Are you a glass half full or glass half empty kind of person?
Do you try to look on the bright side of life, or do you roll your eyes at those who see the world through rose-tinted glasses?
Does any of it really matter?
Well, science is increasingly suggesting that yes, it does matter. Having a positive outlook on life and intentionally practicing gratitude can have a huge positive impact on your health and happiness.
In fact, gratitude journaling might just be the best (and easiest) thing you can do for your mental and physical health.
In this article, we’ll explore:
- What is gratitude?
- What are the psychological benefits of gratitude?
- What are the physical benefits of gratitude?
- What is gratitude journaling?
- Why is gratitude so hard to practice?
- 50 gratitude journal prompts
What is gratitude?
Before we dive into our top 50 gratitude journal prompts, let’s define what we actually mean by gratitude.
Gratitude isn’t just about smiling when a friend cooks something you don’t like, or ringing a distant family member to thank them for a Christmas card because your mum said so.Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness in the world, evident through gifts, actions and benefits we’ve received.
It’s also a social emotion directed towards the gift giver, the world or even a higher power. It’s the acknowledgement that sources of goodness are everywhere and that their gifts have helped us to get where we are today.
Through practicing gratitude, people actively acknowledge and appreciate the goodness in their life, be it tangible or intangible, and strive to give back.
What are the psychological benefits of gratitude?
Skeptical about the power of gratitude?
Allow us to change your mind.
Plenty of scientific studies suggest that practicing gratitude might be one of the easiest things you can do to improve your mental health, as people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed.
Two psychologists from the University of California and the University of Miami conducted a study on the effects of gratitude by randomly splitting participants into three groups and asking them to write a few sentences each week.
The first group were instructed to write about things that had happened that they were grateful for, the second were asked to write about things that had annoyed them, and the third were asked to write about anything that affected them, with no emphasis on positivity or negativity.
After 10 weeks, the group practicing gratitude demonstrated higher levels of optimism and contentedness than the other groups. The first group also exercised more and visited the doctor less than the group focused on aggravation.
Gratitude also helps people fight against anxiety and depression, as demonstrated by a study conducted on 300 adults seeking mental health treatment.
Participants were randomly split into three groups. Whilst all groups received counselling, the first group wrote letters of gratitude to others, the second group wrote about negative experiences, and the third group didn’t write anything.
After four weeks, the researchers concluded that ‘practicing gratitude on top of receiving psychological counselling carries greater benefits than counselling alone, even when that gratitude practice is brief.’
What are the physical benefits of gratitude?
Gratitude and optimism are also linked to longevity and protecting against heart disease.
Researchers based in the UK conducted a study on over 8,000 participants and discovered that those who demonstrated high levels of optimism and gratitude had a 30% lower risk of developing heart disease.
Similarly, a study of over 70,000 women followed for over 10 years showed that those who demonstrated high levels of optimism had a 38% lower chance of death by heart attack and a 39% lower chance of dying by stroke.
And why is this?
Well, negative emotions such as aggravation and frustration are associated with the release of ‘stress hormones’. These stress hormones catalyse a physical stress response which involves increased blood pressure and heart rate.
With this in mind, scientists hypothesize that people who tend to look on the bright side of life are better at avoiding stress responses that put strain on the cardiovascular system.
Scientists also suggest that optimistic people are more likely to adopt healthy coping mechanisms to overcome obstacles, whereas those with a negative outlook might be more likely to turn to unhealthy habits to manage their stress.
In other words, being ‘glass half-full’ rather than ‘glass half empty’ can help you lead a longer, healthier life.
What is gratitude journaling?
Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to keep track of all the good things in your life.
Gratitude journaling refers to the habit of acknowledging, recording and reflecting on things that you are grateful for each day.
Most people aim to write down 3 things per day. Whether it’s on your phone, on paper, a bullet point list, a couple of sentences, or a series of short paragraphs, however, is totally up to you.
At the end of the day, all that matters is that you’re doing it.
Why is gratitude so hard to practice?
Gratitude can sometimes feel hard to practice for a whole host of reasons.
We’re inundated with bad news every day, be it on social media, in newspapers, on TV or even just in everyday conversations.
After all, when you take into account the divisive political climate, natural disasters, violence, poverty, topped off with a healthy dose of climate change anxiety, how can we think of things to be grateful for?
Keep in mind that setting an intention to practice gratitude is a commitment to do it even when we don’t feel like it and the world seems gloomy.
If you’re struggling to start your gratitude journal journey, keep these tips in mind:
- Look for things to be grateful for everywhere, no matter how big or small
- Have fun and be creative!
- Be consistent without being repetitive
- If you’re grateful for someone, let them know
- Find a gratitude ‘buddy’ and hold each other accountable
- Use gratitude prompts to inspire you on difficult days
50 gratitude journal prompts
Sometimes it can be hard to think of things you’re grateful for when you’re put on the spot.
Don’t worry! This is totally normal and like anything, the more you practice it, the easier it will become.
But in the meantime, you can use these gratitude journal prompts to help you get creative in your journaling:
1. What made you smile today?
2. Who has taught you about unconditional love?
3. What parts of your upbringing are you grateful for?
4. Look outside your window. What can you see that you’re grateful for?
5. Who has gone out of their way to help you recently?
6. How is the weather affecting your mood today?
7. What trips are you looking forward to?
8. How do you help others?
9. What have you achieved this year?
10. What have you learned this year?
11. What’s one of your favourite experiences in nature?
12. What are your favourite memories and who/what made them?
13. What do you like about your job?
14. What’s been going well at work recently?
15. What do you admire about your work colleagues?
16. What parts of your health are you grateful for?
17. Which musician or artist could you not do without?
18. Which authors or books have shaped your thinking?
19. Which family members are you grateful for and why?
20. Which friends are you most grateful for and why?
21. Randomly select photos from your camera roll. What are you grateful for about this moment?
22. What do you like about your village/ town/ city?
23. What are you looking forward to?
24. What do you have today that you didn’t have a year ago?
25. What simple pleasures are guaranteed to make you smile?
26. What traditions do you treasure and who taught you them?
27. What was the highlight of your day today?
28. Look around the room. What are you grateful for?
29. Who has shown you kindness recently?
30. What makes your family special?
31. Who do you take for granted and how can you show them more appreciation?
32. What are your best personality traits and who taught you them?
33. What mistakes have made you stronger?
34. Focus on your senses. How can you be more mindful of each?
35. What do you own that makes your life easier?
36. What skills do you have?
37. Who makes you feel safe?
38. Who do you admire the most?
39. What have you accomplished today?
40. In what ways are you fortunate?
41. What are your most lucky moments?
42. What do you love about your current home?
43. What do you miss about your hometown?
44. What was the most thoughtful gift you have ever received?
45. What has made you laugh recently?
46. What obstacles have you overcome and who helped you?
47. What do you really appreciate about your life?
48. Which teacher or mentor are you grateful for?
49. Where are you grateful to have travelled to?
50. What surprised you today?
So, what are you grateful for today?
Wherever you are right now, take a minute to list three things you’re grateful for – even if it’s just in your head.
Gratitude journaling is a powerful tool for improving and protecting your health and happiness. As you grow your habit, you’ll start to figure out what brings you joy and also how easily you can bring joy to the lives of others.
Hopefully, these gratitude prompts serve as a useful framework for getting started or keeping on track that you can always come back to.
Make sure to check out our article on 92 Yoga Inspirational Quotes for an extra dose of positive vibes!