Keeping a Gratitude Journal

By Kate Riley January 26, 2015

I used to keep a written journal when the children were babies, mostly about their little milestones since they were changing from week to week, but I stopped when I started blogging in 2009, mostly because blogging was taking up most of my free time. I picked up that old journal earlier this year and read a few entries and thought I really should get back to journaling about more personal thoughts…

I read Oprah’s What I Know for Sure over the holiday break and in it she mentioned she keeps a gratitude journal with a daily list of five things to be grateful for and I thought to myself, what a great habit and one that isn’t too time consuming. I bought a journal at Barnes & Noble two weeks ago and started keeping notes of gratitude for myself, jotting down random things that happened to me that day that made me smile.

journal and tulips

Everything we record these days is in digital or electronic form, sadly the beauty of the handwritten note is losing out to the convenience of "there’s an app for that" so this my little way of rebelling against the movement to let technology do everything for us. 

jounal and tulips

I think the daily habit of recording the happiness that comes from simple pleasures is a healthy one. The older I get the more I realize that the simplest things are the truest sources of happiness, time with your child, a conversation shared with a friend, a sweet treat enjoyed in stolen moments of relaxation, tulips in January, flannel sheets and a warm fire on a chilly winter day…

tulips on nightstand

Now that I keep this journal, I’m find myself actively looking for things to be grateful for (gotta have something to write down.) There are always difficulties, stressful moments, and frustrations that come with each day, but staying focused on things that are good is a mindset that keeps me content, like a ray of sunshine peeking through the clouds.


  1. I think it’s easy to forget how fortunate most of us really are. During the last few years I’ve had a string of really bad things happen, one right after the other. When I started keeping a gratitude journal, I realized that I have been truly blessed throughout my life, even during the “bad” times and I no longer take any of the little positive moments for granted. I do have to say, though, that your little corner of your bedroom where you do your writing looks million times better than mine!

  2. Couldn’t agree more. I have been doing counselling for 20 years, 10 of those with people facing terminal illness, and I firmly believe in the power of gratitude. I have seen people facing tragedy, and still able to count their blessings. Gratitude is powerful, and along with the handwritten word, it needs to make a comeback.

  3. Bravo! Thank you for posting your thoughts on the “Gratitude Journal.” This is something I’ve been thinking about doing for a long time and no time like the present to start. Your tulips brought a smile to my face. Thank you for sharing! I am thankful for your blog and appreciate you putting in the time it takes in order for others to enjoy!

  4. We have been struggling to get pregnant with our second child for over two years. I read Oprah’s book and it has truly helped me get through some unbearable days. Rather than keep a journal, my husband and I say what we are grateful for right before we turn in at night. Gratitude is so, so powerful. I’m glad you have found the practice helpful, too!

  5. I was inspired by the book “365 Thank Yous” to write a handwritten thank you note [almost] every day since Jan 1. So far they have been to strangers, coworkers, and family.

  6. It is actually biblical to do “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” You inspire a lot of us, a gift from above. So, I thank The Lord for you.

  7. Bless you Miriam :)
    Carol, that’s amazing!!
    Erin, that is a great practice, and I wish you the best in your parenthood journey.
    Well said Tammy :)

  8. This is a really lovely idea. Writing down what one is grateful for surely makes a little more sense of the world. I will join you Kate and buy a blank notebook today. It goes without saying that it must have a pretty cover. I kept a travel diary all my life until recently. As someone who travels, an awful lot and I mean an awful lot I kept a record of not just places, events, meals and accomodation but of thoughts that were in my head at the time. For example I was watching the squirrels play in the snow in Montreal one very cold winter day when I came to the rather sudden decision that when I got home I would resign my job and try something different. I wrote it all down when I got back to the apartment. Writing it down made it ‘real’ and not a pie in the sky idea. I followed through when I got home and completely changed my life. To my my emmense disappointment I lost that diary in the floods that came through in 2011. Not thinking to grab the book is my biggest regret from that time as so. So much me was written down in words. I haven’t started another travel diary but will give the Gratitude Journal a go.

  9. I love journaling and reflecting in writing about the good things that have happened to me has brought me through some terribly difficult times. I have a little twist on a gratitude journal to share with you! I am always looking for meaningful gifts that don’t cost an arm and a leg and wind up getting tossed aside. A couple of years ago I decided that one thing I wanted to give my husband was gratitude. A quick thanks gets forgotten quickly. So I bought a stack of file cards and resolved to sit down every evening before lights out and jot down something that he had done for me that day that I was thankful for, no matter how seemingly insignificant. It is a true exercise in gratitude and has the added benefit of improving your relationship! We all want to be appreciated and I noticed he has the cards on his night table and looks at them occasionally! Why not get a little book and do this for someone you love?

