I Kept a Gratitude Journal for 30 Days and Here's What Happened PLUS 7 Gratitude Journal Prompts
I've kept a personal diary off and on for years. Writing sporadically, I could never keep up with it. So the thought of undertaking a commitment to write not just in a diary, but a journal focused on gratitude for 30 days straight was a bit daunting. I was not exactly excited about it, but I was curious about the benefits I might encounter.
What is a Gratitude Journal?
But let's start with the basics. What is a gratitude journal? It's a place to keep record of the people, places, things, experiences, etc. you're grateful for. To explore these items further, reflecting on the whys you're grateful is also part of the journaling process.
For the scientific study of happiness - or positive psychology - gratitude journaling is also known as "Three good things" or "Counting your blessings". The "Three good things" method has you focus on three things you're grateful for every day, though it's not the only way to do it. I personally found that I responded better to focusing on one thing every day and exploring that topic.
Now why exactly do people engage in gratitude journaling? Three studies conducted by Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough where participants were instructed to record daily experiences resulted in the following findings:
“The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the three studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding.”
Through gratitude journaling you are rewiring your brain. You're teaching it to become more aware of the positive aspects of your life and to weaken your tendencies to wallow in the negative. The process of rewiring does take time, however. Patience is crucial in any new habit, especially when it comes to breaking down tendencies we've held onto for year and years. So it is well advised to stick with it and see the difference 30 days makes.
Do I Need a Special Journal?
No. I started using a red college ruled notebook. I picked it up at the Dollar Tree not really knowing (based on my writing frequency in the past) if I would stick with it. Since then, however, I have invested in a beautifully handbound notebook to record my gratitude. I view it as a sacred space to honor and appreciate my life.
What are Some Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal?
WRITE HOW YOU WANT
As far as the style of writing, I simply write in paragraph form. Other styles people use are bullet journaling with short entries, long diary-styled posts, and brain dump writing to get every single thought down on paper. I say whichever style speaks to you and fits your life that's most effective for you, go for it.
For the content, I'd say most of us come up with the same list: I'm grateful for my significant other, family, friends, health, home, etc. The trap here is that our journals can fill up with the same stuff, day in and day out. And that's not to say that these are things we shouldn't be grateful for because they are! But that's the easy way out. Gratitude journaling challenges us to dig a little deeper.
Being specific is the key here. Instead of, "I am so grateful for my partner. I love them so much," try something like, "I am so grateful for my partner listening to me last night. I am thankful that they chose to be present with me in a moment where I needed them." By avoiding general statements, it opens things up for true appreciation of the blessings we have in life. It allows us to recognize the whys of gratefulness.
KEEP IT UP THROUGH THE BAD DAYS
I would also aim to keep your habit of journaling no matter the type of day you're having. While it may seem like the last thing you'd want to do on a bad day is write about how grateful you are, that's when you need it most. In those situations, I kept up with my commitment but I went short. One entry was just one word. And I didn't beat myself up about it later either. Sometimes that's all we have to give - and that's okay.
DO IT AT THE SAME TIME EVERY DAY
Habits 101: When you do something over and over at the same time every day, you will be conditioned to continue doing it. Your mind will begin to expect gratitude journaling.
BE SURE TO CALL OUT THE SURPRISES
When we reflect on the surprises life brings, it's like doubling down in gratitude journaling. Not only does this highlight how living is unpredictable, but it allows appreciation for it as well. If things were the same all of the time, it wouldn't be much of a life, would it?
STAY PRESENT WHEN YOU JOURNAL
If at any time you feel like you're going through the motions in order to check off journaling on your daily to-do list, you're missing the point. Autopilot + Gratitude = No Longer Effective. Sure, there will be days when it feels like you're repeating your "three things" and you rationalize that that's good enough. I recommend bringing awareness to this attitude - not beating yourself up about it by any means - and shifting your mindset. If it feels like the result of having a bad day, do what you can. If it feels like it's coming from boredom or obligation, then it's more important than ever to think about what you have to be thankful for.
What Happened to Me After 30 Days of Keeping a Gratitude Journal
Now having said all this, let's get down to what I experienced. I started my journal on March 26, 2021. The initial push behind it was all of the reading I was doing on manifestation work. Gratitude journaling is a great way to raise your vibration which then ties into creating your reality. Keeping a journal of this kind is calming, healing, and empowering- all wonderful things to experience and have its effects change your life.
I Boosted My Manifestation Work
I would have to say after 30 days of journaling I did notice my manifestation work got an upgrade. I became more clear and focused on what I was asking for from the Universe. My mind wasn't so jumbled with negative thoughts and feelings of inadequacy. I started to believe in my ability to create the life of my dreams.
I Stopped Throwing Myself Pity Parties
I noticed through consistent journaling I was able to widen my scope of appreciation for all the good in my life. That annoying, nagging voice of "Why me? Poor me!" started to dissipate. No more pity parties. No more blame shifting. It's like a small sliver of sunshine started breaking through each and every day, more and more. And once I started shining that light on all the good, I was able to see more and more of it.
I Became Focused
This next benefit could be a residual from starting and following a habit without fail. I became more focused. I've really pondered on this one because it really surprised me. As someone with ADHD, focus is not my strong suit. So for me to be able to get things done with less hassle was such a welcomed surprise it became a great driving force to continue along this path.
With more focus came less daydreaming. I use to let my mind wander and daydream and run wild with negative thought patterns and worst-case scenarios. Reliving humiliating situations and replaying embarrassing moments from the past would occupy a great portion of my mind. But this all began to change with gratitude journaling. It's like recognizing the good in my present life lassoed its rope around me and pulled me back to the here and now. It helped me realize that all that has already happened doesn't hold nearly as much weight as I used to think.
The Creative Juices Started Flowing
Yet another great benefit of journaling my gratitude is my creativity soared through the roof. I believe this ties into both having more focus and committing less daydreaming. It's like I swept up all of those cobwebs and cleared out my brain and by doing so I made room. Room for focus, room for being present, room for creative streaks. I finally made space for my ideas to marinate and manifest.
I started looking forward to my routine. I woke up with a purpose and a way of doing things. It wasn't easy at first. It took about a week and a half I would say before things really started to click. I started adding in other things to my morning habits, too. I found myself wanting to get out of bed and greet the day instead of lingering and avoiding living life altogether.
I've always considered myself to be quite the skeptic. Over the years I believe I grew into this way of thinking and believing from trusting the wrong people and not wanting to be duped ever again. But with this hardened exterior came consequences of shutting myself out of experiences and ways to improve my life. I admit my initial response to writing this portion of the post is to shy away from lauding the benefits of gratitude journaling and instead wanting to play down how much it's helped me. But I cannot deny that it has.
I look forward to gratitude journaling every single day. As of writing this today, I'm 45 days in. I'm still feeling the benefits. And I believe it's safe to say I'm a gratitude journaling convert.
7 FREE GRATITUDE JOURNAL PROMPTS
1. What really excites me?
2. Who inspires me at work?
3. Did I catch myself smiling recently?
4. Who makes my life easier>
5. When I hear a funny joke, who is the first person I think of to share it with?
6. What plans am I looking forward to?
7. Where is my favorite place to visit?
I cannot shout from the rooftops loud enough about my positive experience with gratitude journaling. It is an incredibly personal venture to undertake and I would encourage one and all to do it. However, I know that it may not be for everyone. If you do choose to start one, remember to make it yours in every way: how it looks, how you approach it, how you give yourself space and time to create, etc. Over time, things will fall into place if you keep with it. And as always, I hope this post helps someone out there to try something new or stay the path.