gratitude journal

The Best Ways to Start and Stick with a Gratitude Journal

I’m waiting for a price check on strawberries.

Doesn’t the checkout girl know how much strawberries cost? I yell in my own head.

Standing in the slow check out lane sucks the life out of me. I try my hardest to be grateful, but I can’t seem to find the right perspective today.

I just want to be heading out the door.

I’ve gotten so much better about being grateful for most moments I’m in, but this one is a struggle.

I’m mentally attacking the checkout girl as well as the old man who grabbed the fruit without checking to see if it had a barcode to scan.

I’m getting grumpier by the minute. I pull out my phone and open it and my gratitude journal is still open. I smile. I realize that my bad habits had just come flooding back with a vengeance.

I take three deep breaths and start listing what I am grateful for. I had almost forgotten the thing that has helped me the most in difficult situations.

Bringing gratitude wherever I am.

I had forgotten to write in my gratitude journal for the past few days despite the advice that I give most of my clients. Just take one minute to write something, so you keep the habit going.

When you focus on gratitude you have less clutter in your brain, which makes it easier to focus on what matters. In Edward Deci’s book, Why We Do What We Do, he demonstrates that if you can have 6 positive interactions to one negative, you’ll increase your team’s productivity by 31%.

It’s so easy to fall back into the habit of complaining about what you have and wanting something more. The best way to combat this is to start working on your mindset through a gratitude journal. It helps you put your focus on enjoying what you have and not worrying about what you don’t have.

Know What You Want to Accomplish

A gratitude journal can be a powerful tool when you understand what you want to accomplish. If you want to be happier, then start noticing what makes you happier. If you want to stop spending money on stuff you don’t need, then focus on appreciating what you have. These are both good goals, but listen to your heart.

Sit down and ask yourself:
What do you really want to accomplish from keeping a gratitude journal?

Having a goal makes the journal entries more motivating. When you know why you are setting two minutes aside each day to document what you are grateful for, you will be more likely to keep the habit going when you are having a rough day and don’t feel like focusing on feeling grateful.

Set Your Gratitude Journal Intention

Ask yourself, “What do I want the long term effect of the gratitude journal to be on me?”

I’m guessing that you don’t just want to have a small boost to your happiness and resilience and then go right back to your old routines. You probably want lasting change that will help you build a lifelong gratitude habit.

Before you start journaling, write what you really want out of the next 30 days. Do you want to be happier? Do you want to bring more positivity to your life? Do you want help getting over a bad relationship?

It might not be feasible to accomplish in 30 days, but at least you are planting seeds that will blossom if you stick with it.

Keep it Simple

You can keep a gratitude journal in so many different ways. I kept a paper journal for a long time and now I use my phone. I use Google docs and add things I’m grateful for throughout the day.

The idea is to make it so simple that there is hardly any friction for you to write three things down.

Find Support

Who is helping you stay on track?

When you are accountable to another person or a group, you are more likely to take action and keep taking action. You can get your sister, mom, or a friend. The idea is that you encourage each other to stick with it.

When you join the Bring Gratitude Challenge you also get access to a private Facebook group. You can post daily and also get support from each other when someone needs a boost.

Make Daily Entries

The tortoise wins the race against the rabbit because he doesn’t give up. He is willing to stick with it and keep chugging along. Whenever I work with someone, I suggest they keep a gratitude journal. It’s the best place to start improving their mindset.

There will be some days that you struggle. You may not know what to write on a particularly difficult day. If you are really stuck I suggest you rewrite your previous entry. Better to keep the habit going, so you can continue to feel the benefits.

I suggest that you try making entries at the end of the day. It will help you store your memories in a grateful way. Your brain remembers the most important thing in your day as well as the end. You can be the author of your memories if you try to take the time to review all your day’s memories with a grateful lens.

When I started writing down the foods that helped me feel better, I didn’t just write the food down and move on. I wrote about how I felt, what time of day, and how much I ate.

The more detailed I got, the more I learned about what I was doing well and how to do more of it. The detail also helps create an imprint on your brain that sticks with you. This imprint will allow you to tap into the gratitude habit when you need it the most.

Review Your Gratitude Journal

Just the act of writing has helped me process my thoughts, but taking the time to review my journal has helped me feel more grateful. I could see patterns that were occurring and figured out how to overcome obstacles.

By taking the time to review my journal at the end of the week and end of the month I found myself buoyed by entries. It helped me see how far I’ve come over time.

I also noticed that I started getting a bit lazy about my entries. I then realized that my gratitude journal wasn’t having the same effect on me because I wasn’t putting enough effort in to allow it to help me.

This reminded me that the more effort that I put into my gratitude journal, the more positive effects that I would get out of it.

Big Picture

However you use your gratitude journal, the most important part is doing it every day. It doesn’t matter if you keep your journal in your phone, an app, or on paper. All that matters is that you take time to reflect on what you appreciated about your day. When you do this on a daily basis, that’s when you infuse gratitude into your attitude.

If you are interested, you can join the next 30 Day Bring Gratitude Challenge to help you strengthen your mindset. Come join us and you’ll get email updates and access to a private Facebook group. If you have any questions I (Karl Staib) am available 7 days a week. My goal is to get the smartest and most caring people together to create an amazing community, so we can help each other learn from our mistakes and build a life that we love.