One of our favorite, science-backed ways to increase your happiness is super simple to work into your day. We’re talking about gratitude and more specifically, the practice of gratitude journaling. But sometimes we get stuck there. Maybe our list stays the same day to day or maybe we just need more inspiration to tap into our thankfulness. Thankfully, we have a solution for you—13 gratitude journal prompts that make it easy to appreciate the good in your world.
After all, the drive to be happy is at the core of so much of what we do—from establishing a morning routine to building a meditation habit. International Day of Happiness —yes, that’s a thing— is March 20th. So what better time to dig into how to make happier happen? And what easier way to do that than with gratitude journal ideas you can use right now?
The Happiness-Gratitude Connection
But before we get into those gratitude journal prompts, let’s solidify the happiness-gratitude connection.
Gratitude is a well-researched tool in social psychology. If you’re not already in the practice of gratitude journaling, grab a pen and paper. It’s one of the easiest ways to boost your happiness and feel a more genuine sense of appreciation for your life.
- Gratitude is like an all-natural happy pill. Researchers have found that taking the time to express your gratitude (in the form of writing it down) increases people’s happiness.
- Gratitude can help make you more optimistic. In a pivotal study on gratitude, researchers found that keeping a daily or weekly gratitude journal helped boost participants’ mood and optimism.
- Gratitude can also help you make new friends. Something as simple as thanking a new acquaintance for their help makes them more likely to want to deepen that relationship, one study found.
- Gratitude can help you sleep better. Taking a few moments to list the things they were grateful for before bed helped participants in one study sleep better.
13 Gratitude Journal Prompts to Try
Sold on gratitude? We know we are. To get those grateful juices flowing, we put together 13 gratitude journal prompts you can use today. All you have to do is pick one and get writing.
1. Who are you especially grateful for today?
This can be your best friend or your barista. Think about who’s put a little extra happiness in your life and be thankful for that relationship—no matter how big or small.
2. What skills are you happy to have?
Say you crushed a presentation at work or successfully defused a tense situation between family members. Take a moment to recognize the skills you have and how they serve you.
3. What is your favorite part of your body?
This can be a tricky one for some people. As a culture, we tend to spend most of our time thinking about the negatives. Start small if you need to. Janet Jackson used this trick (she started by being grateful for the small of her back) to boost her appreciation for her entire body.
4. What’s one small thing you don’t want to take for granted?
There are some obvious biggies you don’t want to take for granted. I.e., your friends, your family, endless videos of cute dogs on the internet. But take a beat to acknowledge the small things too. Maybe it’s the fact that you can walk to work, or maybe it’s something as simple as the friendly smile you always get from your dry cleaner.
5. Write down five people who have made your life better this week
A coworker who helped you print out copies of your big presentation, a friend who sent you a funny video, maybe even a public figure who said something that really inspired you.
6. What’s the best meal you’ve had recently?
Even a meh slice of pizza can make your whole day and we are here for it.
7. List three things about your morning routine that you really enjoy
That perfectly brewed cup of coffee and regular morning run don’t just give you a happiness boost in the morning. Reflecting on those moments with a gratitude journal prompt is like a bonus-happiness booster.
8. Write a gratitude letter to someone who has impacted your life
One of the most frequently studied techniques in gratitude research is the practice of writing gratitude letters. Whether you actually send it or not is up to you but taking the time to write a letter to someone about why you’re so grateful for them has been scientifically proven to boost your happiness. (And if you do share it, it will be sure to boost his or her happiness too.)
9. Write a gratitude letter to your favorite place
Gratitude journaling doesn’t have to be super serious—an ode to the beach can be just as effective.
10. What’s your favorite thing about your job?
Even the worst jobs have some silver linings. Whether it’s a sense of purpose (go you), a fun team of people, or maybe just a really good lunch place nearby, focus on what helps keep you motivated.
11. List three small wins from your week
Even things like finally (finally) taking that pile of shirts to the dry cleaner can be sources of gratitude. After all, now it’s off your to-do list.
12. What’s one thing in nature you’re grateful for?
Getting out into nature is good for your brain–it can lower your stress levels and improve your memory. Even if you can’t go for a hike or a long outdoor run, you can still thank Mother Nature for the little things like warm sun on your walk to work or a gorgeous view of the mountains out your back window.
13. What’s one difficult experience you’re really glad you went through in hindsight?
Experience really can be the best teacher. Maybe getting fired led to you finding your career passion. Or a really awkward situation with a friend led you to remove negative relationships from your life. Whatever it is, spend a few moments writing down why you’re grateful for those challenging moments.
To sum it all up
The simple act of writing down a few things you’re thankful for can tangibly boost your happiness. And surprise, it doesn’t have to be boring or repetitive. So grab some paper, choose a gratitude journal prompt that inspires you, and get down to it. However you try it, just be grateful. Your happiness will thank you for it.
Your turn: What gratitude journal prompts have you tried? Tell us in the comments.
For more ways to get grateful, check out this post on 5 easy ways to cultivate those thankful feelings all year long.
Author: Macaela Mackenzie
Macaela Mackenzie is a freelance writer and content strategist. When she doesn’t have her nose in a research journal or the New York Times, she’s likely to be found looking for punny greeting cards or an excuse to explore a new travel spot.