How to Start Gratitude Journaling?

Here are some tips to get started on gratitude journaling by Pritesh, maker of the Gratitude app.

Illustration of a woman using her phone.
By Pritesh Sankhe, Founder of Gratitude

I started Gratitude Journaling to help me cope through a tough time. I was looking for ways on how to keep a positive mindset and manage my thoughts and emotions.

After reading books, blog posts, watching online videos, I believed that Gratitude Journaling can help me achieve my objectives. I had never journaled before and I was feeling hopeful and excited to start this new habit!

However, I remember having a lot of anxiety during the initial days of embarking on my Gratitude Journey. There were several questions I had when I began. I believe some of you might have the same questions and hence I decided to write this post.

Here are some of the questions that I’ll cover in the post:

Q1. What should I be grateful for?

Q2. How should I express my Gratitude in an effective way?

Q3. Is it okay if it gets repetitive? How can it be more fun and non-repetitive?

Q4. What should I do if I can’t think of anything to be grateful for?

Q5. How can gratitude journaling help me?

I have had these questions when I began journaling. And whenever I talk about the Gratitude app and journaling, I get these questions a lot. I’m sharing my thoughts and learnings that I have stumbled upon myself or learned from talking to others.

Q1. What should I be grateful for?

When I started Gratitude journaling, initially, I would try to find what are some of the big achievements and big things that happened this week or in the past. And I would struggle to come up with anything.

For me, these big things meant promotion or raise at work, winning some award or recognition, life achievements, weekend getaways, and vacations, buying a luxury item, etc. These “big” things happened once in a while and are generally the outcome of our short-term and long-term goals.

They are certainly not daily happenings. So, essentially, I had attached my gratitude (and happiness) to the outcomes and not to the journey I was on to achieve these outcomes. This was not sustainable. So, I decided to become more aware of the small blessings that I have in my daily life.

If we get too busy in our daily lives, we become less aware of our privileges and take several things for granted.A good question to ask when you start to write your first entries is "What are some of the privileges that I enjoy and I take for granted?"Here’s a snapshot of one of my first journal entries:

  • I want to say thanks to the laundry, paper, milk guys who serve us every day.
  • I'm thankful to Anjali and Pramila for working every day and providing us food and keeping our house clean.
  • I'm grateful to God that we all are together and holding each other in such tough times. We are on our way to achieving great things in life.
  • I'm grateful to Sathya that he got my shirts. I'm grateful to Jatin for going out of his way to help Dad and me.

A great way to think about your privileges is to look back and run through the day and look at all the things that got done for you without which you would have struggled.

Now, I find it very easy to reflect and acknowledge the efforts of so many living things and non-living objects that helped me to get through the day successfully. And once you do that, you can’t help but feel grateful.

Q2. How should I express my Gratitude in an effective way?

Gratitude is such a powerful positive emotion that if we are able to sustain it for longer periods of time, we become more pleasant, joyful, and happy. And writing what you are grateful for really really helps you to experience this emotion of Gratitude.

Hence, pausing for a moment and writing your journal often during the week can lead to a happier version of yourself. To really feel gratitude, you need to be Genuine. Write about something that you genuinely felt grateful for. And these could be small things too. These could be,

  • Someone who made you smile
  • Something about your city that you love
  • Something new that you are learning (about yourself)

To really feel gratitude, you need to be specific. Why are you grateful for that someone/something? Be specific. When you emphasize the “why”, your gratitude becomes more specific and consequently more genuine.

So, instead of: I’m grateful to my mom. Switch to I’m grateful to my mom for calling me yesterday and checking up on me. Do you recognize the difference? In the Gratitude app, once you open up to write a journal entry, it asks you to focus on the why. I’m so happy and grateful for “what?” because “why.”

Q3. Is it okay if it gets repetitive?

How can it be more fun and non-repetitive? One of the biggest blocks while trying to build a habit around practicing Gratitude and journaling is that it may start to sound repetitive

Day 1, you might be all excited to start this incredible journey. But by Day 4 or 5, you already start to feel that it’s becoming repetitive and not worthwhile. You may be writing about the same thing that you are grateful for every day and after a few days, you don’t get the point and eventually give up. Has this happened to you before? I believe Gratitude can never be enough.

At no point in time, I can say “Oh! I have been grateful enough. Now, I can stop feeling grateful!” It is perfectly fine to repeat your gratitude over and over again if you feel it genuinely. While that is true now, it certainly doesn’t come naturally during the early days of journaling. So here are a few tips.

  • Change the “Why”
    While the core person or things of the Gratitude might remain the same, you can always change or think of different reasons why you are grateful to that person/thing. For e.g. Today: I’m so happy and grateful to my wife Neha for supporting me with my entrepreneurial journey.
    Tomorrow: I’m thankful to Neha for listening to me and helping me to structure my work thoughts.
    Day after: I’m so happy and grateful that Neha and I had a good and peaceful evening walk today.
  • Stretch yourself to think of something new
    As you progress through your journey, you can ask yourself: What new can I think that I could be grateful for?
    This is a great question to ask to make yourself more self-aware of your surroundings and the blessings that you may have taken for granted
    Personally, through my journey with Gratitude journaling, I have learned to be grateful for nature, electricity, the internet, hard times, the present day, etc.

Q4. What should I do if I can’t think of anything to be grateful for?

There are those days when you feel down and it’s difficult to have a positive outlook on anything. Especially when you are going through a tough time in your relationships, grief, work, and finance.

Many times we also tend to dwell on the past or become anxious about the future. And it comes naturally and easily to hold on to these negative emotions. During these times, don’t pressure and force yourself to only focus on the positive.

I think it’s equally important to acknowledge the negative phases of our lives. What I have found useful during such situations is to ask myself - “How can I let this go? Can I do anything to change the situation? Or can I change myself if I cannot change the situation?"

One of the best things to do during such time is to look back at your older journal entries. These are really effective to uplift yourself and help to keep a positive outlook even when you are surrounded by negativity. You can stretch yourself and ask if you can find just one positive thing about the situation and write about it.

Sometimes, I continue to write the entire episode of what I’m feeling about that negative situation in my Gratitude journal. That also helps me to answer - “How can I let this go?”

Q5. How can gratitude journaling help me?

Talking from my personal experiences, I have found one of the best coping mechanisms for me through Gratitude journaling. I realize that confronting hardships is a part and parcel of my life, and Gratitude journaling has really made it easy for me to sail through the downs in my life with a healthy and positive mindset.

It’s great to look back through your journal and re-read some of your journal entries from time to time. It makes you realize how far you have come along your journey and gives you the confidence to keep going and build resilience.

I have grown more empathetic and more inclined to help others. As you focus on your own blessings, you become keenly aware of what other people don’t have.

Earlier, I would feel envious of other people's success and focus on the lack of it for myself. This would come in the way of fostering my good relationships with others. Over the course of time, I have seen my relationships improve with people.

Practicing gratitude allows you to acknowledge and appreciate even the smallest things, especially, in your relationships.

I hope reading this post has helped you in clearing your doubts and motivated you to build this incredible habit of Gratitude Journaling! I wish you lots of love and happiness on your journey.

👉 Continue reading:

5 Daily Habits for Living a Grateful Life

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