Expressing gratitude has been shown to benefit both physical and mental health and wellbeing. Whether you’re looking to start a daily gratitude journal or looking for tips to enhance your current one, below are 8 gratitude journaling ideas to optimise your practice and maximise the health benefits.
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Benefits of having a heart full of gratitude
Gratitude is one of 10 healthy habits to improve our health that doesn’t cost a penny. Having a heart of gratitude and expressing thankfulness regularly benefits our physical and mental health in numerous ways (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6):–
- Boosts our immune system,
- Better sleep,
- Lowers heart rate and blood pressure,
- Improves mood and happiness,
- Reduces stress, anxiety and depression,
- Reduces inflammation,
- Increases productivity.
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How to express deep gratitude – daily gratitude list
The most common practice is to write down 3 things you’re grateful for. As simple as it sounds, it’s something I struggled to do. I found myself writing down the same 3 things everyday and it became repetitive, disingenuous and insincere.
Over time I’ve learnt some really useful gratitude exercises and tips that completely transformed my gratitude journalling. Below are 8 ideas for starting or updating your current daily gratitude practice, to help maximise the effectiveness of it.
8 gratitude log ideas
1). Start and end your day with gratitude
Morning gratitude practice
- Eases anxiety, especially beneficial if waking up with anxiety.
- Puts us in a more positive frame of mind and sets us up well for the day ahead.
- Improves our focus and productivity, allowing us to accomplish more and achieve everything we set out to.
- Improves decision making and makes us more resilient, allowing us to deal well with stressful and difficult events during the day and bounce back from them quicker.
Morning gratitude journal ideas
- Write down 3 things you’re looking forward to that day.
- Write down one thing you watch, listen to, read and one person you’re grateful for. If possible, make time for these things during the day.
- Perform a brain dump journal, writing down everything in your life you’re grateful for or anything you’re looking forward to during the day.
Evening gratitude practice
Ending the day with gratitude, having happy thoughts before bed and focussing on what we appreciate and the good things that happened, prevents us from tossing and turning in bed mulling over negative thoughts, regrets and worries.
It’s one effective way to improve sleep. It activates the vagus nerve and our parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and digest system, which reduces heart rates, eases anxiety and stress and increases relaxation (9). It’s been shown to help us fall asleep quicker, wake fewer times during the night and sleep for longer (10).
2). Use a gratitude app
The best gratitude apps, such as Gratitude and Delightful, provide you with prompts that allow you to reflect and be appreciative for things you may not have thought of. This is especially beneficial if you find yourself writing down the same 3 things everyday, and on tough days where noticing the positives can be difficult.
Daily gratitude journal prompts they provide include questions such as:-
- What advice did you receive that you were grateful for?
- What’s your favourite part of your daily routine?
They also allow you to set daily reminders to complete your practice, to easily get into the habit of implementing it, which is especially beneficial when first starting a gratitude journal.
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3). Be as specific as possible
Rather than just listing general things you’re grateful for, such as a friend or parent, expand on exactly why you’re grateful for them. For example, I’m grateful for my parents doing the shopping for me.
Being more specific trains your mind to identify these subtle things during the day, which keeps you in a more positive frame of mind and allows the benefits of gratitude practice to transfer to the whole day.
As well as writing 3 things down, Jay Shetty recommends visualising and replaying the specific things you’re grateful for in your mind, engaging all 5 of your senses by remembering in as much detail as possible everything you saw, heard, smelt, touched and tasted. This allows you to re-experience the positive emotions and feelings, producing a greater gratitude response and maximising the health benefits.
5). Self gratitude
Often gratitude is directed towards other people or things. However, we’re often our own worst critic and we’re kinder to others than we are to ourselves.
Expressing gratitude but feeling negatively towards ourselves minimises the health benefits received from our gratitude practice. Self criticism can activate the sympathetic stress response, which suppresses the immune system and can increase fatigue, irritability, anxiety and stress (11, 12).
A great tip from Chloe Brotheridge is after writing down 3 things you’re grateful for, to finish by listing at least 1 thing about yourself that you’re thankful for or proud of yourself for doing. Again, this trains our brain to look for these positive traits and small wins and accomplishments during the day. It also helps to improve self esteem by reducing how critical we are of ourselves and viewing ourselves more positively.
6). Reflect at the end of each week
At the end of each week reflect and reread the things you’ve been grateful for to see if any there’s any patterns. If there’s specific things you’re grateful for that are occurring regularly then make time for these things each day to help bring you more joy and improve your mental wellbeing.
7). Alphabet Gratitude List
One of my favourite gratitude journal ideas, and a great variation of your common gratitude practice, is the A to Z gratitude list. You can use it in two ways:-
- Work your way through the alphabet, listing one thing for each letter that you’re thankful and appreciative of or,
- Take one letter and list 3 things starting with that letter you’re grateful for.
This is especially beneficial if you find yourself running out of ideas and writing the same 3 things down each day.
Example A to Z Gratitude List Ideas
A – Adventures
B – Bible
C – Cooking
D – Dancing
E – Employment
F – Family
G – God
H – Home
I – Internet
J – Juice
K – Kindness of others
L – Laughter
M – Music
N – Nature
O – Ocean
P – Prayer
Q – Quiet times
R – Routines
S – Sunshine
T – Transport
U – Understanding
V – Vacations
W – Walks
X – Xmas
Y – Yoga routine
Z – Zoom
8). Gratitude Jar Activity
A gratitude jar is a great tool, either used instead of or to compliment your gratitude journalling. At the end of each day on a piece of paper, write down either:-
- One good thing that happened,
- One thing you’re proud of yourself for or,
- One thing you’re thankful for.
When written, place it in your gratitude glass jar. Then whenever you’re having a tough day, doubting yourself or questioning whether you’re making any progress or improvement, open the jar and remind yourself of the big and small wins you’ve had, what you’ve accomplished and the good things in your life.
It’s a great practice to start at the beginning of the year especially, the time of year when we’re more prone to compare ourselves to others and reflect on whether we could have achieved and done more over the previous year. At the end of December, you’ll have 365 positive things to look back and reflect on to help prevent the comparisons, regrets and negative thoughts.
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I hope these gratitude journaling ideas were helpful. Do you have a gratitude practice you do everyday? What things help you maximise the benefit of it? I would love to hear any tips you have. Leave me a comment below or message me on social media on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or YouTube.