in their gratitude journey.
Make It a Team Effort
For children, activities are always fun when done in groups, and the same can be said for gratitude journaling. If your children are hesitant about starting this new activity, they might be more inclined to try it out if they see you do it as well.
Pepper in Fun Exercises
The process of journaling for adults is much different than it is for kids. If your kids find it boring to write what they feel grateful about in bullet points or simply jotting down their thoughts without voicing anything, they're likely to abandon their journal altogether.
To avoid this, you can suggest some fun exercises to do together like these:
- Use a gratitude jar in which you add prompts
- Have them write what they're grateful for on a gratitude wall
- Ask them to use paper crafts to jot down what they're grateful for
Most teens are more preoccupied with smart devices than anything else, so asking them to stay focused on journaling can pose a significant challenge, especially with their instant gratification behaviors. To overcome that, here are some tips:
Instill a 5-Minutes-of-Gratitude Rule
If your teenager has a short attention span, a 5-minute gratitude rule should do the trick. Bearing in mind the steps we've mentioned on how to start a gratitude journal, make sure that they maintain that rule every day so that journaling becomes a habit.
Focus On Feelings Rather Than Material Objects
Teenagers have a lot of things going on in their heads, so writing down these feelings and why they're thankful for them will help them better understand themselves.
Think about it as writing a diary; the difference is they're reviewing their feelings more positively and paying less attention to material objects.
Couple Writing With Expressive Gratitude
Sometimes gratitude journaling alone won't be enough for your teenagers. If that's the case, you might ask them to express what they're grateful for.
Expressive gratitude doesn't have to be explicitly uttered; your teenagers can express their gratitude by doing a kind act, then write about that in their journal.
Aside from the notes we've mentioned above, there are a couple of practices you can add to your routine. Here are some tips:
Another brilliant tip for your journal is to create a collage of all the things you're grateful for. For example, you can use photos of your loved ones, cinema ticket stubs, a poster, or anything that makes you feel grateful, even slightly.
This might sound a bit redundant, but hear us out. If you're one to write bullet points or short notes in your journal, you might want to try doing letters for a change, especially if you're writing about a person, like a spouse or a loved one, and bullet points won't cover your thoughts.
Create a Collage
Another brilliant tip for your journal is to create a collage of all the things you're grateful for. You can use photos of your loved ones, cinema ticket stubs, a poster, or anything that makes you feel grateful, even slightly.
If you've searched for gratitude journals before, then you already know that there are hundreds of templates online. We provide you here with the top four popular ones:
As the name suggests, a weekly template can be used all week; it's designed for those who like to write in short paragraphs or even bullet points. Teenagers might also like the short formula of weekly templates, as they can usually fit the 5-minute timeframe of writing.
Daily templates, on the other hand, are more detailed. They basically cover every period of your day, have extra notes at the footer of the page, or a few extra lines if there's anything you need to add.
These templates are best suited for people who’ve already made a habit of gratitude journaling and know what they want to write about.
Some gratitude journals include drawings for you to color, and some are only dedicated for coloring. In either case, they'll both add color to your daily routine and will help you engage in your gratitude practices with a fun activity!
If you're struggling with writing, templates with various prompts are the way to go. Whether you're using a digitized template or a journal with preset prompts, they're always going to help you start writing.
Prompt templates are best suited for children having trouble writing what they're grateful for, as they'll always point them in the right direction.
It's not easy to start writing a gratitude journal, much less knowing what you're feeling grateful for. However, this is why there are multiple tools to help you!
Once you know where to start, finding a suitable template and practices to add to your effort won't be difficult.
Finally, stay positive, stay grateful, and start writing!