Why You Should Keep a Gratitude Journal

Is the glass half-empty or half-full? I’m so glad that you asked. My answer is both. There are times when I feel like God has taken something good away from me—as most of us felt when we had to quarantine ourselves at home in 2020. But by trusting in God and expressing my gratitude, I was able to see God working for my good even in that unfortunate situation. 

Without trust, faith, and gratitude, I would be harboring anger and bitterness toward God instead of living with joy. This is why keeping a gratitude journal is so powerful. It strengthens our relationship with the Lord and keeps our hearts close to him. This is one of many reasons why you should keep a gratitude journal to unleash the power of gratitude and positivity in your life.

a desk with coffee, glasses, laptop, and a gratitude journal

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What is a Gratitude List or Gratitude Journal

A Gratitude list is a list of items you are thankful for, anything that fills your heart with gratitude and that you rejoice over having or not having anymore. Gratitude lists help you keep a positive attitude and can change your perspective when you’re in tough situations. 

They remind you to be thankful and realize more actively how God has blessed you.

Some people gather all of their gratitude lists that express what they’re thankful for and keep them in a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal can be anything: a bound notebook, a sketch pad, a packet of sticky notes, a document on your computer, or note on your phone. However, it may manifest, a gratitude journal keeps track of what you’re thankful for and is an easy, convenient way for you to add things to your gratitude list and remind yourself of what you’ve already written.

What do you write in a Gratitude Journal?

Oftentimes when we think of gratitude, we think of things, but gratitude can be shown for everything in our life and all facets of our lives. So, while the general answer to “what is a gratitude list” is sufficient for some, I like to challenge myself to think beyond the obvious.  

In a gratitude journal, you can write not just about materials and objects, but also people, relationships, places, opportunities, situations, circumstances, health, and intangible things, such as peace, prayer, and courage. Additionally, gratitude journals can encompass much more than just gratitude lists. 

Gratitude journals lay the stage for you to articulate not only what you’re thankful for, but also why you’re thankful for those things. 

You can also journal about gratitude and challenge yourself to see your negative circumstances in a positive light. On top of that, you can record fond memories for which you are thankful and write about moments where you experienced gratitude and joy in powerful and/or unexpected ways.

Examples of Gratitude Journal Entries

To give you an idea of just how powerful a gratitude journal can be, here are some examples of gratitude journal entries. These are from my own gratitude lists. 

I am thankful for:

  • My apartment – it’s a shelter that keeps me warm, safe, and protected. I love that it’s a place where I can retreat and rest after long, work days and lots of social activities.
  • The spring weather – the sunshine on my face, the spring breeze. Even though I hate the bees, I love the fact that they are helping flowers and trees to bloom.
  • Microwave Popcorn and ice cream (though not together)
  • Coffee with my mom – It’s a blessing that I have a flexible work schedule that allows me to have coffee with my mom and spend time with her. 
  • My memories with my grandmother – I cherish the times I had with her and am proud to be a part of her legacy.
  • The time I’ve had quarantining at home – While I have struggled with quarantining at home for extended periods of time, I have enjoyed the time to rest. This felt like a very negative moment in my life, but I see how God is using it for good. He has reminded me to trust in Him in all circumstances and refocused my life on Him.

Keep in mind that you can write down anything in a gratitude journal or gratitude list, whether it seems trivial or insignificant. If it means something to you, it’s worth writing down.

Why Keep a Gratitude Journal

The examples of gratitude list entries from above show why I can be thankful today and everyday. Having them in a handy list allows me to practice gratitude daily and challenges me to focus on God’s goodness and faithfulness instead of unfortunate circumstances. 

Though I am unsure whether the trend for “gratitude journals” and “gratitude lists” appeared from something religious or something secular, I know that gratitude and thankfulness is important to God. 

What does the Bible say about Being Thankful?

God speaks to us about being thankful countless times throughout his word, encouraging us to be thankful no matter what. These bible verses about thankfulness and gratitude are some of my favorite and demonstrate the importance of gratitude and praising God.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”

Psalm 100:4 (ESV)

Paul reminds us in Thessalonians to thank God for others as well as what He’s done for us through Christ Jesus.

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

The Bible says that thankfulness should live in our hearts as well as in our worship to God.

 ”And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Colossians 3:15-17

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:4-7

This last scripture about gratitude in Philippians is one of my favorites. In this passage, the Bible says that we should let our requests be known to God in gratitude, so that the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard [our] hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

Gratitude to God gives us peace because it reminds us that our father in Heaven hears us, cares for us, and loves us. It’s in the truth of God’s character that we find peace.

Why is being thankful to God so important?

Being thankful to God is important for several reasons, but the first has to do with Him and His character. We are thankful to God because He is Good. 

