Why should you start a Gratitude Journal? And what exactly is gratitude? The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines gratitude as “the state of being grateful”. The word grateful means “appreciative of benefits received”. Now we are getting somewhere. I love receiving things. I'm a sucker for gifts. Big or small, it doesn't matter, if you give me a gift I'm sort of gonna love you forever.
So why is it that I often forget to express my gratitude for the only gift I've ever been given that actually saved me from the well-deserved wrath of a just God? How can I live day after day without crying out to God in praise for that gift of grace? Because I forget. I allow life to march by with its busy hours and never-ending tasks. It's why I need to be in His Word every day and why I must be intentional about scheduling my Prayer time and Bible Study. And it's one of the reasons I use creative methods to help me remember the truths of His Word.
This time of year, I usually start a Gratitude Journal. It is often a space to write out my “benefits received”. And that is great! But this year, I want to go a little deeper. I want to tether that gratitude to the gospel.
What is a Gratitude Journal?
This is an easy one. Basically, a Gratitude Journal is a place to document your gratitude. What? Seriously, Jen. Yep, seriously. That is it! It's a journal, notebook, card set, blog, etc… where you can recognize, appreciate and record things you are thankful for. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Do you feel the freedom? Keep reading.
Why do you need a Gratitude Journal?
This one is a little tougher to answer on its surface. Do you really need one more thing to check off of your To Do List each day? What if you just THINK about what you are grateful for each day? Like a “mind journal”. OK, that sounds ridiculous but some of you are asking it. Why should you do it now as Thanksgiving approaches when it's so very cliche?
There has been a lot of research on the science of gratitude and some pretty smart people are convinced it has some major benefits. One of the early research studies on gratitude journals by Emmons & McCullough found that “counting one's blessings” in a journal led to improved psychological and physical functioning. Participants in their studies were more optimistic, exercised more and had fewer symptoms of physical illness. They were more positive, determined and alert. Basically, those who kept weekly or daily gratitude journals had psychological and physical benefits compared to participants who did not.
Does this surprise you? Considering the fact that we were created by God for gratitude and worship it really should not. This is one of the first things we talked about in a recent Grace in Color Facebook Live Show and when you look at the purpose behind gratitude, which is ultimately intended to glorify God, this makes perfect sense.
We need the constant reminders of who God is and what He has done. A gratitude journal is just one way to do this.
The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. Exodus 15:2
How do you create a Gratitude Journal?
As I mentioned above, there is no wrong way to create a gratitude journal. It can be an addition to your planner (online or paper). You can write your gratitude in your Bible. You can include it in a Prayer Journal. Or you can use a separate journal just for this purpose.
Here are a few ideas for separate journals you could use:
1. Make a tag or card journal.
2. Use a notebook you already have or pick up from just about anywhere.
3. Create your own unique journal out of a composition book as I teach in the Journal in 7 Course.
4. Repurpose an old book and glue gratitude journal pages in it.
5. Make a super quick notebook from scratch.
6. Print out the gratitude pages below and put them in a 3-ring binder.
7. Use index cards or Rolodex cards.
What do you put in your Gratitude Journal to keep it Gospel focused?
Most gratitude journals consist of a list of blessings. Adding why you are grateful for that item has been proven to help with all of the benefits listed above. This year, I want to take it one step further. I want to divide my journaling into four sections. Now, I don't have any more time than you do, so this will not be an all-day-every-day project. But, I do want to start each day with these four things on my mind, in my heart, expressed to God and written down.
I'm including a copy of the page I am used for you to download and print out for free if you want. Here's a rundown of my journaling.
Each day will start with Scripture. I will most likely use a verse from the Psalm I am reading that morning on Instagram Live for my Morning Psalm. This is the verse I will contemplate on throughout the day and try to memorize. There is enough room on your page to write it out or practice your hand-lettering techniques. I'll be posting on my IG Story every day which verse I am meditating on but you, of course, can use any scripture!
This is the classic part of the gratitude journal. Here is the spot to write out at least THREE things you are thankful for. Again, you can just list them, doodle them or write them in secret spy code. Whatever makes you happy. These will sometimes be big things… and sometimes be very small things. In addition to listing these blessings, write the reason you are grateful for them in this section as well. As you write them, reflect on the God who gifted them to you.
Yes, I totally could have put prayer first on my page, and you can start your process with prayer if you want. I am putting here, though, because I want to give thanks to God for these blessings I have listed and for His Word. I want to pray that He shows himself is a fresh way to me through my day and that He allows me to see Him in everything I do. And I will be praying that He opens my heart and mind to opportunities to serve others.
This is the final piece of my daily journaling. And it may not get documented until later in the day. In addition to the other things I've mentioned, I want to be intentional about serving others. So each day, I want to find one person to bless. This may be a text, email or a card dropped in the mail. It may be a financial blessing, a cup of coffee, or setting up an outing with someone who is lonely. This may mean babysitting for a single mom or sending a flower in for a teacher. Be a blessing for someone else each day.
Free Printable Gratitude Journal Page
So, that's my plan. I will be doing this through Thanksgiving for sure and then, we'll see from there! Join me. And remember that gratitude is not seasonal. If you are reading this in the Spring, I challenge you to start a Gratitude Journal right now. Don't wait until the Fall. Give God the glory that He is worthy of. Live a life of praise and be a blessing to others.
Therefore in the east give glory to the LORD; in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. Isaiah 24:15
Download your own Free Gratitude Journal Page here.
I've included a Facebook LIVE that I did showing some ways to use this printable!