Monday, April 21, 2014

How To Make a Gratitude Journal

DIY gratitude journal
Learn how to make your own gratitude journal.

Could you benefit from a gratitude journal? Practicing gratitude is indeed a life changer--for adults and for kids. It changes the way you experience the world and it can alter your perspective from what you think your story is to the real blessings and abundance in your life. When you change your thoughts, you change your feelings. When you change your feelings, you can change your actions. That's what gratitude does. It gives you the courage to act.

This post will talk about why I made a gratitude journal and also show you how to create a journal for you or for your children. It's a great way to get started on developing a grateful heart. It may even change your life!

I've even included a special printable at the end of this post if you want to make it at home, for a play date, for home school or even at Sunday school. When my son becomes older, we're definitely going to create one together.

There are so many benefits to practicing gratitude.

Counting our blessings is one way of tackling feelings of being stuck, insecure, unsure or lonely. It centers us when we lose perspective, ruminate on a negative thought, or feel hopeless.  

Studies have shown that it can create resilience, lessen stress, add meaning and appreciation to your life, show you that goodness lies outside of ourselves, and reveal to us that we are connected. It can bring about positive emotions, improve our health, help us deal with conflict in the middle of crisis, bring hope, help us cope with difficult times, diminish anger, bitterness, or greed, and improve upon our relationships. It can also help us work toward our goals. It is the ultimate virtue.

How can we develop this habit of gratitude to reap its benefits? By creating a journal as a way to practice it every day.

Why I (Recently) Decided To Make a Gratitude Journal

Gratitude is a practice

Last month I created  a gratitude journal. The idea began with a talk I had with a good friend. One day we were chatting on the phone and discussing the challenges of parenting and life balance. Perhaps I was venting too long because she stopped me mid-sentence and asked me to grab a pen and paper. 

She instructed me to write down the first 10 things that came to mind which I was grateful for.

I ended up writing 20.

At first, I wrote some basic things in my life that I was thankful for including shelter, clothing, my family, trips I've done, career opportunities I've had etc. 

After entry 10, however, I started going deeper as I became more quiet and still in my spirit. I noticed that the entries became more vivid and specific:  
"I am thankful for the joy on my toddler's face when he dances to music."
 "I am thankful for the early and 'slow' morning Saturdays I get to spend with the family in PJs."
 "I am thankful for the fact that God has entrusted me as "keeper" of the home and that I get the opportunity to create one."
When I had time to reflect on these entries, I realized that the challenges I faced didn't seem as overwhelming as I first thought they would be. That in the greater scheme of things, it wasn't necessarily about the challenges per se, but the attitude I maintained going through them. The good in my life appeared to outweigh any current lack thereof.

This same wise friend had mentioned to me that I let it, the world will remind you of what you don't have. It's up to you to remind yourself of what you do have. To notice what's around you. 

And that takes daily practice. So that's why I now keep this gratitude journal. It's one way to learn the habit of being appreciative of what's around me. To help me pay attention to those memories I should be grateful for.

Recently, I had a chance to look at the last 30 days of entries. I try to at least write 3-5 things a week on what I'm thankful for. Sometimes I write more during the week. I've ask my husband to also make entries in it when he gets the chance. 

I wanted to share with you a few of my entries:
"I'm grateful for my friends--old and new--they remind me not to isolate, they encourage my strengths, they call out my BS, and they are an amazing source of support. I hope one day to connect more with them. They are some of my greatest loves."
"I'm grateful for my grandma.  Although she isn't here with us anymore, she was a significant presence in my family growing up. I didn't know it then, but seeing her get up early to eat breakfast, cook everyday, read a book every week, sew clothes, hang laundry to dry,  and balance her checkbook showed discipline; it gave me an image of the woman I only realized later I wanted to be."
"I'm grateful for fellowship, birthday parties, and get-togethers. They teach me that connection with others doesn't stop when one starts their own family---it's a human need that is continual. The more connected we feel, the more alive we feel."
One important insight I've learned from having a journal is having contentment with slowing down the pace of life. That even in the days where I feel I've given too much, in reality, I've received much more. When I feel tempted to fall into the comparison trap, I read the journal only to realize that I can choose joy instead. Moreover, it's a daily reminder of God's goodness. Sometimes to understand God's sovereignty, you have to look backwards.

With so many benefits of practicing gratitude, I wonder why we don't learn this habit in schools. What if we had a gratitude 101 class that started in elementary school to teach this lifelong practice? Just something to think about.

So along came this tutorial. For anyone who wants to start a gratitude journal, I say today is a good day! Find a notebook, grab some crafty items, and get going! 

How To Make a Gratitude Journal 

DIY Gratitude Journal
My DIY Gratitude Journal

Most of these materials I've picked up from the 99 Cents Only Store or dollar store. You don't have to spend a lot to gain a lot!

  • A notebook  
  • Unique gift wrapping paper or scrapbook paper
  • Stickers (letter stickers or scrapbook stickers, etc.)
  • A gratitude quote.  For some biblical quotes, click here for scriptures on gratitude.
  • Markers or pens
  • Scissors and glue
  • Printer (optional if you decide to print out your gratitude quote or notebook title)
  • Any other crafty scraps you want to use to decorate your notebook

How to make a gratitude journal with scrapbook paper and stickers
Some gratitude journal supplies: a notebook, stickers, and fun paper


1. Create a background for your gratitude journal by measuring and cutting out gift wrapping paper or scrapbook paper.  Glue this paper to the front of the notebook.

