How to Keep Gratitude Journaling from Totally Sucking

Image by Kranich17 from Pixabay

You don’t have to look very far to find the benefits of gratitude journaling — stress reduction, for example. But if you don’t approach it the right way, then keeping this kind of journal can start to feel more like a chore than a tool to relax and appreciate. And if that happens, then the odds of you tossing the habit into the trash are pretty high.

So from my own experience, here’s what I recommend you do to make gratitude journaling way more fun and easy to stick with.

1. Explore variety.

One of the reasons social media is so popular is that it can offer lots of different types of content. You can get links to text-based pieces, short little blurbs, comics, photos, videos, and so on. So don’t limit yourself. If you choose a digital platform to do your journaling on, or even if you just take more of a scrapbook approach, then you can pull all of these things together and create posts that will be more interesting to you in the future. You won’t get stuck in a rut of always doing the same thing with the journal, and making an entry subsequently will feel more novel each time you go to do it.

2. Skip the scheduler.

If you get a kick out of being able to do something for 6 minutes and 3 seconds every Wednesday at exactly 6:00 p.m., that’s fine. Some people do really well with this type of structure. But I personally find that an anytime, anywhere approach works better specifically for gratitude journaling, given the intent. It lets you create an entry right when your ideas and feelings are fresh and more genuine, and the flexibility can help the journaling process feel more spontaneous and natural.

3. Share your entries.

You don’t have to share everything, and you can set the limit on how personal you go. But when you share your gratitude journal in person or online, it creates the potential for it to become interactive. People can leave feedback on what you experienced or thought, and you can have amazingly deep discussions that help you strengthen your sense of who you are. You might even inspire someone or get them through something.

4. Incorporate “you”.

Me? I like unicorns and Yoda. (OK, I’m borderline obsessed.) I also like felt-tip and liquid ink pens, Chipotle chicken bowls, and Stephen Colbert monologues. Find ways to bring everything that screams “you” into your journaling process.(Hint: These things are usually things you’re grateful for!) Maybe pick…

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Why Every Writer Should Keep a Gratitude Journal (and How to Make One Work)

Book photo created by wayhomestudio –

You’ve heard the buzz, right? About gratitude journals? Keep one and your fairy godmother will magically appear, boop you with her wand *boop!* and make all of your woes go poof.

At least, that’s the impression I get from reading a lot of articles online. To a big degree, I think some of the claims about gratitude journals are a little overrated. But I don’t think they’re useless. In fact, I think everyone who writes should keep one.

Writing is by nature a lonely affair. Most writers I know spend most of the day, if not all of it, in front of their screens with only a beverage or snack for company. (The lucky ones might have a cat, but still.) Rejections can come into the inbox in an endless stream that chip, chip, chips away at confidence. And pay isn’t always predictable, either.

A gratitude journal lets you go back and capture all the good stuff that happens with your writing so you keep perspective. For example, maybe you can note how free you felt with your laptop in the park. Or maybe you can note that, even though you got another rejection, you conquered your fear of sending it out in the first place and are getting better at your query process. Maybe you only wrote 200 words today, but within them is a sentence you are wildly proud of. Or maybe you just found the PEFECT pen and got to enjoy its glide over the page.

Without this focus on the positives, it’s all too easy to lose motivation to write. It can feel too much like the hamster wheel is spinning without taking you anywhere. And you can lose sight of just how much you really are improving and getting done. So if you don’t have one, it’s time to start.

To make your gratitude journal work,

  • Set aside a specific time of day to make journal entries so you know you’ll have a chance to reflect and record your thoughts.
  • Be flexible to ensure you’re genuine. If you’re not in the mindset to journal at the time you’ve set aside, it’s OK to use that time toward self-care that will support your writing instead. It’s overall consistency that matters. Don’t make an entry just to keep up appearances.
  • Find a medium you love. Some people are old-school pen and paper. I’m a keyboard gal. You can even voice-to-text on Google Docs if you want. It just has to feel comfortable so you don’t resist the journal practice.
  • Summarize your journal point on social media if you feel comfortable doing so. Seeing your positives will encourage other writers, and you can attract other writers who will support you if you show a positive mindset yourself. Knowing you’ll use your entry to interact with others can be a great motivator to keep the entries coming and not quit.
  • Connect your entries to other areas of your life. For example, if your significant other took the kids so you would have an hour of quiet to write, you can be as thankful for that relationship as you are for the pages you wrote in those 60 minutes. Seeing how writing touches other points will help you see it as more valuable or as a more natural part of your identity.

Gratitude journals won’t make your life perfect. But they can help you see the positives you have in your life as a writer in a way that encourages you to keep up the craft. Try it out and let me know if it makes a difference for you in the comments!