Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
What Are You Grateful For? 6 Ways To Reflect With Gratitude Journaling
Published Jul 10th, 2020 & updated on Jan 19th, 2022
When was the last time you expressed your gratitude? This isn’t an attack btw (lol) because you can show that you are grateful without saying it out loud. There are so many ways to do it! You could surprise a friend by sending them a thank-you lunch, show support to a family member who’s going through a tough time, or give a shout-out to a coworker for their hard work.
But we totally get it if you haven’t done it for a while. The ups and downs of life can keep you preoccupied and make it difficult to take a beat for all the awesome things that do happen.
It’s also easier to express gratitude when good things happen in your life, like getting into a university program, getting hired at a new job, getting engaged, or announcing a pregnancy. If you’re overwhelmed, anxious, or unhappy…welllllll, being grateful may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But don’t worry! There’s good news. You can learn gratitude by practicing more of it!
The Power of Positive Thinking
Now suppose you’ve had a horrible day. You rush to catch the train, your venti iced coffee spills all over your new jeans, and you’re mad because you left home early but you still wound up being late for your class. Ugh. Is Mercury in the microwave again?
When these situations happen, it can be all too tempting to succumb to your disappointment or anger and let it take over. And if that’s what’s best for you in the moment, take a break and call it a mental health day. Go home and feel all of your feels bc that can be really good for you.
However, taking a mental health day is not always accessible and you might have to just “get through” your day. The good news is that there are some coping strategies for when that’s the case! One way is to establish positive thinking strategies in your life by navigating your negative self-talk with self-compassion. We teach you how to be kind to yourself in one of our other articles.
Another way is to learn how to practice gratitude and use gratitude journaling to reframe your perspective. Practicing gratitude retrains the brain to look at the positives in addition to the negatives. And there are sooooo many benefits of gratitude including emotional, social, personality, career, and health benefits!
For example, gratitude can improve your self-esteem, relationships, decision-making, and even your sleep. That’s right, we’re offering you a scientifically proven way to improve your sleep. If we were you, we’d take it. Get those extra Zzzzz’s.
The Reality of Toxic Positivity
Before we move any further, we better chat about toxic positivity real quick. Toxic positivity basically takes the idea of reframing negative thoughts to positive thoughts and runnnnnns with it to the point where it becomes toxic.
Positive thinking in and of itself is not toxic. In fact, it can be really helpful to reframe harsh self-talk from our inner critic! But toxic positivity takes it one step too far in that it doesn’t allow for negative thoughts or difficult feelings to exist at all. It summons “good vibez only” in EVERY situation and promotes unhealthy avoidance of tough feelings.
It’s not only irritating to hear others tell you to “Just be positive!!” or “Just look at the bright side!!” but it’s also invalidating as all hell. It makes you feel like your emotions are not real (they are) and not valid (again, they are!). Covering your feelings with positivity can lead to self-doubt, worry, and self-denial. It’s perfectly OK to express yourself through your emotions and sentiments!
Now that we covered that, let’s take a look at how to practice gratitude.
How To Reflect With Gratitude Journaling
You live a busy life! And you’re probably not looking forward to adding something to your plate right now. We get it!
Gratitude journaling is a form of self-care. A gratitude journal is a place where you can record what you’re thankful for, what makes you happy, and anything good that is happening in your life. It can be fancy or not, long or short, doesn’t matter! As long as it exists.
You can start by saying thank you — for anything. Jot down your thoughts as you reflect on the things in your life that bring you joy and that you’re grateful for. You’ll see that things start flowing preeeetty quickly once you begin writing! That’s the power of journaling!
The next step is to develop a practice around gratitude journaling and incorporate it into your daily life. Don’t stress if you’re not sure where to begin! We have a short and simple course in the DiveThru app that is entirely free. DiveThru Therapist Simone Saunders walks you through how to seek gratitude, understanding the mental health benefits of gratitude activities, and developing and mastering gratitude techniques!
If you haven’t already, download the DiveThru app and try it out!
With a gratitude journal, you’ll have a perfectly personalized list of everything that makes you happy. So, the next time you feel sad, angry, or like the sun has gone behind a dark cloud, you can look at your list. There will be tens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of things sitting right there to remind you of everything that is good in the world.
6 Ways to Start Gratitude Journaling
Let’s do this. *Cue inspirational music and serious faces—no, smiling faces. Ah, much better.*
Think of us as your entourage. We’ve got your back as you begin your gratitude practice and we’ll be here to support you every step of the way. For our first task, we’ve gathered up 6 tips for starting (and maintaining) your gratitude journal:
1. Set Aside Time for Your Gratitude Journaling
There is no right or wrong way to journal as long as you do it. Many people like to journal right before they go to bed because it has benefits for sleep and allows you to reflect on the events of the day.
But it’s entirely up to you! It all depends on what makes you the most comfortable and what your schedule is. Devoting time to an existing habit, such as your morning tea/latte or your 10-minute bus ride, are some ahh-mazing ways to implement gratitude journaling.
2. Make It a Habit
Habits take time to establish, so don’t be disheartened if it takes some time to form and become accustomed to your new routine. According to a research study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, developing a new practice takes anywhere between 18 to 254 days. However, when you stay consistent, it will soon feel natural and easy.
3. Tailor Your Journal to You
When it comes to gratitude journaling, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and it is a deeply personal experience. It will appear different for each person, so make it personal to you and what makes you happy.
Do you like to draw or keep a bullet journal? You are free to be as creative as you’d like! You can paint, sketch, or create a mood board! Whether it’s a lengthy ritual or a brief break to jot things down in your phone’s notes, do what feels right for you. You are a constantly changing and evolving person, so don’t be afraid to let your gratitude practice evolve as well.
4. Use the Resources Available to You
You’ve already discovered a fantastic resource in DiveThru by reading this. Mental health is our jam! In our app, you’ll find a tonnnnn of guided journaling prompts that can get you started on your gratitude journaling.
The good news? The app is completely free to download! The even better news? After you download it, you’ll always be a tap away from a gratitude hit.
From journal prompts to interactive courses to articles, we work with mental health professionals to help people lead a mentally healthier and more fulfilling life. Like the free Practicing Gratitude course we created with Simone Saunders! Head to the app to check it out.
5. Take it One Step at a Time
If you’re still unsure where to start, try writing something you’re glad for every day for a year, which will leave you with 365 things to be thankful for.
That’s incredible! That’s a lot of things to be grateful for. And if you write 3 things you’re grateful for, the number only goes up. Imagine if you did this for 5, 10, or 15 years. We’re not really in the mood for math right now, but that would be thousands of things to be thankful for.
6. Focus on What’s Important to You
When you initially start gratitude journaling, you’ll be writing down the first things that come to mind! But as you continue to journal, you will be able to connect with more profound and particular emotions by having a clear sense of what you are grateful for and expanding on what it means to you.
Bring in some details. If you’re thankful for the weather, what about it? A light, soft, snowfall? The warmth of the sun on your face? Or a thunderstorm that shook you to your core? Be patient and really think about what makes you grateful. When you’ve found it, you’ll know.
We know that you’re kind of busy reading this, but we’d like you to pause anyways. Right there, yup. Here we go. Take a deep breath in and exhale slowly. Now, think of one thing that you’re grateful for in this tiny little sweet moment of the day. Go.
Congratulations! You just started your gratitude practice. Go ahead and write that thought down as point #1 in a long list of things to be grateful for.
While you were thinking, we were too. What are we grateful for? We’re grateful for you.