Our Father in heaven, God is faithful even when we are faithless. 

Second, His love for us is so great that He sacrificed His Son for us. We are thankful to God because of the gospel, the “good news,” which has paid the penalty for our sins and made us children of God. 

That brings me to my third reason why being thankful to God is so important. It puts our lives into perspective—the spiritual perspective. I remember that the true worst circumstance I could experience is separation from God, and my greatest need is a Savior. 

My worst circumstance, God has already resolved. My greatest need, God has already fulfilled through Christ. 

While life on earth is plagued with suffering and pain, God has redeemed us and fulfilled our greatest need for a Savior. Through Jesus, we are children of God now. No matter what we face on earth, we can hold firm to this truth. 

One practical way we cling to this truth is by being thankful to God for everything and in all circumstances.

Why is Gratitude so Powerful?

Gratitude is so powerful because it counters pride, self-righteousness, jealousy, and discontentment. These four things cause sin and evil in our hearts, but gratitude alleviates them by putting our focus on God and His character. We realize that God’s goodness, faithfulness, and righteousness are why He has blessed us and loved us.

On the other hand, pride causes us to rebel against God because we think we can do life better on our own. Self-righteousness makes us think we’ve earned our good fortune through our own works or good deeds. Jealousy and discontentment are linked; we compare our lives to others and want what they have. It can lead to bitterness and hatred in our hearts, prompting us to hurt others.

But with the power of gratitude, what takes root in our hearts is thankfulness and joy. 

Kara J Lovett Co.

We recognize the wonder of God’s works, and remember how man falls short. With gratitude, we are reminded to trust God and in His power instead of ourselves. No matter our circumstances, we understand that God has redeemed us, called us His children, and lavished his love upon us.

What are some Benefits of Gratitude?

Gratitude has several benefits. It keeps us focused on God and relying on Him by reminding us that God is our Provider and loves us with a steadfast love. But this benefit also produces other benefits that feed into the other areas of our life. 

One benefit of gratitude is that we have joy. God commands us to be thankful in every circumstance, and likewise we can have joy in every circumstance.

The world chases after “happiness” as if it is the grand prize of life. However, happiness is fleeting and vulnerable to all of the twists and turns in life. Everything has to be going right or be done perfectly for us to experience “happiness.” However, joy is perpetual and consistent. Joy is in every circumstance because we know God is the One who holds us in his hand. Not only that, but no one can take us from his hand.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

John 10: 27-29 (emphasis added)

Another benefit of gratitude is positivity. Instead of always seeing the glass half-empty, gratitude helps us see the “half-full” part. We can view our circumstances positively by always having something to be thankful for.

Lastly, a benefit of gratitude is cherishing the people and things in your life and living life to the fullest. Those without gratitude are often complaining about what they don’t have and comparing their lives to others. They live in constant fear of not having enough or living up to a certain standard.

With gratitude, we have the benefit of not striving or worrying about where we “should be” or what we “should have accomplished.” 

Instead, we are focused on living each day to its fullest and enjoying the people and things God has placed in our lives at this time.

What are the Benefits of Writing a Gratitude Journal?

The benefits of a gratitude journal include keeping your focus on God, having joy, remaining positive, cherishing your life, and living your life fully. However, you can practice gratitude without having a gratitude journal, so you may be wondering why you should keep a gratitude journal. Well, writing a gratitude journal also provides benefits for you, too.

  • Remember what you were thankful for the days prior. If you’re doing a gratitude challenge or wanting to practice gratitude daily, knowing what you were thankful for yesterday is important.
  • Keep building your gratitude list and challenge yourself to be creative. By having all of your things in one central place, you can continue growing your gratitude lists and think of new, creative things to be thankful for.
  • Expound on your gratitude list. As I mentioned earlier, keeping a gratitude journal isn’t just about writing gratitude lists. You can use a gratitude journal to also record favorite memories, expound on why you’re grateful for certain things, and journal about how gratitude has changed your perspective on life.
  • Share it with others. A gratitude journal keeps a record of what you’re thankful for. It’s easy to pull up and share with others to let them know how much they mean to you.
  • Easily pray the gratitude list. I often use my gratitude lists directly in my prayers. Whether I’m praying in the morning or the evening, keeping a gratitude journal gives me easy access to everything I want to thank God for in my gratitude list for today.
  • Constant reminder to be practicing gratitude. Keeping a gratitude journal serves as an accountability measure to remind you to be thankful. It’s a daily, weekly, or monthly reminder to set aside time to be thankful and stay positive.

How to start a gratitude journal 

Knowing the importance of gratitude, now it’s time to put it in practice by starting a gratitude journal. Starting a gratitude journal begins with finding the best place to keep your gratitude lists. 

What are the best gratitude journals?

