We are big believers in keeping a gratitude journal.
There are tons of research-backed benefits to having a gratitude practice — things like a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, improving your sleep, and generally feeling happier. What’s *not* to love?
But we also know that getting started with a gratitude practice can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. How many times can you write that you are grateful for your friends or family before it starts to feel a little repetitive?
Whether you’re new to gratitude journaling or are feeling stuck in your practice, here are 8 ideas for easy-to-make gratitude lists that you can implement today to dig a little deeper and really start appreciating more of your life. So grab your gratitude journal or your favorite notebook, and let’s get started.
1. People in your life
Let’s start with an easy gratitude list: write down all of the people you can think of who are actively in your life and have contributed to your success or well-being in some way.
Start with your closest, inner circle — like your parents or guardians, siblings, partner, best friends, and children — and then expand from there. Here are some people who might be on your list who might not be top-of-mind — or maybe these will spark other ideas for you:
- Your favorite teacher
- Someone who has mentored you or gave you a career opportunity
- Friends you may have lost touch with
- People who were formative in your childhood, like a coach, a youth group leader, or a babysitter
- Community members you’re grateful for like your favorite barista, your local bookshop owner, the waiter who knows your name at your favorite restaurant
Start by just trying to make a list of 10 people. Then see if you can push yourself to expand that — can you list 20? What about 30? By going deeper beyond your immediate friends and family, you will be reminding yourself of the richness of your life and the beauty of your relationships.
2. People you don’t know (yet) who inspire you
Let’s take our gratitude for others one step deeper. Instead of listing people who are in your life, try coming up with a list of people you *don’t* know but whom you are still grateful for.
The truth is, you don’t have to know someone personally for them to have an impact on your life — maybe their work or words inspire you; maybe they started an organization that’s important to you; or maybe you just admire them. Taking some time to remind yourself about the incredible people out there who are doing good work can help you gain a sense of hope and appreciation for the larger world.
In case you need a little bit of inspiration, try thinking about people like:
- A leader who inspires you
- An activist who’s fighting for a cause you believe in
- A researcher or scientist who is working on something important to you
- Your favorite artist
- The band whose song helps you when you’re feeling low
- The author whose writing you return to again and again
The places you live or visit can sometimes impact you just as much as the people in your life. With this gratitude list, take some time to think specifically about all of the places that you’re grateful for and why. You can start broad — like your hometown, the place you went on vacation last year — but as you advance, try to get even narrower with your focus. What about the field you played soccer on growing up? Or the classroom where you met your favorite teacher? Your favorite table at your local cafe?
As you write each place down, take a moment to allow yourself to be momentarily transported to the place that you’re naming. Think about what it smells like, how the air feels, what sounds you can hear. And before you move on to the next location on your list, feel the warmth and gratitude for the experiences, feelings, and knowledge that place imparted to you.
What experiences have shaped you? What life lessons have you learned that you’re grateful to know?
Focusing a gratitude list on the experiences that you are grateful for is a great way to reflect on the richness of your life so far. Start your list by thinking about some of your favorite memories — maybe things like the trip you took with your best friends, or meeting your niece or nephew for the first time. In addition to writing down the event itself, take some time to jot down some notes about the feelings you had or some of the specific things that made that experience so special.
Don’t just stop with the happy memories, though. Out of every hardship and setback come lessons and new opportunities. What have you learned about yourself during some of your most difficult moments that you are grateful to know now? What bonds have been strengthened? What truths do you know for certain?
This simple exercise of shifting your focus to the bright spots of any experience can help you
With this gratitude list, we’re going to focus exclusively on opportunities that have come your way. Maybe your first boss took a chance on you. Maybe an acquaintance introduced you to an important connection or invited you to join their friend group. Maybe a teacher encouraged you to join a club or enter a competition that changed things for you.
Sit with this idea for a while and write down all of the opportunities, opened doors, and helping hands that you can think of — no matter how big or small, how life-changing or mundane. You might be surprised by how many times others have helped you. The intention with this exercise is to be reminded of the good of other people. (As a bonus, you may even feel inspired to pay it forward and extend a hand to someone else!)
6. Small pleasures
Make a list of all the things you can think of that make you happy. With this gratitude list, the intention is to focus on the small, everyday things and actions that bring you joy. Here are a few examples to get you started:
- The smell right before a rainstorm
- My morning cup of coffee
- Lighting a scented candle
- Starting a new notebook
- The feeling of clean sheets
- Wearing my favorite socks
Once you’ve finished your list, re-read it and try to identify ways that you can fit at least two of your favorite, small pleasures into every day.
7. Things that happened today
If you like to do your gratitude journaling in the evening, this list can be a really great way to reflect on and round out your day. Try to list at least 5 things that happened *today* that you’re grateful for. Here are a few examples to spark some inspiration:
- My morning coffee came out just right
- Received positive feedback at work
- Got “in the zone” on a project
- FaceTiming with friends
- The sunset was beautiful
Your list might be short — that’s okay! — but by getting specific, you can train your brain to start noticing the beauty, the good, and the kindness in small and mundane things, which will only help make you happier over time.
8. Things that happened this year
At Ink+Volt, we are all about reflection. It can be so easy to get caught up in the here-and-now — today’s to-do lists and tomorrow’s deadlines — that we forget to sit back and recognize how much we have accomplished over a longer stretch of time. That’s why we love the idea of dedicating a few gratitude journaling sessions a year to making a gratitude list that encompasses the full year thus far.
What are you proud of this year? What has surprised you? What memories have you made? What lessons have you learned?