How a Gratitude Journal Changed My Outlook on Life

By: Ava Tews

Do you ever get home after work and think, ugh, what a day. Then after giving it some thought, you can’t actually pinpoint any one thing that made it such a “bad” day? I’ve been there. More times than I care to admit.

To be honest, I found myself in that rut for a while. And I was tired of it. You know those people who are always happy and positive no matter what day it is? Who doesn’t love to be around those people? Not only does it feel bad to constantly dwell on the negative, but it also doesn’t feel good for the people around you either. 

I changed my mind set by incorporating a gratitude journal into my daily routine, and I wish I did it years ago.

How do you start a gratitude journal?

You don’t need anything special to get started with gratitude journaling. No special prompts. No fancy pens. (Although they don’t hurt.) I bought a super cute notebook (thanks, Erin Condren) and decided to sit down at the end of each day to write something I was grateful for. On the first day, I flipped open the notebook and filled up a whole page in a matter of minutes. 

It really can be that simple. It changed things for me. And it can change things for you too.

It puts the small things in perspective. 

Okay, so no matter how grateful we are for the wonderful things in our lives, there are still going to be bad days. Life just wouldn’t be possible without them. 

I had one of those days shortly after I started my gratitude journal. My anxiety was at an all-time high. I felt like the world was collapsing around me. (Anxiety has a way of making you feel that way.) After a pretty severe panic attack, I called my sister as I usually do when I need someone to ground me. 

I was overwhelmed by the love I received from my family members and husband after what could have felt like a good day completely lost. Sure, I had a panic attack. And it felt awful. But I was still here. And I had an awesome support system. I went from feeling completely crushed by the different stresses in my life to feeling overwhelmingly surrounded by love. I’m not sure I would have realized that had I not taken the time to journal about it. 

I think for most of us, it’s easy to slip into a daily routine where days and weeks can blend together. Most days aren’t overwhelmingly “good” or “bad” (at least for most of us). We work. We do chores. We run the errands we need to run. We do all of these things without giving any of it much thought. 

A gratitude journal helps keep life’s petty annoyances in perspective even when they don’t feel so petty at the time.

It refocuses energy on the good.

As cliche as it may sound, life gives us so many reasons to be grateful. Even mundane everyday life. 

I’ll give you an example. For no apparent reason, I started getting a ringing sound in my right ear. Like clockwork, every night when I was getting settled in for the night, watching TV, reading, or relaxing, the buzzing sound in my right ear returned.

Long story short, this annoyance went on for months before I went to the doctor. I ended up needing to get hearing tests and an MRI to ensure there was no brain tumor. There wasn’t. And my hearing tests showed that my hearing was superior. Elated doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. 

The ringing eventually went away (and came back months later), but it was still a wonderful reminder for me that there is always something to be grateful for. Journaling helps me remember all the good things I do have in my life that are so easy to take for granted. Like my hearing and my health. 

It allows you to reflect on your day.

When I was in high school, I used to journal every single day without fail. But not about things I was grateful for. About everything that was wrong with my life. While this strategy might work for some people as an outlet for venting, I’ve found it so much more effective to use my journal primarily for gratitude.

When I take time for my gratitude journal, I inevitably think about the things that genuinely bring me joy. On days when I’m grateful that I got a good workout in at the gym, I realize just how great exercise makes me feel, which reminds me to keep it up. And PiperWai played a huge part on keeping me naturally fresh. On days when it feels like there’s not much to be grateful for, I think about what I could have done differently in my day. 

I’m grateful that I’ve learned to develop an attitude of gratitude even on my worst days. And I know you can too. As you reflect on your day today, what are you grateful for?