Simple Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m not much of a resolutionist. In fact, over the past few years, I haven’t made any resolutions for the new year at all. It’s not that I’m against them, but rather because I’m no good at sticking to any of them. Something always happens — whether by way of life or by me — that puts me off course, and then I look back, half way into the new year, feeling disappointed that I wasn’t able to stick to the plan.

One thing that I do on the cusp of every new year, however, is write down all the things that I can remember from the previous year that have made me grateful. They can be big things like trips overseas and professional advancements, but I also try to focus on the little things that made me happy, like peaceful conversations with my mother, shared over a cup of tea, and serene walks on my own through nature. In fact, I always carry a book in my bag, and often make time to write in it. The current one I’m carrying around is a gift from a friend. She gave it to me on my birthday with a note that said, ‘For the times you’d like to disconnect and refocus.’ How appropriate.

So this year, dear readers, I’m on a mission to make more time to disconnect and refocus. in fact, I’d like to set aside time every day to try and do this, by way of a gratitude journal. And I’d like you to join me. Here are some simple ways to start.

1. Purchase a book you like looking at. Even if you have to splurge a bit, go ahead and do it. This is a book you’ll look at every day, and it should be something fun and pretty — something that’s just for you.

2. Keep your gratitude journal in a place that’s accessible to you every day. Whether in your purse, or on your bedside table, make sure it’s always within your reach.

3. Remember — this is not a journal for daily musings and thoughts about life, love, troubles and concerns. Your gratitude journal is a happy place, so lock out the negative. 

4. Start off slowly. When you first begin, write about one thing that made you grateful for your life that day. It can be a sentence or a paragraph. In fact, it can even just be a word. You can eventually build as you find more things to appreciate in life, but make sure you’re running on your own timeline. There’s no reason to rush.

5. Don’t give up because you’re having a bad day. In fact, the bad days are when you should turn to this journal the most. When the world looks dark and dreary, write about something that’s bright in your life. It will encourage you to seek the positive, which, in turn, will lift your spirits.

6. Try to be detailed about your gratitude. It’s important to remember that focusing on depth rather than many things at once will have a stronger affect when you go back and read it. Try to outline as much as you can about your experience.

7. Be kind to yourself. Your gratitude journal is yours, and yours alone. Don’t have expectations about how it should go or compare yourself to others. You may not even wan to look at it on some days. This is your life, and these are your experiences, so embrace all of it.

8. Be creative. If you can’t write, add pictures. Feel like drawing a stick-figure picture of your experience? Go for it! If you’re grateful for a movie you just watched, perhaps add the ticket stub to a page. If you just had a date that you really enjoyed, maybe the menu from the restaurant can go in there too.

This post originally appeared on in December 2013.