4 Ways to keep a gratitude journal practice fresh and useful [PDF]
by Kevin Evans — 2 min read
On day 1 of adopting a gratitude practice such as The Five Minute Journal, it may be fine and dandy to say “I’m grateful for the sunny” day. By the end of the week, being grateful for the weather can seem really REPETITIVE.
4 ways how to keep gratitude journal fresh
1. Get Specific
The more detailed you get with gratitude, the more impactful it will be. Saying “I am grateful for Mom” is nice IF you connect with the feeling behind it. But it can quickly feel repetitive saying this for several weeks in a row. Sorry Mom.
To remedy this, pick something specific like “I am grateful for Mom’s laugh” or “I am grateful for Mom not telling me to clean my room as an adult."
You want enough detail so you can VISUALIZE the gratitude and FEEL it. This is key. If you are doing The Five Minute Journal and need more room to write, simply scratch out the numbers.
2. Use Negative Visualization
Odds are you have (or are considering) a gratitude practice in the first place is because you find it easy to be a critic rather than a celebrator. Most people do. In psychology, they call this the Negativity bias.
Now is the time to use this to your advantage. Instead of visualizing all the good in your life, imagine it was all taken away.
Goodbye puppy. Goodbye good health. Goodbye dream job.
Kind of jarring isn’t it and perhaps a bit morbid? Well, this used to be an old Stoic exercise that put the things you value into perspective real quick. The Stoics would even take it as far to dress in their worst clothes or go without food for a day to take it further. For our purposes, we’ll keep it strictly to gratitude journaling :)
Imagine you did not have your foot. Imagine you did not have your phone for a day (the horror!). Imagine you lost your best friend. Doing this exercise is often one of the most powerful.
3. Use Gratitude Categories
For all you planners out there, you’ll love this one. Instead of trying to randomly think of gratitudes each day, we’ll add a bit of structure to gratitude. It’s simple.
Pick a gratitude category for each day of the week. It could look like this:
Monday = gratitude for romantic relationship
Tuesday = gratitude for relationships besides romantic relationship
Wednesday = gratitude about myself
Thursday = gratitude about things I own
Friday = gratitude about the world
Saturday = gratitude about friends
Sunday = gratitude about how my negative qualities could be positive qualities.
4. Share your gratitude with others
Although on the surface this seems simple, telling others how awesome they are can still feel weird. Will they think I have an agenda? Will they think I’m weird? They probably already know how I feel about them?
Gratitude is all about the emotion. If you just intellectually THINK about gratitude without feeling, you are receiving little psychological boost. Sharing your gratitudes with others can take the emotion to the next level.
YouTube Channel SoulPancake decided to test this by having participants call those closest to them and share their gratitudes. The results were dramatic.
A 2003 study by Emmons and McCullough found that keeping a daily gratitude journal leads to not just an increased sense of well-being but also better sleep, willingness to accept change, and also helped lower symptoms of physical pain. So keep your gratitude practice fresh!
Head of Growth and Marketing at Intelligent Change. I have my hands in all things from emails to product creation. Passionate about improving mental health education, fitness, and nutrition. Sucker for donuts. You can find me in sweet home Chicago.
Weekly boost of inspiration sent to your inbox?
Join 90,000 people who receive Intelligent Tuesday, our curated newsletter of personal development tips on happiness, productivity, relationships, and more.