Gratitude Journal: New Age Hype or Useful Tool?

The first time someone suggested I keep a gratitude journal, I suggested they set their hair on fire. I was a little cranky at the time. I didn’t want to be grateful, I wanted to seethe and be angry. Once I got finished with anger, I wasn’t sure why I should be grateful. And that’s the point.

Being grateful and writing it down helps slow down all that galloping emotion. In the mood I was in, my approach was a “revenge of the gratitude journal.” I wanted to prove that idiot who suggested the gratitude journal that they were wrong. Hah! So I wrote down, “I have nothing to be grateful for.” So there. I looked at it for awhile and felt a little dumb. Except for the thing I was angry about, which had taken over my life, I had a roof over my head, clean clothes to wear, a caring spouse, enough food to eat. I knew that other people didn’t have all of that. But hey, I was still angry.

So I wrote down, “My cup of coffee was not total crap this morning.” That seemed about right. The next day, I wrote down, “My annoying cube neighbor has the flu.” Then I added, “Traffic was OK. I got to the client on time.” I found that having a few small things to be grateful for seemed to reduce my anger. Only because all that anger was exhausting me.

Over time, I began to notice the quality of items I was grateful for changed, almost as if I could predict a bad mood, a new project coming my way, and when I was in problem-solving mode. I began to dare to notice that I was good at some things and write them in the gratitude journal. I could see the big picture and the details to get there. I was a good problem solver. Being grateful for what you are good at and noticing it makes you better at it.

A gratitude journal sharpens your skills. The first time I suggested it to one of my coaching clients, he tactfully suggested I set my hair on fire. (Well, no, he was quite polite. But I could feel the shock wave over the phone. This was no girly-man.) But he kept up the gratitude journal. I promise my clients anonimity, so I can’t quote his entries, but they started simple and got quite complex. It was working for him, too.

Here’s what he wrote to me this morning:
“You can tell your tough-guy clients that when I got laid off, the journal had mentally prepared me to view it as a blessing and an opportunity rather than a death sentence.
It allowed me to think clearly and focus on what I really wanted to do. Kind of like boot camp mentally prepares a “green” soldier for his first combat mission.”

Thanks so much for letting me know. You and I discovered the same thing about gratitude–it’s not a new age emotion, it’s a business tool. Particularly if you own your own business.

Note: Tips for keeping a gratitude journal.

—Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach and a life coach who specializes in guiding people through transitions. She holds workshops on writing, corporate culture, and giving presentations. See her work at

Her other website, Raw-Art-Journals, is about her art life. Follow Quinn on Twitter.

8 thoughts on “Gratitude Journal: New Age Hype or Useful Tool?

  1. Pingback: Starting Your Gratitude Journal | QuinnCreative

  2. Yes! Thank you for this post! This is the kind of message I am trying to send to people! You start off forcing yourself to be grateful. Then somewhere along everything turns into a blessing! I am on a grateful journey myself, challenging myself to post something I am grateful for everyday on twitter. I am hoping it will inspire others to slow down and notice all the things they have to be grateful for as well!

  3. Pingback: Day Three: Need a little help with your gratitude journal?V « Newvine Growing — exploring evolution, revolution and living life intentionally

  4. Quinn, a great entry about gratitude or lack thereof. We can all be there–irritated and irate by having to feel grateful. There should be some kind of word for that: igrateful?

    —-Thanks, Ruth. Because I don’t allow people to sell their own products and services here unless they’ve asked to do so, I’ve deleted the sales portion of your reply. -Q

  5. A gratitude journal is a wonderful idea, and it’s beautiful to watch the gratitude grow, like a well-nurtured plant, even if it starts off puny.

    I was deathly sick 7 years ago, a throat cancer that nearly killed me. Recovering from that involved a lot of gratitude, not the least of which was that there was actually an exotic medication to defeat this thing. A slow recovery allowed me to appreciate each ability I got back, beginning with continence and going through the ability to walk.

    It’s amazing how much we take for granted until we lose it. Now, I have a phase almost every day where I am grateful just for the ability to walk, for the strength to open a bottle cap, for being able to dress myself.

    Objectively, my life is just as pleasant/unpleasant as it always was. I have merely learned not to take the pleasant for granted and allow the unpleasant, which tends to have a much stronger taste, to be the dominant flavor.

    —The gratitude journal really does help. It makes you more aware and awake to what is going right in your life. I just read a study that said that people who keep gratitude journals are happier and more satisfied with their lives. -Q

  6. I do something similar to this whenever I ride the bus. I do an “Appreciative Living” moment entry in my journal, as suggested by Jackie Kelm. I just write down three things I’m grateful for, and one thing I could do today that would bring me joy.

    Most of the time, my gratitude entries are pretty mundane: “I got a seat on the bus.” “Had fun watching TV with my partner last night.” But they remind me to start the day looking at the cup as half-full, rather than aggravating the feeling that I often wake up with (that I’m already behind!).

    Writing down the “what would bring me joy” was much harder for me. I started by writing chores then realized where that was going. Now, it’s mostly spending time with my partner, or finding ways to make myself laugh or feel more peaceful. 🙂
    –Liz 😉

  7. “My annoying cube neighbor has the flu.” HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!! I miss you SOOOO much!!! Hugs, Christine

    ===> They were tough times. And I remember how clearly I wanted to hold onto that anger and make someone else wrong. So they could understand that anger. Without that gratitude journal I would still be seething. Luckily, I let it all go. Hiking helps. So does being happy. –Q

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