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How to Start a Gratitude Journal When You’re Way Too Busy

There are so many ways to journal. I’ve tried a few methods (writing, bullet, travel, and of course, gratitude). Overall, I’ve found that the main benefit of journaling is that it forces you to take a step back and reflect on events that have happened or process events that are happening.

If you’re reading this blog post, I assume it’s because you want to learn more about gratitude journaling. Maybe you’ve tried it and didn’t like it or couldn’t make it stick. Or maybe you’ve never tried it, but would like to give it a shot. Either way, I think it’s best we start with the barriers to creating a journaling habit:

  • Not enough time
    • If this is the case, don’t worry! With the method outlined in this blog post, it should only take 1-5 minutes a day.
  • Not sure what to write
    • This is mainly an issue when it comes to writing journals. With gratitude journaling, there’s really only one question — what am I grateful for today?
  • Worried that it’ll get boring
    • That’s totally fair. Once you’ve given gratitude journaling a fair chance and you decide it’s not for you, there are other methods of journaling you can try out.
  • You’ll keep writing the same thing over and over again
    • I talk about this later in the blog post, but the key is to get really specific about what you are grateful for so you don’t keep repeating yourself.

Okay. Now, let’s dive in!

What is a gratitude journal?

A gratitude journal is a safe space where you can record things you are grateful for. This space can be a journal, post-its that you place in a jar, a Word doc on your computer/laptop/tablet, notes page on your phone, etc.

The benefits of gratitude journaling

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Being more optimistic

I’ve been gratitude journaling since February of this year (2019). Truth be told, I didn’t know how long I’d been gratitude journaling until I took a look at my BUJO specifically for this blog post. Since then, I’ve noticed that it’s become easier for me to see the brighter side of things.

For example, my boyfriend and I went to Cannon Beach for the weekend and on our way back home, we got a flat tire. Instead of being upset because it meant we would get home later, my mind immediately went to things to be grateful for:

  • It happened when we were still close to his family’s beach house
    • So if there weren’t any tire shops open (since it was Sunday) we’d have a place to stay
  • It happened when we were leaving ahead of schedule
    • So even though it set us back, we still had wiggle room because left earlier than we had planned to

Feeling happier

Just in case you need a little more convincing of the benefits, here’s a little science. According to this study by Emmons and Michael E. MCullough, a gratitude journal can lead to significantly higher feelings of joy and happiness.

In this study, participants were exposed to three conditions (hassles, gratitude listing, and neutral life events). They recorded their moods, coping behaviors, health behaviors, physical symptoms, and overall life appraisal. Those assigned to gratitude listing showed heightened well-being across several of the measures listed above, suggesting that a conscious focus on blessing may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.

How to start a gratitude journal

There are a ton of ways to keep a gratitude journal. My method is simple and takes only 1-5 minutes a day. So if you’re a busy person who is worried about adding yet another thing to your to-do list, go ahead and give my method a shot:

My current gratitude journal is a sectioned off portion of my bujo (aka the little box on the left)
  • Section off a little part of each day in the daily view of your planner (if you already have one).
    • If not, no worries! Go ahead and grab a journal, piece of paper, or pop open a word doc.
  • Every day, write one thing you are grateful for.
    • The trick is to be very specific so you don’t keep writing “I’m grateful for my s/o.” Instead, write something like “I’m grateful my S/O cleaned the dishes and took out the dog even though it was my turn to do those things.”
    • If you don’t have a planner and are using one of the other methods listed above, be sure to include the date.

That’s it!

Some methods recommend writing down 3-5 things you are grateful for every day. But I found that that took much time and put too much pressure on me. I can’t guarantee that you’ll see results right away, but I’m pretty sure that if you keep at it, you’ll start to notice a difference just like I did.

If you want to get real creative…

Here’s an example of what my gratitude journals used to look like
  • grab a stack of post-it’s (or cut a few pages of paper into squares)
    • bonus points for using scratch paper!
  • grab a jar (any container will do)
  • Write down today’s date
  • Write down one thing you are grateful for
  • Fold up the post-it or paper
  • Toss it in the jar or container

Now, whenever you have a bad day, you can pick out one of these folded up pieces of paper from the jar and read it. And yes, I’ve had to dump out the whole jar before. (Anyone else picturing the Hannah Montana “Everybody has bad days” gif playing in their head?)

Tips to make it stick

1. Don’t set expectations

Let me rephrase…the only expectation you should set is that you write down one thing you are grateful for every day. Aside from that one expectation, don’t set anything else.

  • There’s no such thing as not specific enough
    • If you had a shitty day and all you can think of is “I’m grateful for my health” or “I’m grateful for my mom and dad’s health.” That’s okay! The goal is to get specific, but it’s okay if it doesn’t always happen.
  • There’s no one right way to journal
    • It’s your journal. As long as you are being positive, you’re good to go.
  • Don’t expect to all of a sudden be a much more positive person. The optimism will come when it comes.

2. Find what works for you

As I mentioned before, some people recommend writing down at least 3-5 things to be grateful for every day. That didn’t work for me so I tried to write just 1 thing down a day and I eventually saw results.

3. It’s okay if you can’t do it every day

I didn’t always do it every day. Sometimes I went 1-2 days before I realized I’d forgotten to write an entry. When I did realize it, I thought back about those days and wrote down things I was grateful for during those days.

4. Tack it on to your morning or night routine

When I start my night routine, I usually go into autopilot because I don’t have to think of the next task I need to do. By adding journaling to my night routine, it was easier to remember to do.

Thank you for giving this blog post a read. I hope you found it useful! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out or comment below. If you know anyone who would find this blog post useful, please pass it along using one of these buttons.

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