Gratitude Journal, Step by Step

When I first wrote about gratitude journals, it was about my own experience, from grumpy doubter to believer. When Kim Painter from USA Today called me to interview me about gratitude journals, I figured they have gone mainstream. And they have. Painter’s article on gratitude and gratitude journals (I got a nice mention) has some interesting proof that saying “thank you,” and finding things to be grateful for, reduces blood pressure, makes you feel better and actually can improve your mood.

Use a journal that's comfortable for you.

Use a journal that

Now that we are close to Thanksgiving, a time when people who are alone or overwhelmed may not feel so thankful, I thought it might be useful to spell out how to keep a gratitude journal. Of course, you can keep it any way that works, but working with a lot of coaching clients, I’ve found a few tips that really work well.

1. Keep it smalll and keep it with you. A small spiral-bound notebook is inexpensive and easy to carry with you. That makes it more likely you will have it with you when you need it. I like a 4-inch by 6-inch size.

2. Leave the first page blank. That way, you won’t feel so pressured to make it perfect. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to be there for you.

3. Write it down when it happens. In the beginning, when you feel more exhausted, angry or hurt than grateful, write down the slightest thing you feel grateful for. Write it down as soon as it happens. Noting your gratitude will help sharpen your senses to things that make you grateful, and make more events available to you.

4. Write every day. Look for anything that makes you feel better or grateful. Some days you may have to search really hard, and that’s OK. Comfortable shoes, someone holding a door open for you, a smile from a stranger can be a big event in a life gone awry. Look for them so you will experience them.

5. Look back over what you are grateful for. Many people find that they start out small, then realize there is more and more. If that happens, it’s, well, something to be grateful for.

6. Be the stranger to smile at someone. Wouldn’t it be nice to wind up in someone gratitude journal?

If you have good results, let me know. It can be a boost to others. We’re in some tough times right now, not through any fault of our own. It takes a little more effort to be cheerful and grateful, but it’s worth it.

–Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach, who helps people deal with change and opportunity in life. She can be reached at under “Contact”

(c) image and text. All rights reserved. 2008

5 thoughts on “Gratitude Journal, Step by Step

  1. Great post!
    Many years ago – in my ‘New Age Phase’, and coming through some very tough times, I kept a ‘Blessings’ (I know!) Journal – the suggestion was, to fill a page each day – 30 lines. Difficult and annoying at first, the amazing thing was that after a few days I was looking for things to count as a blessing so that I could write it in the journal – I only needed to keep it for a week and my whole attitude towards the situation I was in had changed for the better and the path was smoothed for me to cope with several more adversities in such a better way. A powerful tool.

  2. WordPress just helped me find your blog because I’ve written about gratitude journals, as well.
    In that spirit, let me express my gratitude for your pointers on how to do a gratitude journal. They’re great tips and I plan to point to them as I write more about journaliing.

  3. Pingback: Gratitude Watch - 2009-04-21 — The Meaning of Existence (and all that)

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