How to turn a regular diary into a gratitude journal

Right now I’m running two daily diaries.

One is my regular journal, whose pages I fill each morning with a summary of what happened the previous day.

The latest volume is the twentieth in a series that started back in 1996, and somewhat obsessively I’ve hardly missed a day in what has just reached twenty years.

Right now, however, I’m more interested in telling you about the other smaller diary in which (at the suggestion of a friend) I jot down two or three things each day for which I feel grateful.


The way it’s turned out, these too tend to revolve around things that happened the previous day – and they can range from a delicious meal or a rewarding conversation to some kind of significant development on the Moodnudges project.

There’s a lot to be said for this sort of ‘gratitude journaling’.

In fact it’s pretty widely believed that positive emotion is a strength we can build by actually experiencing it: think positively and you’ll end up thinking (even more) positively.

Although I’m collecting my things-to-be-grateful-for in the morning, you may find it makes even more sense to do so last thing at night.

This way you can head for bed with positive thoughts whispering to your mind.

Some suggest aiming for a fixed number of items: three seems to work well.

You can simply summarise them in your head, or (as I prefer) write them down.

To me, doing so seems to formalise and crystallise them.

Whether, whenever and however you decide to experiment with recognising the things you can be grateful for, there’s no time like the present to have at least a little play with it.

So, what three things can you be thankful for right now?




Now, how did that feel?

6 thoughts on “How to turn a regular diary into a gratitude journal

  1. Loved today’s nudge. What flicked that switch that made you an obsessive journalist in 1996? Instilling any routine at the moment, (even one I know to be of long term gain) is proving unsustainable. Daily swim I have kept up, but that is the only constant and it is disconcerting.

    1. Great question Hafwen. I started journalling the day I left the UK to spend a year travelling the world (my belated gap year, when I was 40). I knew lots was going to happen, and didn’t want to forget any of it, so writing a daily journal came fairly easy.

      Interesting to think about how motivated I might have been if I hadn’t been setting off on that twelve-month journey, though. With the benefit of 20 years’ hindsight, I’d suggest it might be easier to start if you (a) get a nice journal, and I prefer a “diary” — one with a page per day, and (b) commit to writing *something* in it every day, even if it’s just one sentence.

      The real value for me was being able to look back at, say, what I was doing exactly a month ago. So I think it takes a while before you see the real benefits, which is why it might be good to be kind to yourself at the outset, not expecting a full page of writing every day.

  2. that is such a good idea,i always write this and that,but now i am aiming to buy a proper journal book to write my Little pieces of gratitude and thoughts and so much we can write no?

  3. A friend told me about her gratitude journal. She says “it feels nice.” One of the gifts I give her are hard-back journals–they are pretty easy to find and the prettier the better.
    So, I’ve been keeping one for about 6 weeks–I’m still wondering if I’ve got this right–and I haven’t felt any positive vibs–yet. I’m sure they will come.

    1. You’re a good friend Marilu, giving your friend the thing she loves.

      I think give it time as far as your own gratitude-writing goes, and perhaps start to look back at what you were feeling grateful for on this day last month etc.

      Also, I wonder if the good vibes build up slowly over time, so you don’t necessarily notice them day to day, but might see them month to month?

      Your last sentence is very important:

      I’m sure they will come.

      Having that kind of positive mindset is more than half the battle, I think.

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