Gratitude Journals are Silly and Boring: Here’s Why You Should Keep One Anyway

Brace yourselves, I’m about to go all Oprah on you.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of gratitude journals. Basically, a gratitude journal is a written record of the things you’re thankful for in your life.

I first heard about gratitude journals on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Oprah has been endorsing them for years. Sure, Oprah can seem preachy at times, but I think she’s got it right that saying thank you for our blessings can greatly improve our happiness.

But isn’t keeping a gratitude journal kind of new-agey? What’s next, wearing strands of beads and chanting under the full moon?

(On a side note, I would totally dress up like a deranged hippie and go chanting in the woods with you. Seriously, call me.)

OK, yes, keeping a journal is a little hokey, but I’m asking you to get over yourself and do it anyway. I’ve kept a gratitude journal on and off for years, and it’s nice to reflect on what made me smile on a particular day. I remember that sweet thing Chris did for me or that day the geese took over the parking lot.

When I focus on all the good things in my life, I’m more likely to be satisfied with what I already have. Sorry, iPad, but I don’t really need you.

What kind of gratitude journal will you start? Here are some ideas:

Low-Tech Gratitude Journals

  • Use a Thank You Jar to hold slips of paper with your thank yous. This is a great project for families or roommates. If you have a page-a-day calendar, write your item on the day’s page, rip it off, and tuck it in the jar.
  • Write down what you’re grateful for on colored notecards and store them in a recipe card box.
  • Pass a notebook back and forth with your friends and each take turns listing what makes you happy.
  • Jot down one thing that made you smile in each date box on your wall calendar.
  • Be like Oprah and buy yourself a fancy journal at the bookstore—you’re worth it!

High-Tech Gratitude Journals

  • Team up with a friend or family member and text each other one thing you’re grateful for before you go to bed every night.
  • Keep a running list on your blog.
  • Take a photograph of one thing that you’re thankful for each day and display the pictures on your blog, Facebook, or photo-sharing site.
  • Create a simple journal using Word or Evernote.

Remember, a gratitude journal is supposed to make you happy, but it won’t do that if you stress out about writing in it every day. Jot it down when you think of something, whether that’s every day, every week, or every month.

Like my big orange gratitude journal? Chris gave me it for Christmas a few years back, and I love it. It has prompts like, “write 3 things that went well today and why they went well” and “describe one of the happiest days of your life” and other quotes about gratitude.

What does your gratitude journal look like (or will look like)?

What are you thankful for today?

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  1. Tess of luvmysparetime on June 12, 2014 at 9:20 am

    The only way I can keep up a journal habit (which apparently didn’t stick this year only last year so maybe not a habit yet) is to give my self 1 sentence for journal entry and then list 3 things I’m grateful for – still working on it this year but I luv doing it when I do. I should definitely make it one of my reading books too!

  2. Jenndellefave on January 24, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    I will admit, I have one and I believe my mother purchased it from haha…sadly, I need to re-visit that. Thank you for this post! It’s too easy to get caught up in all that we don’t have and forget about the good. I love the thank you jar idea–totally doing it when I have children.

  3. Shybiker on January 23, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    It’s admirable and valuable to try to improve our attitude and these type of activities help. I liked your Thank You Jar idea ’cause you made it fun. We should adopt whatever form works for us individually.

  4. Tinfoil Tiaras on January 23, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Oh dear looks like I’ve been living under a rock-I’ve never heard of a gratitude journal! I do love the idea though and could see myself writing down something that made me smile each day on my wall calendar (I’m pretty low tech!) Speaking of Oprah- thanks for posting a link to her novel choices-I’m currently reading “Rules of Civility” and really enjoying it 🙂

  5. Anna on January 23, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    I’m not really the type of person to write down what I’m thankful for. I never take things for granted though – it’s something I’ve consciously made a priority. Besides, this sort of fits the thankfulness theme of this post. So here’s my version – be aware of your blessings 🙂

    I do adore your orange journal though 😉

  6. xvavaveganx on January 23, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    I really love all of the suggestions that you give! I think it is so important to share what you are grateful for. I think it helps you focus on the positive things in life rather than fall into the negative things that may be happening…it is so much easier to dwell in the negative than to embrace the positive. I think that I would benefit greatly from this. I think I really love the writing something that makes you smile in each date box in the calendar. I think making it a daily habit would be great. I will probably end up doing a few “Favorite Things” posts on my blog too every once in a while.

    Thanks for posting this Sage, it is really inspiring!

  7. Yara Simón on January 23, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    I’ve never done a gratitude journal, but I kind of like the idea of it. My one concern is that I’m terrible at keeping up with journals. At least I try to remember be grateful. “/

  8. Megan Gann on January 23, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I don’t do a gratitude journal (though that’s a very great thing).. But I do know that any thing you can do to change your outlook – journals, mantras, meditation, or just conscious decision to edit your negativity into positivity can eventually lead you to healthier relationships and a truly happier self. I’ve worked very hard over the past few months and continue even now to let my passive self be a happy self, instead of an angry one. I think your idea about a day-calendar would be really cool. Plus if it was like a word-a-day calendar you could learn AND be thankful.