If you prefer paper (like me) and want your gratitude lists in ink, you can reuse one of your journals you have or get a new journal to dedicate to your gratitude lists. Here are some simple gratitude journals as well as others with more structured gratitude journal prompts.

From Erin Condren – This is a 6 month, undated journal with daily gratitude prompts to help you unleash the power of gratitude in your life! There are also reflection spreads for 6 months and every 30-days.

From Promptly Journals – Here is a gratitude journal for the entire year! It has prompts for 52 weeks, and one prompt per day to help you be more thankful daily. This gratitude journal from promptly journal comes in different colors, too.

  • Erin Condren’s Daily Gratitude Notebook– This spiral journal has a beautiful, spring color and design which carries throughout the gratitude journal. There are 12 months worth of daily gratitude pages, monthly reflections, and planning pages. This gratitude journal is for you if you want structured, gratitude journal prompts in a beautifully decorated book.
  • Mindfulness and Gratitude Journal from iGotCrafts / Etsy – This gratitude journal is simple, sleek, economical, and gets the job done. It has 60 blank lined pages that you can fill with your gratitude lists. I love the simple design as it allows you to make it into whatever you want it to be. 
  • Grateful Heart: Gratitude Journal by Lamare / Etsy – In addition to pages dedicated to gratitude lists, this minimalistic gratitude journal has space for daily affirmations, goal setting, and monthly reflections. There are also blank pages for free journaling and tips for mindfulness. 
  • Ink+Volt Gratitude Journal – This bound journal is a great option for anyone who wants to record daily gratitude lists or journal entries. They have dedicated daily pages as well as inspirational quotes and some weekly challenges.
  • Different Types of Planners & Organizers – Some planners have options for you to record a daily gratitude list or start the day with “something you are thankful for.” I love that these planners integrate gratitude daily into their pages. This way you don’t have something extra to carry around, and it encourages you to start your day being thankful before diving into all of your work and tasks for the day.

Just Start the Gratitude Journal!

While the most obvious choice is a bound or spiral journal or notebook for your gratitude journal, there are other options, too. You can start a gratitude journal with a document on your computer, a note on your phone, or a repurposed pad of paper or task list. If you don’t have the perfect journal picked out yet, that shouldn’t stop you from getting started.

How do I Make a Gratitude List?

Now that you have your space to make your gratitude list, it’s time to get started with the next step. Writing the gratitude list!

As you start making your first gratitude list, remember that nothing is too small or insignificant. Start with the most obvious things, and then move on to the harder things and challenge yourself to look at the seemingly-bad things in a positive light.

How to Write a Gratitude List

For your first gratitude list, I suggest you start with a “catch all” list. Set a timer for 2-5 minutes, open to a blank page, and write down everything you can that you are grateful for. If you run out of ideas during the allotted time, start going back over your ideas and writing down why you are grateful for those things. Chances are, that will give you more ideas of what you are grateful for.

Another way to approach writing a gratitude list is to come up with categories, such as “Home,” “Work,” “God & Faith,” and try to list 3-5 things under each category in the allotted time.

If the timer stresses you out, you can also leave your gratitude journal open for a day or week and write whatever comes to your mind during that time. Later on, you can dedicate pages to certain categories and track how the lists change over time. 

What should I put on my Gratitude List?

If you’re still feeling stumped or frustrated by your first gratitude list, take a step back and a deep breath. Remember that the goal of the gratitude list is to return your focus to God and recognize the obvious and hidden blessings around you. Anything can go on the gratitude list.

As for some ideas of what you could put on your gratitude list, reflect on your day and what went well. Start by writing down the things that you enjoyed doing today or anything that allowed you to do those things (energy, time, your car, etc). Add in the people that you interacted with and how they made your day better. 

Write about any experiences you had that you enjoyed, like drinking a cup of coffee in the morning quietness.

Then, reflect on what went poorly or not quite as expected today. Challenge yourself to see the bright side of those situations. Consider what you could have learned from the situation, how it could have protected you from something worse, or how it might have allowed you to do something else that you weren’t expecting.

You can write bullet points of what you’re thankful for or long paragraphs describing your gratitude. Pick what works best for you or do a bit of both!

Gratitude Journal Prompts

These gratitude journal prompts can also give you ideas for what to write in a gratitude list:

  • God – What character trait of God are you most grateful for today? When you think of God, what parts of his character do you think of?
  • Family – Parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and the extended family. How have they supported you? How have they made you laugh? How have they encouraged you? What fond memories do you have with them?
  • Friends – Who has God placed in your life to do life with you? Friends from work, church, associations, sports teams, clubs, neighborhood, and other activities? What do you enjoy doing with them?
  • Time – What have you had extra time to do this week? How did you enjoy the gift of time? Have you been taking time for yourself this week?
  • Work – Whether you enjoy what you do or not, how are you growing? What experiences have you been able to have? What have you learned?
  • Talents – What talents has God given you? How have you used and enjoyed them lately?
  • Serving Others — Why has God placed you wherever you are to serve others? How have you had a chance to positively influence others? 

