While it’s easy to get caught up in the negativity of hardships and exhausting mental health conditions, gratitude journal prompts can help you become more resilient and transform negative thoughts. Studies suggest that giving thanks is strongly associated with greater happiness and reduced stress.
Practicing gratitude is like exercising a muscle–it takes time, patience and effort to grow. When you’re feeling pessimistic, try writing different gratitude journal prompts to flex your gratitude “muscles”. It’s a simple and effective way to set a more positive tone in your life.
As you try out these 10 gratitude journal prompts, you’ll find it easier to identify new sources of positivity in your life—no matter how your day went.
10 Gratitude Journal Prompts to Inspire Your Self-Reflection
1. What are 3 amazing things that happened today? How can I experience these things more often?
At the end of each day, try and recount the positive things that happened. People typically think of “amazing” moments as life-changing events, like having a baby, getting married or getting a promotion. But amazing things happen every day, no matter how small or mundane they are. It can be as simple as being alive, being able-bodied or having food to eat. We tend to take these things for granted, but life wouldn’t be the same without them.Even on the most difficult days, actively thinking about the positive side of things can help you face adversity with a healthier mindset. And when you make a plan to continue experiencing these positive moments again, you’re actively setting yourself up for more happiness.
2. What do I have now that I didn’t have five years ago?
Think about yourself five years ago. You probably had aspirations, goals, and a vision for your future. Whether or not your current life aligns with your past goals, there are things that you’ve gained and lost since then. Instead of focusing on what you haven’t achieved, think about the things you’ve gained. What have you learned? How is your current life better than it was five years ago?Are there ways you can celebrate being a better version of the person you used to be? Use this journal prompt to help you feel thankful for your personal growth rather than comparing your life to others.
3. What are 3 actions or habits that I want to practice again next week/month?
At the end of each week or month, take note of any actions that had a positive impact on your life. Figure out the actions you want to continue in the coming weeks and months, and make a plan to turn them into habits.If you’re struggling to remember your good habits, think of some habits that your future self would thank you for. Set your sights on these habits as your new goals and make a plan to continue these habits. As you gain momentum, you’ll find it easier to add on new habits in the future.
4. Write yourself a thank-you letter. Something you wish someone would say/write to you.
List out all of the qualities about yourself that you are currently grateful for or aspire to have. This gratitude journal prompt can be written in the form of a letter to yourself giving thanks and being proud of the person you are. You can also write this from someone else’s perspective. You can even write about qualities or things that you may not yet have in your life. These characteristics can become personal goals for you to aspire to. In Muhammad Ali’s words, “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” The bottom line: use this prompt to define who you want to be, and start priming your brain with gratitude and positivity to build this belief in your mind.
5. What about your upbringing or past experiences are you most grateful for?
Living in the past can be a significant mental blocker in your life, and it’s easy to blame your upbringing for your problems now. Instead of being resentful of your past, work toward acceptance. But accepting your past doesn’t mean forgetting how certain experiences affected you. Instead, it means you can stop letting those old feelings control your current life. Recount the lessons learned from your past experiences that shaped you into the person you are today. It might be hard to feel grateful for difficult times in your past, but realizing how much you’ve grown from your past is a huge step in developing self-awareness.
6. Who or what in your life are you happy to have let go?
Think about some of the things that you’ve had to let go of in recent years, whether it be a relationship, a career, or a negative experience. When you let go of the past, you’re giving yourself room to welcome new experiences, relationships and opportunities. It may be difficult to find closure, but letting go of your past allows you to move forward with your life.
7. What are three of your greatest accomplishments?
Take a moment to reflect on the progress you’ve made in different areas of your life.Accomplishments don’t always have to relate to your career or education. You can be proud of yourself for anything you accomplished in life. This includes anything from reaching a personal fitness record, being intentional in a friendship, or sticking to a morning routine. Use this journal prompt to understand your personal strengths and feel good about where you are.
8. What are the top 10 things stressing you out? For each one, write some solutions and a positive spin.
It’s difficult to be grateful when you’re faced with hardships like mental health conditions, financial issues, relationship problems and more. Instead of avoiding your problems and dwelling on negativity, face your problems with a plan and reflect on the positive side of things. No matter how bad your situation is, it can be comforting to know that you have the ability to find a solution. It’s also an opportunity to be grateful for the challenges that are helping you grow. Outline the steps you can take to solve them. Focusing your energy on finding a solution rather than letting stress consume your mind can help you regain confidence. As you navigate stressful problems, staying grateful and positive will help to sharpen your problem-solving skills and manage how you react to stressful things in life.
9. What is a mistake you’ve made that ultimately led to a positive experience?
We all make mistakes. And when facing the consequences, your first instinct might be to feel shame. But in order to build self-awareness, it’s important to own your mistakes and turn them into positive experiences. Approaching negative situations with a positive and grateful mindset can create more meaningful experiences for you. You’ll start to embrace the thought of making mistakes and welcome growing pains. Use this journal prompt to reflect on your past mistakes and how they have contributed to your strengths as a person now.
10. What would you tell your teenage self?
What were you like as a 15-year old? What lessons have you learned since then? As the older and wiser version of yourself, you probably have a different perspective on life now than you did as a teenager. Even if you’re not where you want to be in life right now, you have learned lessons and grown as a person. What is something you wish someone told you then that you know now? When you recognize how far you’ve come as an adult, you can find peace knowing that you’ve experienced and learned much more than your past self imagined.
How to start a gratitude journal and make it a habit
Staring at a blank page of your notebook can be daunting, especially if you’re new to gratitude journaling. The bright side is that there’s no right or wrong way to express your gratitude—you can be grateful for anything. If you’re feeling stuck, start by paying attention to the small things in life. Here are some tips to make it easier:
- Put time on your schedule. Even if it’s for only a few minutes, set a time to write. Try writing every day at the same time and make it a part of your morning or bedtime routine.
- Set alarms. Use alarms to remind you that it’s time to journal.
- Pick a journal format. Whether you use your phone notes app or a paper journal, find a format that makes it easy or fun for you to write.
- Start small. Small moments have a big impact on our lives. Start paying attention to the small things in life that you’ve taken for granted.
- Be specific. Think about why you’re grateful for something. Instead of writing “I’m grateful for my family”, provide more detail about why you’re grateful for them: “I’m grateful to have a group of people that loves and supports me through difficult times.”
When you’re first starting out, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Gratitude journaling should be fun and make you feel good. Treat this practice as something to look forward to each day rather than treating it like another chore. The more you enjoy your gratitude journaling time, the easier it becomes to identify new blessings each day.
Use these tips to help you start gratitude journaling on a regular basis. Whether you choose to use the same topic each day or write a new prompt every day is up to you!
Starting your mental health journey with gratitude and support
On days you feel like nothing is going right, choose one of these gratitude journal prompts to let out what’s on your mind. You’ll find that gratitude journaling has the power to shift the emotional tone of your life in positive ways.
When you’re ready to make a commitment to yourself beyond a gratitude journal, take the next step and speak to a mental health professional. At Ahead, our team of mental health providers is ready to help you build healthier habits for a calmer mind. We can help you sort through your thoughts and create steps to move forward. We are here to walk alongside you on your mental health journey.