Gratitude journaling is a technique which can be harnessed to improve wellbeing – by simply changing your outlook. It facilitates the process of reframing, changing mindset and increasing positivity and happiness.
The Power of Gratitude Journaling
Something you’ll see me say often is: happiness is a choice; positivity is a mindset; gratitude is the path to both; in the absence of mental health issues, being happy is a choice we each make – or not. Once you’ve got comfortable with how to write in a journal, mindful gratitude journaling can be a powerful way to reinforce that decision.
Why, though, am I so passionate about journaling as a way to promote positivity and wellbeing if it’s simply a choice we make?
Well, because although it is a choice in a broad sense, it’s also very much a process. And when you’ve lived a certain way for most of your life, or you’re living through difficult circumstances, or you’re surrounded by negativity – it’s not easy to transition to a new mindset.
So, you make the decision – that’s the easy bit – and then you have to put in the work to make it happen. And from experience I can tell you that this is not a linear process with starting and finishing points – by necessity, it becomes an entirely new way of life.
But how do you put in the work to make it happen?
What is Gratitude Journaling?
Gratitude journaling is very simply the regular habit of recording things for which you’re grateful; often this takes the form of gratitude lists, and gratitude journal prompts can be helpful with this.
The basic concept of gratitude journaling and how it can improve wellbeing is the principle of glass half full vs glass half empty:
We all have good and bad in our lives, and the difference between generally positive people and those who are more inclined towards a negative outlook is simply the lens through which we view our lives. Gratitude journaling facilitates and promotes positive reframing of your circumstances, resulting in improved mood – without any change in your situation.
This tool actually has a two-pronged approach because there’s another profound dimension to gratitude journaling; establishing a new routine of actively focusing on the things in your life for which you’re grateful produces a natural consequence: it also takes attention away from any negativity.
Between reframing and less space in your life for anything that doesn’t serve you, it doesn’t take too long for this technique to begin to work its magic!
What Is Mindful Journaling?
Mindfulness journaling is much like keeping a diary, but instead of the focus being on activities and experiences, the whole concept is based around noticing, recognising, acknowledging, and processing your thoughts and feelings – without judgment, fear, or expectation.
The idea is that over time, practicing mindful journaling will enable you to:
- Gain an awareness of your own emotions, triggers and thought patterns;
- Help clarify your thoughts and feelings;
- Develop acceptance and self-compassion.
The Benefits of Gratitude Journaling For Mindfulness
I am and always will be a work in progress. If I take my eye off the ball I quickly slip back into bad habits: life can become overwhelming and I tend to react by becoming anxious and stressed. This is why it’s beneficial to make journaling a healthy new habit rather than viewing it as quick fix.
Journaling – specifically practicing gratitude – helps me to shake off that anxiety and remain mindful about living positively. And living with a positive mindset helps me in my choice to be happy.
Other benefits of mindful journaling and gratitude journaling include:
- Helping to process difficult experiences, thoughts and feelings;
- Relieving stress;
- Analysing thoughts and feelings and aiding reflection;
- Improving awareness of your own and others’ emotions;
- Improving communication skills;
- Improved ability to express thoughts and feelings without guilt or judgement from oneself;
- Releasing destructive emotions in a controlled and appropriate way;
- Identifying and challenging negative self-talk – positive affirmations are excellent for this;
- Developing awareness of emotional triggers;
- Better understanding of self;
- Promoting gratitude, positivity, and wellbeing;
- Increasing self-compassion.
Development and nurture of self-awareness through regular journaling can bring about positive change in habits and mindset – and this is the reason gratitude journaling for mindfulness is so powerful.
Incredibly, journaling may even help with pain management.
Tips for Mindful Journaling
- Before you start journaling, I recommend finding or purchasing a journal or notebook and a pen that you really love. Simple things can make all the difference, and a large part of journaling is being creative – you may as well enjoy the process! Beautiful stationery can be the prompt you need to open those pages.
- Begin by getting into the right frame of mind. You may like to practice mindfulness to help you find the right head space before you begin.
- Start with a fresh page so that your previous entry doesn’t influence the current one. Try to refrain from looking back at how you were feeling or what you were thinking when you last journaled until after you’ve completed the entry you’re working on.
- Ensure you have plenty of time to clear your mind and focus on the present so that you’re not distracted by other tasks.
- Remind yourself that this journal is a tool for self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-development – remove any guilt about the feelings you wish to express and allow yourself to write freely and without judgement. Exorcising negativity is part of the process of letting it go, and this is a safe space in which to do so. It will also allow you to clarify your thoughts and feelings, identify where they stem from, process them and gain perspective about challenging situations.
- If you find your mind wandering to a particular event or situation (as opposed to errands you need to run which should be banned for the duration!), don’t ignore them. Utilise this time to embrace the thought loop and address it in your journal.
- Make time for writing gratitude lists every time you journal. They can be as short or as long as you wish, but gratitude is incredibly powerful and this activity specifically is what will help to rewire your brain to be more positive. You could simply jot down a list of five things you were grateful for that day, or you could decide to be more creative, writing around a theme. I recommend ending your journaling time with this exercise to enjoy its benefit once you’ve finished writing and go about your day, or go to sleep – on a positive high.
- Make a ritual out of your writing. Find your own rhythm and routine that works for you, and try to follow the same pattern each day at around the same time. It will help you to form a habit of writing, and encourage a desire to practice.
- If you still find it challenging to know what to write about, try using journaling prompts like the ones in the linked posts.
- Make journaling a regular activity that forms part of your daily routine, or if you’re unable to dedicate time every day, then set days each week.
Your journal might be filled with pages of writing, or lists, or a little of both. The important thing is to tune into your mind, treat your journal as your confidante and unburden yourself, write from the soul, express fears, hopes and dreams. And be sure to complete the specific activity that is so incredibly powerful:
11. Writing gratitude lists.
My Positivity Project
If you’re ready to get started with a journal but you’re unsure which to try, why not take a look at our adults journal? (We also stock a kids journal.)
My Positivity Project Wellbeing Journal
My Positivity Project was created for anybody who already loves journaling or is ready to dip their toe in the water but would like a little guidance.
I wanted to make it more than blank pages to be filled, which I know can feel intimidating. So I wrote a short book, and interspersed the pages with:
- Gratitude lists focusing on different aspects of life such as home, family, friends, health;
- Beautiful, vibrant images featuring relevant, inspirational quotes;
- Adult colouring pages for those days when simple distraction is required;
- Self-care gifts because everybody deserves a little bit of indulgence.
And recently – because times are hard but at the core of My Positivity Project is my passion to share the value of journaling – I made it into a downloadable Build-Your-Own journal. Sections start at just a couple of pounds each.