There’s always something to be grateful for, regardless of hurdles that are out of our control, and gratitude journals are a simple practice to help keep your blessings top-of-mind. If this past year taught us one thing, it’s that we hold the power to carry ourselves through even the darkest of days—especially when you take the time to recognize life’s silver linings. All hell could be breaking loose in the outside world, on social media, or in a group chat that won’t stop dinging, but checking in with yourself to acknowledge daily high points is one step toward staying in your purpose and not succumbing to whatever stresses are thrown your way.
“Practicing gratitude serves as a reminder of all the good things that are still happening in our lives despite facing adversity and difficult circumstances,” says Minaa B., a self-care and mental health educator and licensed psychotherapist. “Practicing gratitude in itself is also a form of mindfulness and helps us to stay present in the moment and takes our minds away from distractions and other things that may cause worry or overwhelm.”
Closing the unhinged chapter that was 2020 feels like a breath of fresh air, but unforeseen setbacks aren’t canceled at the start of each calendar year. That’s why mental health experts recommend prioritizing gratitude as an act of self-care in your daily routine. “Practicing gratitude through journaling has many benefits including decreasing stress and anxiety, mood regulation, and combating negative thoughts,” says Minaa. “Sometimes all we need is just to get out of our own heads, and putting our thoughts on paper can help us to see our situation more clearly without shame or judgment.”
If you’re staring at your to-do list wondering how you’re going to squeeze one more task in, Meaghan Rice, Psy.D., LPC, suggests carving out just a few minutes a day. “So many worry that gratitude is going to take too much time,” she says. “In reality, it can be quite simple. Set up a basic foundation; have gratitude conveniently placed strategically throughout your environment—a chalkboard in your workspace, sticky notes on your mirror, or a gratitude journal on your bedside table—and spend a few minutes actually practicing it daily, which packs a powerful punch.”
If you’re ready to embark on the simple yet transformative ritual, start off with one of the best gratitude journals below—but keep one thing in mind: “Try not to put too much pressure on yourself and remember that there is no right or wrong way to journal,” Minaa says. “Start with what you have and where you are in life. If you are grateful for being alive, write that down. If you are grateful that the sun is out, write that down.” No matter what’s going on in your life, chances are, once you get going, you’ll find the list is way longer than you thought.