4 Ways to Establish a Gratitude Journaling Habit

how to start practicing gratitude

Gratitude is the emotion we feel when we’re thankful. Think about the last favor someone did for you. (Yes, go ahead, do it right now.) Now think about why you were thankful? That emotion you feel right now is gratitude. (When we think of why we’re thankful, we feel the emotion more deeply.)

Gratitude is also an awareness – a conscious recognition of the good in our lives and in the world. It injects positivity in a powerful way that benefits us beyond feeling happy.

Over the past few decades, scientific studies revealed that consistently feeling and expressing gratitude has astonishing impact on our overall wellbeing.

  • increased happiness
  • less anxiety
  • positive mood
  • improved health
  • better sleep
  • bounce back faster from challenges
  • enhanced relationships
  • stronger community connection

People who practice gratitude reportedly have a better quality of life.

how to practice gratitude

How Do You Practice Gratitude?

Practicing gratitude is the same as practicing anything else. You need to create the habit. Most people find writing down what they’re grateful for each day in a dedicated journal builds the habit of focusing on being thankful.

Journaling on paper, physically writing down your thoughts, has been shown to have a profound effect on your mindset, wiring your brain differently and fostering a deep connection between your thoughts and the words on the page. Of course, if a digital journal or voice notes work better for you, go right ahead. There is no right or wrong way.

Just remember that the goal of journaling is to feel gratitude. Even writing a long list of things you’re grateful for won’t help you reach your goal of being more thankful if you don’t feel the emotion.

The best way to feel strong emotion is to ask yourself, “why?” If a journal prompt asks what your favorite animal is, and you write “dog” and move to the next query, you probably won’t feel gratitude. But if you ask yourself why dogs are your favorite animal, and remember that as a child when you cried you always hugged your collie and buried your face in his fur, you will feel the emotion.

why journal

Why Journal?

Why is writing in a journal better than just contemplating your blessings? Journaling is the first step towards building an attitude of gratitude in our life. The end goal isn’t just to feel grateful for a few moments – it’s to shift our way of thinking so that gratitude becomes our natural reaction and thought process as we go through our day.

Journaling builds a daily gratitude habit that gradually transforms your outlook. If you persistently journal for three months, this practice gets deeply ingrained in your mind. Even if you face setbacks and return to negative stinkin’ thinkin’, get back on track by writing in your gratitude journal again.

established habit of gratitude journaling

How to establish a journaling habit.


Practicing anything requires patience. Shifting your way of thinking and beliefs to expressing gratitude isn’t an overnight process. It is a gradual shift over time. After a period of consistent practice you’ll discover you feel more appreciative and happier. Be patient with yourself and with the process.


Decide when you’d prefer to journal. Do you want to write in the morning for a positive outlook to start your day? Or would you prefer to reflect on the events of the day at night and feel thankful and positive for a better sleep? Is there another time of day that suits your schedule? The easiest way to make anything a habit is to link it to other things that are automatically a part of your daily routine. So you can journal with your first cup of coffee, or after you brush your teeth at night. What matters more than when you journal is to make journaling a part of every day.


What are you going to use to journal? Are you going to use a composition book and write free-flow – or make a bullet journal? Maybe you’d prefer to start using a gratitude journal with sections for writing in a focused way. A gratitude journal with prompts makes it easier to write because you answer questions or statements that make you think.

Quiet Time

Journal time should ideally be uninterrupted time. (It’s harder to feel grateful when you’re constantly being disturbed.) Quiet time allows you to reflect on your thoughts and feelings.

As you begin, remember there’s no right or wrong way to practice gratitude journaling. The true power is the practice itself. Once you have established your routine, aim for consistency. Your commitment to writing makes this journey interesting and incredibly rewarding.

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