Last updated on December 28th, 2021
Recent research has highlighted the practice of gratitude as one of the key factors in our health, happiness, and success. Here are 50 gratitude journal prompts to help you develop the habit of gratitude journaling.
Have We Forgotten How to Be Thankful?
Have you noticed the rise of the mantra Keep Calm and Be Kind in recent months? It’s become so prevalent that we can be hard pressed to go a day without hearing it. But why is that so? Why do so many people feel the need to keep reminding others to show basic courtesy to others?
We live in a world that has become increasingly negative. (A quick scan of the comments section of any news website will immediately affirm this). People are very quick to name all the things that are wrong with life, but it’s rare to hear anyone going around expressing gratitude for all the wonderful (or even mundane) things in their lives.
Why? Well, it’s easier to fixate on the negative, for one thing. Negative experiences magnify themselves in our minds, taking up way more space than they deserve. They get under our skin and aggravate us, and talking about them is one way we can process our feelings and get over those things.
There is also a certain bond that comes from commiserating together, to be sure. You suffered through this, and so did I, and we are bonded by that experience.
But is focusing on the negatives in life a good idea?
Or should we be working harder to focus on gratitude and the art of giving thanks?
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is the act of being thankful for what we have in our lives. It requires us to look outside of ourselves and our immediate circumstances and take notice of details that we might otherwise miss.
As one Harvard article puts it, “With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”
Why We Need to Practice Gratitude
There are innumerable benefits of practicing gratitude and it seems like every day another study adds more positive outcomes to the list.
Here are a few of the key benefits of becoming a more grateful person:
- it gives you greater perspective and helps you focus on what you do have, rather than on what you don’t have or haven’t yet accomplished
- it connects us with ourselves and others
- it helps us appreciate the smaller things in life, which often turn out to be the bigger things
- it helps us to become more mindful in the present moment. For example, when we’ve trained ourselves to see the good in difficult circumstances, we can learn to see that good sooner the next time we find ourselves in a similar situation.
- it can reduce depression and anxiety
- it fosters a greater spirit of generosity and helpfulness
- it is one of the best predictors of well-being and good relationships
- it helps develop a greater sense of purpose
While gratitude is not the default stance for most of us, it is a virtue that can be developed over time through practice and commitment.
Why is it Hard to Practice Gratitude?
In his book, Gratitude Works! A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity, leading gratitude researcher Robert A. Emmons writes about some of the major barriers to feeling and expressing gratitude. Chief among these are a sense of entitlement and a lack of humility.
People who see themselves as more important than they are see little reason to be grateful for the gifts they receive. Likewise, those who feel like they’re entitled to everything they desire in life are unlikely to feel or express gratitude when things go their way. After all, they expected it and deserved it. What’s to be thankful for?
The Case for Gratitude Journaling
Paul Wong of the International Network on Personal Meaning offers several antidotes to these states of being:
- Acknowledging our own wrongdoing
- Receiving correction and feedback with grace
- Refraining from criticizing others
- Forgiving those who wrong us
- Apologizing to those we wrong
- Thinking and speaking about the good things in other people
- Rejoicing over other people’s success
- Counting our blessings for everything, good and bad
- Showing gratitude for our successes
Of course, most people who struggle with entitlement and humility do not realize it. We’re apt to see it in others, but blind to the same qualities when we present them ourselves.
For that reason, it’s a good idea to assume this is an area in which we all need a little work and practice these habits regularly, which leads us to the practice of gratitude writing.
What is a Gratitude Journal and What are the Benefits of Keeping One?
A gratitude journal is simply a place to keep a running list of all the things you’re grateful for. You might add to the journal daily, a few times per week, or just once a week. (Or, if you’re like me, you’ll add to it whenever it happens to catch your eye from its sacred place among the pile of papers on your desk at highly irregular intervals).
A gratitude journal helps us overcome a lesser-mentioned barrier to practicing gratitude: the discomfort some of us feel when trying to put our appreciation into words.
With a gratitude journal, we can identify and acknowledge our gratitude without feeling compelled to take the next step and actually express our thanks to someone. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t make an effort to express our thanks outwardly, but for many people, that step is actually too daunting to start with. Sometimes our gratitude can actually leave us without adequate words to express to someone else who much we appreciate them or their roles in our lives.
With journaling, there is no such fear. You can feel absolutely free to write whatever you want in your journal with no external pressure to share those thoughts and feelings with others.
And better yet, the results are largely the same! You don’t have to share your gratitude with others for it to have a positive effect on you and your mental health–though doing so would certainly have a positive effect on theirs!
Emmons writes this about gratitude journaling: “People are 25 percent happier if they keep gratitude journals, sleep one-half hour more per evening, and exercise 33 percent more each week compared to persons who are not keeping these journals. Hypertensives can achieve up to a 10 percent reduction in systolic blood pressure and decrease their dietary fat intake by up to 20 percent.”
How many items you write in your gratitude journal and how much you write about each one is entirely up to you. Some people aim to list five things each time they write in their journal, others seek a single object of their daily gratitude attention and go into more detail.
It is surprising how quickly three to five items a day add up. You might, like Ann Voskamp or A.A. Jacobs, try to find a thousand things you are thankful or a thousand people to thank over the course of a year. Or maybe you won’t take it that far.
This article, based on an interview with Emmons, summarizes some of his key tips of gratitude journaling.
However you decide to manage your gratitude journal, these gratitude writing prompts are sure to help.
Gratitude Journal Prompts for Adults and Kids:
We’ve developed this list of gratitude prompts to help you get started with your gratitude journal.
