5 Journaling Ideas To Boost Gratitude

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You might’ve read in a self-help book or seen someone on TV talk about the many benefits of journaling. Whether it’s an aid to personal growth or a form of therapy, research has shown that writing things down can be enormously helpful. So whether you’re brand new to journaling or an experienced writer, exploring your written voice is a fantastic way to understand your daily thoughts and goals better.

Many of us kept diaries as kids – to recall the events of a day, to understand our feelings, or to explore new ideas – either as a requirement for school or for personal enjoyment. In much the same way, journaling as an adult can be the key to a healthy mindfulness practice.

Setting a writing goal doesn’t have to be time-consuming or complicated, and it doesn’t even require a deep love of writing. It’s simply about expressing your ideas in a manner that is open-ended and unrestricted.

Your ideas kept in a journal are for no one other than yourself, require no particular format, and have no right or wrong outcome.

Explore our five tips for weaving journaling practice into your daily life, and make a start today.

An open journal with writing table with coffee, plants, and a smoothie bowl
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Abraham Lincoln

Daily Journal Idea #1: Morning Dream Journal

At the start of each morning, writing in a dream journal acts as a window into our inner consciousness.

Dream researcher Jane Gackenbach of MacEwen University, explains that routinely making notes on our dream life – however loosely or unstructured those notes might be – helps us to better understand our waking minds throughout the day.

The subconscious mind often tries to make sense of significant events, whether from the previous day or other, larger, life changes – and taking note of these dream-inspired thoughts recognizes the cleansing process that occurs in our sleep both physically and emotionally.

Whether you have a clear memory of your dreams or not, kicking off your daily routine with a self-reflective activity keeps you from rushing in the morning, or disconnecting from your thoughts as you scramble to get to work or school.

So, even if these dream notes or drawings seem random or irrational, the very act of writing down the thoughts that come up for us overnight is a great way to enter the day with mindfulness and self-awareness.

Two pink pens and a gold pen on a white table next to a gratitude journal
“Keeping a journal of what’s going on in your life is a good way to help you distill what’s important and what’s not.” – Marina Navratilova

Daily Journal Idea #2: Self-Growth Wish List

We’ve all been there: it feels like the very moment you sit down at your desk, a wave of emails, a growing to-do list, and a series of requests from your co-workers and friends come streaming in.

So, before things take off, set aside five minutes of your morning to write a personal to-do list. Doing so can keep these important (yet time consuming) tasks from hijacking your sense of calm first thing in the morning.

Making these types of lists will help you to feel happier and more in control all day.

For example, write between three and five simple goals that it is plausible for you to achieve within the course of your day.

Examples might be: setting aside time for a walk without checking your phone, touching base with a family member or friend you’ve wanted to check in with, or keep it even simpler – setting a goal to be more patient with yourself when work gets frustrating.

These tasks may sound small and insignificant, but keeping your journal close to you acts as a reminder that keeps you accountable for these goals.

Most of us like ticking off the things we have achieved, so start with simple goals. By the end of the afternoon, you are less likely to feel that the day has passed without taking care of yourself and the things that matter to you.

a person in a yellow rain jacket writing in a journal outside
“Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.” – Mina, Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Daily Journal Idea #3: Exercise Journaling

A workout is an excellent way to get the mind flowing, whether it brings up frustration or enthusiasm. On your next run, yoga practice, or hike, take 10 minutes at the end of your workout to reflect on the thoughts that arose while you were exercising.

Not only does exercise benefit the brain’s ability to memorize and focus, but the mind also commonly experiences breakthroughs or realizations while your body pushes through a difficult workout.

Make a note of these thoughts before the moment passes, even if they seem unimportant at the time.

Keeping a journal entry will honor the thoughts that arise when the brain is at its best. If you experience the opposite feelings during your workout – ones of resistance and negativity – write these down as well.

You can combine this with making a note of how you exercised and what you achieved. If you’re on a journey to lose weight or get fit, you’ll become aware of just how much progress you’re really making.

Seeing your growth and noticing patterns in your mental workout state – as well as your physical one – is an excellent tool when moving ahead with mindfulness.

A black journaling notebook and a cup of coffee on a wooden table
“Just remember even your worst days only have 24 hours.” – Moosa Rahat

Daily Journal Idea #4: End-of-Day List and Close Out

As you head to bed at night, close out the day by taking a moment to check in with yourself.

This is especially helpful for those who find themselves waking in the middle of the night with anxious or restless thoughts, or those who have trouble falling asleep.

The thoughts that often swirl around our minds as we go to bed can find a better home in a journal, so that we can step away from these tasks and trust that they will still be there in the morning.

This is also a lovely way to take note of your progress of daily goals, and note – again, without judgment on yourself – where you found it difficult or impossible to meet your goals on a particular day. This way, we learn to see each day as complete and respected – part of a larger whole of progress in our lives.

You might also want to include a few hopes for the next day and respect that it’s time to let your goal-oriented mind go for the moment.

And lastly, no matter how demanding the day may have been, try writing a short list of things that brought you joy or gratitude.

They may be small like a great cup of coffee, or much larger like a warm conversation with your sibling on the phone. Make note of what brought you fulfillment and end the day on a moment of gratitude and simplicity.

a stack of closed notebooks with red covers
“Write what should not be forgotten.” – Isabel Allende

Daily Journal Idea #5: Cross-Reflection Journaling

One of the most beautiful aspects of journaling is the ability to look back on our previous entries, months or even years after they’re completed.

We begin to see patterns in our thinking, identify how we’ve changed, and find a greater sense of progression and growth in our daily life. In other words, we begin to see the big picture. This way, years are measured by how our view of the world has developed, and not by our income or career choices. Those with anxiety and depression may find journaling an even more valuable tool in seeing how far they have progressed and how much better they have become over time.

Previous journal entries might also contain answers to reoccurring issues you’ve faced in the past, reminding you that there are ways to work through current challenges and daunting questions. It’s surprising – we often write wise advice for our future selves without realizing it in the moment.

Journaling is a simple, low-cost way to prioritize ourselves, our goals, and our victories. Taking the time to focus on our mind doesn’t require a love of writing or art, just an appreciation for our mind’s thoughts and patterns. Most importantly, it’s always crucial to move forward without judgment. Your journal, after all, is just for you and acts as a space to express your thoughts without editing or pressure.

Have you benefitted from journaling or found a new sense of gratitude for your dreams and plans? Share them with us in the comments today.

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Quincy Seale

Quincy is KIM's lead editor and content writer, and has invested in online properties since 2009. Quincy holds an MBA from the University of Dundee and an MSc from the University of Edinburgh, and lives in San Antonio with his wife Natalie, son Alex, and his dog Oban.