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7 Ways to Start a Gratitude Journaling Practice

Thanksgiving is a great time to adopt the habit of celebrating gratitude with the written word. Learn how to get started.

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Thanksgiving is a great reason for families to get together—free from materialistic motivations such as gift-giving—but more important, it’s an ideal time to offer thanks and express gratitude. Expressing gratitude appreciation of and perspective on your life while positively affecting your physical, psychological, and emotional well-being. Recent studies show that those who are most grateful are also less prone to depression and tend to be happier. Expressing thanks also can offer opportunities for growth and transformation.

Of course, you can express gratitude verbally to others, but you can also do it using the written word. Writing down what you’re thankful in a gratitude journal or notebook for has many benefits. It’s a way to organize and integrate your thoughts, and it’s also a way to put your thanks into the context of everything else going on in your life. The exercise of gratitude journaling gives you a chance to slow down and pay attention to all the good in your life. It is an opportunity to be mindful of what you are grateful for and what you might otherwise take for granted.

If you are a regular journal keeper, you can express gratitude in your journal, but you may prefer having a separate journal or section of your journal just for gratitude. When you begin gratitude journaling, you might want to start by keeping your journal on your bedside table. Those quiet moments first thing in the morning or before you retire at night are often the best times to engage in gratitude journaling.

See also 4 Science-Backed Benefits of a Gratitude Practice

7 ways to incorporate gratitude into your writing this month

1. Make a list of what you’re thankful for.

writing, latte, coffee, creativity

Studies have shown that it’s best to choose one of those items on the list and write about it in greater detail. Robert Emmons, of the University of California, San Diego, is a leading expert on the science of gratitude. He says that when making your gratitude list, think of each item as a gift—whether it’s a person, an experience, or something materialistic.

See also 3 Steps to Cultivate Selfless Gratitude

2. Write about one person in your life whom you’re most grateful for.

visualize, journaling.

Explain how this individual came into your life, his/her role, and what it is about this person you’re most grateful for.

See also 5 Ways to Express Gratitude Through Yoga

3. Write a letter to one or more individuals whom you want to thank for something in particular.

woman writing a thank you note

Explain exactly why you appreciate them and what you’ve learned from them. You don’t have to mail the letter if you don’t want to, but you certainly can if you feel inclined.

See also YJ Gratitude Challenge: 4 Things on Jason Crandell’s List

4. Write a letter to yourself expressing why you’re thankful for you.

woman writing while traveling

You can begin by expressing thanks for being alive, and also include certain aspects of your life and health that you’re grateful for.

See also YJ Gratitude Challenge: 5 Things on Tiffany Cruikshank’s List

5. Write down the skills and accomplishments you’re grateful for.

mala notebook writing

Maybe it’s that you’re simply able to read, or even that you’re able to go out and buy yourself a gratitude journal.

See also YJ Gratitude Challenge: Build a Simple Daily Practice

6. Make a list of things that bother you.

drinking tea, peaceful

Make a list of things or situations that bother you, and consider thinking about them in a positive light. How might you do that?

See also Two Fit Moms: 8 Poses to Illuminate Your Blessings

7. Send out thank you cards.


During this holiday season, consider sending out personalized thank you cards whenever you receive a gift or when someone has made a generous gesture.

See also 7 Yin Yoga Poses to Cultivate Gratitude

See also Writing My Way to Contentment

About the Author
Diana Raab, PhD, is the author of Writing for Bliss: A 7-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life (September 2017). She is an award-winning writer, speaker, and educator who advocates the transformative powers of writing. Diana holds writing workshops around the country. Find her at