As you reflect on each one, think about the thing, person, place, or memory that comes to mind for a few moments. Your first reaction to this thought may not be gratitude. It may be hurt, sadness, or anger. That’s okay.
Take the time to process your emotions, and when you’re ready, try to go a little deeper. Is there something about it or them that you can find gratitude for? Is there any good that came out of your experience with it or them?
As you record your thoughts in your gratitude journal, it’s fine to share some of the painful things too. After all, you’re the only one who will be reading your journal. But see if you can land on a positive, thankful note for each thing you put on your list.
A quick note on these gratitude journal prompts
Before we get to the list of prompts, there’s a quick note I want to make about them.
While the vast majority of the writing prompts on this site are for kids and teens, these gratitude writing prompts have been cultivated with adults in mind too. Though one of our main goals here at My Cup Runs Over is to help parents and teachers encourage kids to develop their creative writing and journaling skills, I really wanted adults to be able to use these gratitude prompts as well.
Why? Because I think we’re sorely in need of them.
When it comes to gratitude, the best way to teach it is to model it, so if we want to encourage kids to become more grateful through gratitude journaling, I think we need to lead by example.
So, these prompts are written with adults in mind, but I’d love for you to share them with the kids in your lives too!
That’s it! Onto the prompts!
50 Prompts for Your Gratitude Journal
- Write about someone who made you smile this week. What did they say or do? Why was it special?
- Write about a teacher who has made an impact on your life.
- Write about someone whose faith in you has helped you succeed at something.
- Write about someone who always offers to help.
- Write about someone who has forgiven you for something you did. How did their forgiveness make you feel?
- Write about someone who always makes you laugh.
- Write about a person or people who gave something up for you.
- Write about a person in your life who makes you feel known.
- Write about a person you know who makes you feel safe.
- Write about someone who has taught you something cool.
- Write about a sibling, or a friend with whom you are as close as siblings.
- Write about an animal that you have a special connection with.
- Write about an exciting piece of news you’ve received.
- Write about a job, project, or assignment you’ve been given that makes you joyful.
- Write about three to five things you appreciate more now than you did a year or two ago.
- Thinking about your health, what are a few things you possibly take for granted? (For example, not having a headache, or pain, or having healed from an injury). How can you remember to be grateful for what is not there?
- What new doors have opened for you lately?
- Write about old doors that have closed. What can you take away from those experiences? What have you had to let go of? Is there a sense of freedom in letting go?
- Think about your home. Make a list of the things in your home that make you feel comfortable (i.e. heat, indoor plumbing, etc.)
- Write about a space (in your home or outside of it) that makes you feel more creative or inspired.
- Write about a goal you’ve recently accomplished. How good did it feel to be done? Who helped you along the way and how might your express your gratitude to them?
- Write about something you’ve won.
- Write about something you’ve lost. How can you learn to be grateful for that experience (or something that came out of it), even though it didn’t go as you’d hoped?
- Write about one thing you love about yourself.
- Write about one thing you’ve learned to accept about yourself. What role does that attribute play in making you who you are?
- Write about your favorite foods.
- Write about the joy of a refreshing cold beverage on a hot afternoon.
- Write about a special day you’ve had recently. Who did you spend it with? What did you do? Why was it special?
- Write about a time when you were able to help someone else.
- Make a list of everything in your life that you are definitely not grateful for. Then deliberately try to practice gratitude for the things on that list. What about those things, people, or circumstances can you find the good in? One way to do this is to ask yourself, “Could these things be worse?” And if so, can you find gratitude that they are the way they are instead of worse?
- Describe one or more things in nature that delight you.
- Write about the view from your window. What makes it interesting?
- Describe the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.
- Think about the most mundane aspects of your day, like brushing your teeth or doing the dishes. What people and events were involved in making those tasks a possibility for you? Are you grateful that you have the ability to do those tasks, even though you may not enjoy them?
- Write about a book that you loved reading.
- What’s one thing you’ve done in your life that you never thought you’d be able to do? What made it possible?
- Is there something you have enjoyed that is coming to an end soon? If so, reflect on what you’ve enjoyed about it and how it’s impacted your life.
- Recall a kind thing someone has said to you. What was it and how did it make you feel?
- Write about a song that always makes you feel better when you hear it.
- Write about a development or technology that has made your life easier.
- When was the last time you witnessed a random act of kindness? Reflect on it and how it impacted everyone involved.
- Which holiday or seasonal event brings you the most joy? What do you love about it?
- What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
- What is your favorite city? What do you love about it?
- Write about your favorite smell.
- Write about something from your past (an experience or circumstances) that helped make you the unique person you are today.
- Write about something really funny that always makes you laugh.
- What one lesson you’ve learned has had the most profound impact on your life?
- What’s your favorite time of day? What makes it the best?
- How does practicing gratitude make you more grateful?
I hope that you’ve enjoyed these fifty gratitude journal prompts and that your gratitude journal soon bursts at the seams from all the writing you’re doing in it.
I’ve got some free printable gratitude journal pages for adults and kids you can download below.
Leave me a comment and let me know which prompt got you thinking the most, and don’t forget to save this post to Pinterest or Facebook so you can come back again later.
Sophie Agbonkhese is a writer, veteran homeschooling mother of four, and a recovering overachiever (who occasionally relapses). She is the founder of My Cup Runs Over, a site dedicated to helping busy women simplify and enrich their lives, homes, and homeschools. When she’s not writing or debugging websites, Sophie spends her time reading with her kids, gardening, listening to audiobooks, and striving fruitlessly to have a clean house for at least five minutes. She lives in southwestern British Columbia with her husband, Ben, and their children.