Gratitude Journaling for Improved Well-Being

A Person Holding a Gray Thank You Signage
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“a sense of happiness and thankfulness in response to a fortunate happenstance or tangible gift.”

The American Psychological Association (n.d.)

Gratitude journaling is a brilliant tool if you’re working towards improving your wellbeing. When you’re low in confidence, or stuck in a cycle of overthinking and self doubt, it’s difficult to find the motivation to get things done, or to shift your mood to a more positive way of thinking.

The simple act of writing down the things that you are grateful for each day can have a profound impact on your outlook, mood and motivation.

Gratitude journaling increases your sense of wellbeing and confidence. When you’re working towards making changes in your life, it can be easy to feel dejected and doubt that it will work.

Gratitude journaling isn’t just about writing down a few things, it’s about gradually retraining your brain to notice the positive things that are already present in your life.

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Gratitude Journaling

Creating a daily habit of journaling, in particular gratitude journaling, you not only increase your appreciation of life right now, but it helps to make you feel good as well.

It can boost your mood simply by switching your thoughts from wishing that you were where you want to be, that things were different, to still having those goals, but also feeling happy and content with your life right now.

When you start a gratitude journaling practice, it can help you improve your mental health, strengthen your resilience, and increase your sense of happiness. It can also help you to remove stress, and stay motivated by putting you in a positive mindframe each day.

At the end of this article there are 50 gratitude prompts to help you kickstart your journaling!

It’s much easier to sit and focus on tasks when you’re feeling good and energised, which again boosts your sense of satisfaction with life right now as you're busy working towards your goals.

The Science Behind Gratitude

Gratitude journaling is so much more than a passing trend. It's something that is backed by research, and rooted in science and psychology.

There have been various studies that link expressive writing and gratitude journaling with improved happiness and overall well-being.

For example, in a study carried out in 2003 by Watkins et al., they found that those with a “gratitude trait”, felt abundant and satisfied with their lives, rather than deprived or lacking.

They had an increased appreciation of simple pleasures, and they acknowledged the contribution that others had on their overall well-being.

Robert Emmons carried out a study looking into gratitude. The study demonstrated that those participants who focused on the things they were grateful for, had a much better experience.

They were more alert, felt better about their health, experienced improved sleep, better relationships with others, and experienced more joy than those who were only journaling about the things that weren’t so good.

Impact on Neurochemistry

Brains have the ability to change and adapt throughout our lives. Neuroplasticity means that our brains are able to create new neural pathways (connections). In the same way that as a child you learned to walk, talk, ride a bike; as an adult you can develop new habits and learn new skills.

The more you repeat an action, the stronger those connections become until they are automatic behaviours. In the same way, the less you do something, the weaker the connections becomes.

This makes it possible to stop unhelpful habits and behaviours, and replace them with positive ones like gratitude journaling and healthy lifestyles.

When you practice gratitude journaling, it influences your brain chemistry, releasing dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are the ones associated with happiness, and help to regulate your mood and emotional wellbeing

“Gratitude is both a state and a trait”

Jans-Beken et al., 2020

As Tye Dutcher explains, gratitude is a perspective, helping you to feel hope for what may come your way. 

These neurochemical benefits of gratitude encourage you to take those steps towards improving your overall quality of life. It helps you build resilience when faced with challenges and stresses that can crop up in life.

Starting Your Gratitude Journaling Practice

If you’re new to journaling, there are a few things you can do to support this new habit.

  • Choose a journal that you feel good about. I love journal and notebook shopping – I may have a few too many, but there’s something so comforting and exciting about starting a brand new journal.
  • You may prefer to use a digital notebook, app or digital journal. These options can be great if you prefer to do this on your phone or if you’re frequently on the go.
  • You can buy journals that are already complete with gratitude prompts, easing you into the process of gratitude journaling with more ease.
  • Decide on a time when you’ll journal. Many of the guided gratitude journals will have space for morning and evening routines, but it’s completely up to you. Think about how you can slot it into your daily life that will make it easy to reach for.

And, remember that as with all habits and routines, consistency is key. 

Tracking Progress

If you’re consciously working towards improving your well-being, it’s a great idea to keep track of your progress. When you can see that progress is actually happening, it will help you to feel more confident and motivated to continue.

Reflect on the differences you’re noticing as you write in your gratitude journal. Have you noticed your mood has improved? Are you feeling more motivated and calm?

If you don’t have a guided journal, it can be a good idea to also monitor your mood each day. Take a few moments to think about how you’re feeling. You can do this in the mornings, and as a reflection at the end of the day.

Mood trackers in journals

It can also be useful to reflect on past entries to help you understand and identify any patterns to your moods, feelings and behaviours.

All of these things influence how you experience each day, so being aware of things that may have triggered you or impacted your mood can help you approach things differently in the future.

It’s also a good way to spot the things that light you up and really motivate you. Once you know these things, you can plan to do more of them!

How to Make Gratitude Journaling Part of Your Daily Life

To make the transition into daily gratitude journaling easy, start by choosing the best time that you’ll sit and write.

I tend to do my journaling in the mornings, but I have also begun journaling at the end of the day as well to allow reflection of the day. It’s been a great way to mentally sign off for the day, and encourage my mind to wind down and relax.

But it’s totally up to you. I love habit stacking as well. This makes being consistent with journaling much easier. 

When I first began journaling, I would link it with my morning coffee – before I started work for the day. It was easy to sit down with my drink and pick up my journal. In the evenings I’ve been linking it to my evening prep time.

I talk about habit stacking in one of my earlier blog posts. Take a look if you find it challenging to introduce, or stick to new routines. 