2. Decide on a gratitude quote. I added a quote to my cover and it's a great way to remind yourself of being grateful.  Decide on a quote and where you want to glue it. Type it up and print it out. Or write it out on a piece of paper. Cut it out in whatever shape you want (oval, rectangle, etc.) Glue it onto the cover.

Find a great gratitude quote to add to your journal cover.
3. Write out or Use letter stickers to create a title for your journal.  Glue it onto your notebook. Some examples of titles are "My Gratitude Journal" or "Things I'm thankful for". 

Add a title to your journal. Use letter stickers for a unique font design.
4. Use stickers to embellish your cover!  Or cut out different shapes and glue it onto the notebook cover. Layer your designs. Use whatever crafty scraps you have on hand to make your journal unique and special to you.

Putting it all together: DIY Gratitude Journal

How To Use Your a Gratitude Journa

Here are some tips on making the most of your gratitude journal:
  • Write 3-5 things you are thankful for or that you appreciate (Need ideas? See questions below.) When you are ready, go deeper and describe your feelings about what you're thankful for. What does it mean to you? Get specific. Get vivid.
  • Write in it everyday. Or write in it weekly.  For kids, keep it a weekly activity so they have something to look forward to every week.
  • Keep your journal visible. When you see it, you'll be more inclined to write in it.
  • Make it a family journal and let everyone participate (this becomes a great way to document and interpret your family's history. Add photos for a creative and visual impact!)
  • Every now and then, look back at your entries. See how far you've come. See how you've transformed. For your kids, discuss a few of those entries during bedtime or during dinner. Turn it into a great conversation starter about what a grateful heart looks like.
  • Share this idea with a friend! Discuss with each other weekly or monthly!

40 Questions To Get You Started
Use these questions to help you brainstorm about aspects of your life that you are grateful for. Note: kids can tackle many of these questions and after question # 22, the questions become easy enough for anyone to answer.

1. I'm grateful because _____________.
2. I'm grateful for __________________.
3. Whom do I appreciate and why? What relationships am I thankful for?
4. What things am I thankful for?
5. What's happened today / this week /this month / this year that I'm grateful for?
6. What in my immediate surroundings do I feel grateful for?
7. What skills, talents, or abilities am I grateful to be able to do? That I can offer others?
8. What opportunities do I have that I am grateful for?
9. What about my health am I grateful for?
10. What am I thankful for that brings beauty in my everyday life?
11. What realizations, values, or lessons have I gained that I am grateful for? Why? What wisdom am I grateful for?
12. What about this morning, afternoon or evening am I grateful for? Why?
13. What have others done for me or my family that I am thankful for?
14. How is my life different from last yer and what about that can I be thankful for?
15. What recent blessing that I've received have I been grateful for? What prayers?
16. What challenges, weaknesses, or conflicts have I faced and what lessons did I learn from them that I can be thankful for? What were these lessons?
17. What strengths do I have that I am thankful for?
18. What did I learn today about myself that I am grateful for?
19. What privileges do I have that I am thankful for?
20.  What did I do today that I am grateful for?
21. What habits have I developed that I am grateful for?

More Questions (with some easy ones for kids)
22. When I look outside, I am thankful for______________ because_____________.
23. What did I watch, touch, smell, see, taste, and/or hear that I am thankful for?
24. What foods am I most thankful for?
25. What activities did I do this week that I am most grateful for?
26. I am thankful for my mom because_______________________.
27. I am thankful for my dad because _______________________.
28. I am thankful for my sister/brother/grandma/grandpa/cousin because ____________.
29. I am thankful for my friends (name them) because ___________________________.
30. What 1, 2, or 3 days can I identify in my life that I am especially grateful for?
31. What things/toys/clothing/treasures do I have that I am thankful for? 
32. What opportunities to share, comfort, donate, encourage, or help am I thankful for? Why?
33. What did someone do for me today or this week that I am thankful for?
34.  Where did I go recently that I am grateful for?
35. What books have I read that I am thankful for? Why?
36. What in my room am I thankful for? My home?
37. What about my school or my studies have I learned that I am grateful for?
38. What am I thankful to be able to do?
39. What day of the week am I grateful for?
40. What trips have I been on that I am thankful for?

Wait, there's more: A Free Printable for Kids

I created this printable for parents or teachers who may want to host an activity where kids can create their own gratitude journal. I included the tutorial and 20+ kid-friendly questions from above. Feel free to share with others and link back if you can (Free Gratitude Journal Tutorial For Kids - PDF)

Your Next Steps

Find a notebook and start your journal! Or open up a google document and start recording some gratitude entries in there.  In 30 days, notice how you feel and reflect back on some past entries.

Print out the kids gratitude journal worksheet and organize a play date with a friend. Have your kids create a gratitude journal.  Discuss its significance. Practice it weekly.

Get together with a friend and create gratitude journals. Do weekly or monthly gratitude check-ins.

Learn more:

Until the next post,


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