If you’re still stumped, refer to some of the gratitude list examples above. Also, pray for God to open your eyes so you can see His blessings around you. 

Related: 35 Thoughtful Reflection Questions to Ask Yourself 

Download a FREE Gratitude List Template

Want gratitude list examples and an easy printable template to get your gratitude journal started?

Download my gratitude list worksheet: “How to Make a Gratitude List” with an example gratitude journal entry, suggested categories, and blank pages for you to start your own gratitude journal. This gratitude list worksheet and template will help you realize the power of gratitude by starting your own gratitude list!

mockup of the free gratitude list / journal template from Kara J Lovett Co.

How can I be thankful everyday?

Lastly, gratitude journals, if used daily, can help you be thankful everyday. First, start by deciding on a time and place where you want to write you “gratitude list for today.” This will help you create a habit of writing the gratitude list daily. 

Once you’ve gotten that settled, start your list by putting the date at the top of the page. You can use some of the methods above to write a gratitude list for the day. A gratitude journal with daily entries and prompts will guide you in being thankful everyday, no matter how challenging the day may be (look above for my recommendations).

The benefit of writing a gratitude journal entry every day is that you can see how your attitude changes over time. Perhaps a terrible situation on Monday actually proves to cause a lot of good things by Thursday or Friday. 

With a daily gratitude list, you can see the shift in perspective.

a girl with a cup of coffee writing a gratitude list in her gratitude journal

Importance of Gratitude – My Story

Perhaps you’ve gotten this far and are still doubting the power of gratitude and why you should keep a gratitude journal. If so, I hope my story changes your mind because the importance of gratitude in my life was never more evident than when I became a young professional working at a corporate giant .

In the span of less than a month, I went from being an ETA in Andorra, traveling and skiing on the weekends, to a full-time business consultant. I was excited for the new adventure, to apply more skills from my college degree, and to jet off to new places for projects so I could rack up some hotel points and travel even more.

Yet, none of that happened. 

My consulting project was local to my area, so there was no jetting off to new places or racking up hotel points or bonus miles. The role I was placed in fell short of what I’d hoped for and still didn’t delve into the international business and economics that I was so passionate about. It was disappointment after disappointment.

Practicing Gratitude with a Gratitude Journal

At my Bible study, I’d listed my complaints at work as “prayer requests” multiple times. One of those times, the leader empathized with my struggle and suggested that I try writing a list of the things that I’m thankful for. That way when I’m feeling unhappy or disappointed or discouraged or angry, I can glance at this list and remind myself of everything I have to be thankful for.

Since all of my attempts at complaining the sadness away had failed, I decided to make a gratitude list.

I opened up my journal and wrote my first gratitude list. I came back to the list for a couple of days to add items that I’d thought of later.

How to Feel Thankful

So, when I was sitting at home feeling frustrated or angry that things weren’t how I wanted them, I would open my journal and read my gratitude list. I’d point to each item and then praise God in prayer, thanking Him for it.

I eventually outgrew my gratitude list, not because I filled the gratitude journal, but because I no longer had to look at the list to remind myself of the things I was thankful for. I could rattle off my gratitude list off the top of my head, and at night, I could easily pray my gratitude list before bed.

Every time I was tempted to complain, I was instantly reminded that God promises to work all things out together for my good and for those that love Him (Romans 8:28). I was living proof of that becauseI had been blessed by God not giving me what I thought I wanted.

Six months later, I loved my local project. I loved that I was not jetting off every week to earn hotel points or airline miles. I deeply appreciated every single thing that I wrote down on my gratitude list six months prior.

God really did work things out for my good. He knew what I needed better than I did.

Gratitude Leads to Joy

We are commanded to be thankful, and that thankfulness helps us retain our joy in the Lord. But the world tries to steal that joy. Because the more unhappy we are, the more we look to the world for satisfaction instead of God.

What situation are you struggling with because it didn’t turn out the way you wanted? How might your discouragement and disappointment change if you shift your perspective and focus on how God has blessed you?

Now is the perfect time to make a Gratitude List! 

When you can’t remember why you should be thankful, you’ll have a handy list to remind you before the world steals your joy. That, my friend, is why you should keep a gratitude journal.

What are 3 things you are grateful for today?

Leave me a comment below!

Don’t miss this! More posts in the Growing in Faith Category:

This gratitude list worksheet and template will help you realize the power of gratitude by starting your own gratitude list!

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