A Gratitude Journal: Simple and Powerful

by Dana Demas

“It’s only possible to live happily ever after on a daily basis.” –Margaret Bonanno

Small changes can make a big difference in your outlook. 

I used to be an avid journal writer. I wrote about boys, school, work and all of the smaller day to day stuff. The problem with journaling was, I tended to focus more on the things that were bothering me or confusing me, instead of on all of the good in my life.

I started a Gratitude Journal after losing my dad and a tough break-up the following year. I didn’t have the energy for writing long journal entries after losing two such important people in my life, and I suspect that many people dealing with cancer feel the same weariness. 

A Gratitude Journal is simple – you write down a few things that you are grateful for that day – and it helps us to remember the positive, especially when it seems like there are only problems at our doorstep. 

Here are a few tips for starting a gratitude journal. Just do it. I promise you will find it to be a great comfort:

1. Choose a Journal and keep it by your bed. I bought a simple moleskine journal and I keep it on my nightstand, along with a pile of books and magazines, so it’s always easy to find. 

2. Write when you want to, but at least once a week. This is supposed to be enjoyable, so write when it feels right, with the idea of making the practice a part of your life. You will probably find that once you get started you will naturally write often and your thoughts won’t feel forced. 

3. Keep it simple. I write simple, quick lists of a few items without too much explanation. Again, the idea is to capture happiness and not feel like the journal is a chore. 

4. Be specific. And while brevity is great, include details so the memories come alive (and to avoid repetition). One of the benefits of a Gratitude Journal is flipping through it later to remember good times in the past – especially the small moments that may not have been remembered otherwise. 

5. Be grateful. Remember that the journal is a place for gratitude. Talk about difficult parts of your life, but do it in a positive way. Transform your thinking to realize you are strong enough to handle life’s curveballs.

If you prefer an electronic journal, HappyTapper makes an iPhone app that collects your daily writing. Even better, the web-based HappyRambles emails you each day to share what you are grateful for. Your entries are stored in a secure online gratitude journal.