Thanksgiving All Year: How to Start a Gratitude Journal

By Isha Sharma | Posted on November 21, 2017

Thanksgiving brings memories of warm crackling fires, cozy family dinners, laughter, and time with relatives you either longed to see or wanted to avoid seeing. The very essence of Thanksgiving is gratefulness - they say gratitude is the highest attitude.

Our mind has something that psychology calls the ‘negative bias’, this is the natural tendency to see the bad first, and for longer, than the good. When you receive nine compliments and one criticism, what do you tend to hold onto?

One easy step you can take to make gratitude a subconscious habit is to maintain a gratitude journal.

A gratitude journal is an exercise proved to lower stress levels, facilitate positive thinking, boost self-esteem, keep focused on your goals, and refresh your perspective on life.

You can also write in your gratitude journal during those times when you feel particularly down. You will feel uplifted and realize that things aren’t as bad as they might seem. Arianna Huffington, in her book Thrive, writes that “according to a study by researchers from the University of Minnesota and Florida, having participants write a list of positive event at the close of a day - and why the events made them happy- lowered their self-reported stress levels and gave them a greater sense of calm at night.”

Here are six simple steps to starting a gratitude journal:

  • Set a particular time of the day to write: Set a particular time to write in your gratitude journal to make it into a mini-ritual. A good time to do this would be at the end of the day, 10-15 minutes before sleeping.
  • Write at least 5-10 things: Write 5 things you are grateful for. At first, you may find hard to start, but as you begin writing, you will see how your list grows longer and how your day was actually better than you thought. However, as research from the University of California Davis suggests, aim for depth over breadth, and focus on elaborating in detail the thing you are grateful for to see more effective results.
  • Start with simple: Your list can be daily just simple, mundane things (had pancakes for breakfast) that may happen every day and that you take for granted. However, this does not mean you can’t add sublime and timeless things like the love of your family and the Beatles to your list.
  • Capture Surprises: List unexpected, surprising events, as they tend to elicit stronger emotional feelings of gratitude.
  • Mix it up: Yes - we know you’re grateful for the sunshine every morning, but try to write something new that you are grateful for each day, instead of repeating the same things over and over. You will expand your awareness, horizons, and perspective this way.
  • Negative psychology: One of the most effective ways to grow your gratitude is to remember what would have happened if that particular event/ situation didn’t happen, or thinking about the worst possible thing.

By focusing on gratitude every day, you're training your mind to recognize and remember all of the things you have to be thankful for. Gratitude is one of the cornerstone habits of long-term happiness, and keeping a journal is an easy way to make gratitude a part of your everyday self-care practice.

Isha Sharma, a global nomad native to the Himalayas and raised across six countries. Youth Ambassador and Instructor at the Art of Living, E-RYT 300 Yoga Teacher, Social Worker, Nutritionist and Mind-Body Wellness Writer.

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