Benefits of Gratitude Journaling

There are lots of benefits of introducing a gratitude journaling practice. From increasing your happiness and feeling of contentment, to feeling more motivated, while at peace with your life right now.

Some other benefits include:

  • Increase in positive emotions
  • Improved self compassion
  • Higher resilience
  • Stronger connections with others
  • Sense of abundance with what you already have in your life

I do also just want to say that, as an experienced counsellor, I fully appreciate the impact that journaling and gratitude can have.

It’s important to understand that it isn’t a “fix all” thing, and it isn’t just a way to ignore or underplay the challenges that you experience in day to day life.

As with many self-help style tools, gratitude journaling is something that you can do to support you during difficult times. It’s something that can compliment the work that you’re doing with a therapist or coach for example.

It’s also good to remember that gratitude journaling, when approached in the way discussed in this article, is not the same thing as toxic positivity.

Please also remember, this isn’t a replacement for therapy. If you are finding things difficult, reaching out for support is something that I always encourage people to do.

50 Gratitude Prompts

  • Write about a person who has positively impacted your life
  • List three things in nature that you find beautiful
  • Reflect on a recent achievement, no matter how small
  • Describe a moment that made you smile recently
  • What is your favourite way to relax and unwind?
  • Write down three qualities you admire in yourself
  • List your favourite things about your physical appearance
  • Reflect on a challenge you overcame, and how it shaped you
  • Describe a skill or talent you have that brings you joy
  • Share a positive affirmation that resonates with you
  • Write a thank you note to yourself, or someone special in your life
  • What is your favourite time of day? Reflect on what it’s like at this time, and why it makes you thankful
  • Reflect on a special memory you have shared with others
  • Describe the values that you have and how these have helped you get to where you are today
  • What do you like about Monday's?
  • Share a moment you felt totally inspired.
  • Write about an opportunity that brought positive change into your life
  • List skills or knowledge you have gained recently
  • Reflect on a time you had a good laugh with someone. Express gratitude for the experience and for humour and connection with others
  • Describe achieving something that you are proud of
  • Share a goal you achieved when you didn’t think you would.
  • Write about the hopes and dreams that you have for the future
  • Who inspires you and why? Describe why you’re grateful for them
  • Reflect on a recent conversation that lifted your spirits
  • Describe a place that holds special memories for you
  • Write about something beautiful that you saw or experienced recently
  • What is your favourite room in your house and why?
  • Describe a teacher or mentor who had a positive impact on you
  • Describe something that has made you smile in the past 24 hours
  • When did you last belly laugh, and what was it/who that made you laugh?
  • How is your life better today than 5 years ago?
  • Describe the biggest lesson an old job / school gave you
  • What have you recently done for the first time? How did you feel before and after it?
  • What brings you comfort?
  • Describe your favourite meal and what you love about it
  • What colours make you feel happy?
  • What is your favourite quote and why does it resonate with you?
  • Describe three things that you've learned about yourself over the past year
  • What three qualities do you admire in others?
  • Describe your “go to” song when you need a boost of energy. What is it about this song that clears out the cobwebs?
  • What is your favourite time saving app or tool that you have?
  • What is one basic / simple pleasure that you appreciate and enjoy? Why?
  • Where's your favourite place to walk, what do you appreciate about it?
  • What things do you like about your work?
  • Describe the things that make you smile
  • What are you grateful for today?
  • Write about something that worked out far better than you thought it would
  • What kind of things do you love to learn?
  • What qualities or skills do you have that you're grateful for?
  • What are you thankful for the most in life?

Tools Resources & Support

Free Download: 75 Journal Prompts for Mental Health

Free Download: 50 Over thinking Journal Prompts

The Daily Calm Gratitude Journal

The Daily Calm Gratitude Journal
The Daily Calm Gratitude Journal

Final Thoughts

Gratitude journaling is a brilliant way to improve your confidence and overall well-being.

By consistently bringing your attention to everything that you're grateful for, you’ll develop a positive mindset. These changes can help to improve your feeling of happiness and joy each day.

Learning to appreciate the small joys in life, even when you’re working hard to make changes, will help make day to day life seem much more manageable and less overwhelming.

There are several different ways you can incorporate gratitude into your life, and journaling is one that is easy to slot into your busy life. 

I’d love to hear how gratitude journaling has helped you, please do share below!

If this post helped or you enjoyed reading it, please share one of the images below as it really helps my blog – Thank You!

An image of a journal with a cup of coffee next to it & the text  in front reads: Gratitude Journaling: Create a New Daily Habit for Increased Happiness
two journals on flowers. Text reads - Increase Your Confidence With Gratitude Journaling
An open journal that says "Gratitude Journaling" on the page

Meet Lynsey

Lynsey Wall, Coach & Mentor at Coach Writes. About me - A headshot of Lynsey smiling. Wearing a black t-shirt, blue framed glasses. Office walls behind her.

Hey there! I'm Lynsey, a coach, counsellor, and mentor for low energy, introverted or low confident female coaches & small business owners. With over 5 years’ experience of running businesses, and over a decade as a tutor and trainer, I've learned the value of effective time management that energises you through working with your energy.

I've lived with chronic illness – ME/CFS since 2011 and since then I re-trained as a counsellor, and achieved a distinction for my MA in Counselling and Psychotherapy Practice; all while running 4 businesses! I want that for you as well & it is possible with the right support and pathway to success.

Improving your mindset, finding acceptance and developing a solution-focused approach to achieving your goals is my passion. Blending mental health support where needed, as well as a supportive space and methods to manage your work more effectively.

If you'd like to know more about working with me, you can email [email protected] or find me on socials (links in the menu)

Have you seen my online store Your Coach Tools? Find DFY templates & more!

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