Wellness Strategy: Begin a Gratitude Practice

Last updated on 9/4/2020

Gratitude Journal

This article is part of the Wellness Strategies Series

Problem: You Feel Pessimistic
Strategy: Start a Gratitude Journal

Establish the practice of gratitude by consciously reminding yourself of the positive experiences in your life. End each week by reflecting upon and visualizing its best parts. Recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary (e.g., waking up in the morning) as well as extraordinary (e.g., winning an award) events. Also reflect upon your personal attributes and the valued people in your life.


  • In your journal (not in your head), record 5 things in your life for which you are most grateful. Be specific and elaborate in detail. For specific writing tips, visit the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.
  • Don’t rush through this exercise as if it were just a superficial list. Reflect on the feelings associated with each item and elaborate on its significance.
  • Don’t just go through the motions; make a conscious decision to become happier and more grateful.
  • Studies suggest that journaling three times per week may have a greater impact on our happiness than journaling everyday.
  • Repeat this exercise at least once per week for at least two weeks

Why it Works

Clinical studies have shown practicing gratitude is associated with higher levels of subjective well-being and positive emotions. Compared to control groups, individuals who focus on gratitude demonstrate less negativity, higher levels of optimism and life satisfaction, better sleep quality, stronger immune systems, and greater connectedness to others. These results suggest that a conscious focus on gratitude can provide important emotional and interpersonal benefits.

Journal Ideas

To learn more about gratitude research, view “The Science of Gratitude,” a short video summarizing the many health benefits of practicing gratitude:

Emmons, R. A. & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.84.2.377

Froh, J. J., Sefick, W. J., & Emmons, R. A. (2008). Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-being. Journal of School Psychology, 46(2), 213–233. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2007.03.005

*Image: Karolina Grabowska

Published by A. Irvin

Dr. Angela Irvin is a clinical psychologist and mental health educator. Her clinical specialties include forensics, trauma, and personality-related issues. She is also an expert on cultural facets of mental health relating to race, gender, and class. As a mental health educator and writer, she emphasizes research-based information that promotes holistic wellness.