We’ve all seen the articles and studies about the benefits of a gratitude practice.
Or we have heard about the celebrities from Oprah Winfrey to Richard Branson to Brené Brown who make sure to incorporate gratitude in their lives. But how can we practice gratitude when we don’t always have the luxury of time or spiritual advisors to help guide us? And how do we maintain this exercise without letting it fall by the wayside? One simple way to start practicing gratitude is to use the help of gratitude journal prompts.
Whether you’re looking to start a gratitude journal or refresh your current practice, we’ve put together some gratitude journal writing prompts that you can start using today, with as little or as much time as you need.
First, examine why this is important to you
Before you develop a habit, it’s helpful to figure out why you want to begin in the first place. You’ll have an easier time committing to a gratitude practice when you identify what it is that you hope to receive from this practice and why it’s important to you.
Maybe you want to start gratitude journaling because you’ve heard it will:
- Ease anxiety
- Give you more restful sleep
- Help you become more mindful and be in the present
- Help you be more happy and fulfilled
- Give you more appreciation for your goals
If you ever find yourself putting off writing in your gratitude journal, refer back to this list and remind yourself why this gratitude practice is important to you.
Gratitude journal writing prompts: Where to start
If you’re new to this practice, finding things to be thankful for can seem a bit awkward at first. It can also be hard if you’ve already been maintaining a gratitude practice but feel like you’re stuck in a rut.
Whatever the stage of your current gratitude practice, kickstart it by starting small. I personally like to pick a list of five things I’m grateful for because it forces me to dig deep, especially on challenging days when I’m convinced I can’t think of more than one thing. You’ll be surprised to see what you come up with when you examine your day from all angles, and think of at least five things to be grateful for.
Here are some gratitude journal writing prompts to get started. You can choose a different one for each day. Or as a fun challenge, try doing the same category for a week and see how much variation you can bring to each day.
1. Pick 5 things that you’re grateful for.
This could be an object or an observation, anything that comes to mind. Some examples:
- Hearing bird song in the morning
- Flowers blooming in neighbor’s yard
- Fresh strawberries
- Dogs splashing in water
- Foggy days
2. Pick 5 people you’re grateful for.
Family members. Friends. A teacher who was kind to you.
This exercise can be especially helpful if you’re going through a difficult time at the office and looking to find something positive.
Maybe there’s a co-worker who brings you a cookie out of the blue. Or a security guard who always makes you laugh. Or maybe you're grateful for a person in your life that you hardly know. For example, I’m grateful for an exterminator who worked in our building and would sing while he worked. This small act reminded me that it’s good to have a little song in our heart, especially while we’re working!
3. Pick 5 places you’re grateful for.
A city or country you visited. A grandparent’s house. A grove of trees.
You could even stretch the definition of “place.” Maybe it’s a cozy nook in your apartment. Or the furry shoulder of a pet.
Don’t worry about your answers being too simple or mundane. The benefit of keeping a gratitude journal is to get you into the habit of noticing the world around you, which will help you cultivate more appreciation for what you have.
Another reason it’s okay to have simple answers is that it’s the small things that make up a great life.
Oftentimes, our lives are ordinary and routine. We wake up, go to work, come home, repeat. The days seem to fly by. It’s sometimes hard to remember what we did last year or even last week. But in using these gratitude journal prompts, we can slow down time by paying attention to the small, everyday moments. The more you recognize and savor the small things, the more expansive your life will feel.
And don’t worry if you find yourself being grateful for the same things each day. Sometimes this can even lead you to deeper insights! For example, if you’re always writing down that you’re grateful for tree-lined streets and pretty flowers, maybe it’s a sign to spend more time in nature. On your less busy days, see if you can take a walk outside during lunch or walk to work. You’ll be grateful you did it!
Gratitude journal writing prompts for further reflection
Once you get into the habit of observing and writing down what you’re grateful for, you may want to expand your practice. You can continue writing your gratitude list and increasing the number of things you’re grateful for. Or you can also do some deeper reflections on other areas of your life.
Here are some prompts that were adapted from my favorite exercises in The Artist's Way:
- Write about a person you met this year who has had a positive impact on your life
- Write an imaginary thank you letter to a childhood teacher
- Remember yourself at eight. What did you like to do? What were your favorite things?
- Describe your favorite environment in one paragraph. Examples: Secluded and surrounded by trees. Or: Big, bustling city with a thriving arts scene.
- What’s your favorite season? Use all five senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch) to describe what you love about it.
- List ten things you love and would love to start doing. Some examples:
- Learn flamenco
- Grill a steak
- Pull off a short haircut
- Move to a small town
By journaling about your favorite things and memories, you start to cultivate gratitude for the experiences you’ve already had and start noticing the things that truly make you happy and excited. You begin to develop gratitude for your past, present, and future.
For more gratitude journal prompts, you can also check out our ideas here.
These prompts can help you start your gratitude journaling practice or give you new ways to invigorate your current one. And if you ever find yourself skipping a few days or weeks, don’t beat yourself up. Even Oprah Winfrey forgets to do her gratitude practice! But when she returned to it, here are the benefits she found:
“Recently, in the process of building a television network, I got so focused on the difficulty of the climb that I lost sight of being grateful for simply having a mountain to climb...I know for sure that appreciating whatever shows up for you in life changes your personal vibration. You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you're aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots.”
At this moment, can you think of five things you’re grateful for?