  10. I use an app for this! It reminds everyday to make an entry if I haven’t already done so. I love being able to add a photo too. We see what we are looking for so the practice of keeping a journal of whatever sort is self-fulfilling. I have started keeping a handwritten journal of quotes I see online either on blogs or Instragram. I find I retain and savor the quote when writing it by hand, I love cute notebooks and it’s lovely to have the notebook to flick through to retread them.

  11. It’s so easy to forget the little things that put a smile on our face, when swirling in a sea of negativity. Between work and shuttling two daughters around, I’m frazzled and have a generally poor disposition as I’m running around in the evening. I caught myself a week ago responding with a dismissive “eh” when someone I hadn’t seen for awhile at my daughters dance studio asked how I was doing. that’s right – eh! What the heck is that? So since then I’m trying to be mindful of my attitude and take pleasure in the little things . Daughters remembered all of their dance shoes and didn’t bicker the entire drive to dance? Score! Cashier at my local coffee house with cool blue hair that I would totally rock if I was 20 years younger, happens to mention that she liked my earrings? Score again! 13 year old daughter says “thank you” to me – the best. Being grateful is a wonderful attitude to have every day. Thank you for that reminder!

  12. I’m going to pick up a journal today and write down every good and perfect thing that happens to me, no matter how big or small. Over the last 6 months my family’s financial situation has changed quite a bit and it’s taken all of my faith and patience not to complain. I can’t even believe that I was even tempted to complain when my family can still eat 3 meals a day, have a warm home to sleep in every night, and we all have our health and strength. Yes, I am extremely grateful that things are as well as they are!

  13. I HAVE to start doing this! I have read about this everywhere lately…it’s a sign! :-) They mentioned it at church this Sunday and how we forget answered prayers because we don’t journal. It is encouraging to go back and read about answered prayers or kid’s milestones. Gratitude is a beautiful thing; it is good for the soul.

  14. Alison, that is a tragic loss. I love that you keep travel journals, I did that when I was in my twenties on a two month backpacking tour through Europe, and l you said it is such a treasure I’m so glad I wrote down all the sights, sounds, smells – they come back to me these years later. Good for you for writing down your life changing decision – the act made it real. Thank you for sharing.
    Karin, what a great gift, to take it beyond a journal and make it verbal.
    Jules too funny, there really IS an app for that, ha !!!
    You have such a great perspective Monika, thank you (and everyone) for sharing your wisdom!

  15. I’ve recently been missing writing on real paper with a real pen, something that was so much a part of my life. Like for you, electronic word keeping has become the norm. I, too, have a brand new journal and slowly it is starting to be filled with words written in my own hand.

  16. I have been doing my gratitude journal for at least 15 years….when Oprah profiled the writer of the book. It turned my life around and some of my family too. I really open my eyes and focus on the small things which make you appreciate the simplest gesture or blossom or an old couple holding hands. It is wonderful and therapeutic and makes you realize how we place too much importance on unimportant things or material objects.

  17. I’ve been following you for several years from South Carolina and I will have to say that one of my gratitudes is reading your blog. You made me smile today. You spoke such true words. I have been battling cancer for almost 4 years. I have filled 7 or so journals. I often go back and read some of my entries. Some of them are painful but I smile because I am alive and today is another gift from God. We have blessing upon blessing given to us every single day. They are all around us if we just take the time to be still and notice. A Carolina Wren sang his heart out to me yesterday morning. I stood at my kitchen window and listened to his melodious song for a long time. This morning we saw a gorgeous sunrise as we drove to the hospital. I’m thankful and grateful that my eyes have been opened and now…I can see. Thank you, Lord!

  18. I love this idea. I found out recently that I am most likely going to lose on of my ovaries due to a (benign) mass and it has been devastating for myself and my husband. I have been feeling God pulling me to keep track of all the positives through this trial and I love the idea of a gratitude journal. On a side note I have that exact lamp in my bedroom from Target. I love it.

  19. A great idea, something I have tried to do now and then. One of those things that you need to do most when you feel like doing it least!

  20. I love love love this idea. I have a journal that I haven’t written in in a while, and this seems like the perfect therapy. :)

  21. My moment today was when my 13-year-old bobbed her head along with me to some music instead of rolling her eyes. :)

  22. Love this idea! I have kept a diary since I was a little girl but as I’ve gotten older it’s become increasingly difficult to find the time. This is a great way to still journal but to keep it manageable. Plus I love how it helps you to search for the little things we should be grateful for in the every day. Great idea!

  23. I love this post. I had been given a blank, lined pages, journal for my birthday this month and thought I should start a gratitude journal. Your post was the very shove I needed to do just that. Thank you so much. I agree, we all have little hiccups in life but staying focused on the good things helps me get past any not so great incident.

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