Why Gratitude Journaling Should Be Part of Your Daily Routine

The practice takes less than five minutes a day, but its effects can be life-changing.

Kelley Kitley, a licensed clinical psychotherapist, has a date with her journal daily.

Her date sometimes lasts as few as three minutes—she simply jots down a few things that made her grateful that day—but the effect has been life-changing.

At a time when we tend to worry about everything and anything that can go badly, keeping a gratitude journal can not only offer a helpful reminder to be grateful, but it can also have a big impact on your mental health. 

“Our brains are wired to assess risk,” Kitley explains. “Oftentimes, we naturally look at ways to fix what’s wrong in our life.” Sound familiar? Especially in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep and it seems like everything is wrong?

Well, gratitude journaling, Kitley says, can help you switch your perspective by instead focusing on positive thoughts and behaviors.

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How to Start

Gratitude journaling is the act of reflecting and writing down all the things you feel good about in your life. These can be as minor as that bowl of crunchy cereal you ate this morning to the fact that you have a roof over your head or the appreciation you feel for your partner. It can literally be anything. 

You can also do this practice whenever you want for as long as you want, says Tina Tessina, a psychotherapist and author of It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction. The writing aspect of it is important, so Tessina recommends that you write by hand or type it on your computer. This forces you to really pay attention to what you’re doing. 

Woman With Journal

Once you get into the habit of gratitude journaling daily, you’ll start looking at your life through the lens of gratitude, appreciation, and spirituality, according to Kitley.

The Benefits of Gratitude Journaling

Yes, they’re backed by science. A 2019 study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that adolescents who have a gratitude journal donate 60% more of their earnings to charity compared to those who don’t journal.

Another study of adults seeking therapy instructed one group to write gratitude letters in addition to their therapy sessions; another group to write negative letters and attend therapy; and a third group to just do counseling without any accompanying journaling. The study found that the group who did the gratitude journaling reported much better health than the other groups.  

Cynical? It may take longer for cynics and skeptics to see results from gratitude journaling, but you should be consistent, says Nancy Irwin, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles. 

“I’ve never seen it fail,” she says. “If you journal your gratitude for what you have now, as well as what you are creating for the short-term and long-term future, it is simply a matter of time before it is actualized,” Irwin says.

You can expect to feel more positive, lighter, and more in control of your thoughts, which drive beliefs and changes behaviors, Irwin says. “This, in turn, will allow you to feel more in control of your life.”

Danielle Braff
Danielle Braff is a freelance writer based in Chicago. Read more