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I Tried Gratitude Journaling For 21 Days & Here’s What I Learned (+15 journal prompts just for you!)

Hey guys! Welcome back to another blog post in this 21-day challenge series. This time, I tried journaling for 21 days, and it was an interesting experience! Since the practice of gratitude offers a wide variety of benefits, I decided to focus on gratitude journaling for this challenge.

A pink journal with the words 'Today I Am Grateful' on it, with a gold pen nearby

Once, or sometimes twice, a day, I would sit down and write in my journal for about 10 to 15 minutes. At the beginning of this challenge, I prepared 5 journal prompts to use throughout the 21 days:

  • What 3 things are you grateful for today?

  • What 3 awesome things will you get to do today?

  • What 3 things went well today?

  • Who/what made you smile today?

  • What about yourself are you most proud of today?

I used at least 2 prompts each day. I came up with these prompts to help myself: a) focus on the positives in my life, and b) practise more positive self-talk. If you’re on the fence about journaling, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty to figure out why journaling is considered to be game-changing for so many people.

Benefits of journaling

A woman writing in her journal, with books, a cup of coffee, and photographs nearby

Journaling offers various benefits including:

  • It provides an outlet for your thoughts, giving you an opportunity to identify negative thought patterns and challenge them.

  • It forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your day, giving rise to feelings of gratitude that contribute to improved physical and mental well-being.

  • Better sleep. Writing in a gratitude journal before bed can fill you with positive thoughts and emotions, contributing to better sleep.

  • It provides an opportunity for positive self-talk. If you’re like me, and you’re trying to tackle the bad habit of negative self-talk, journaling is a good place to start. Prompts such as “What 3 things did you do well today?” or “What about yourself are you proud of today?” make you think of yourself in a more positive light. Over time, journaling helps to improve self-esteem.

Based on my own experience, journaling reminded me that even on bad days, there’s something to be grateful for. When I obsessed over the negatives, journaling forced me to identify the positives in my day and made me feel better.

It also helped to improve my self-talk. I’d often beat myself up over the smallest things. Journaling forced me to be kinder to myself as I had to write about things I did well and felt proud of. Giving myself credit felt really good.

What to write about

A gold fountain pen with its cap removed

Here are some ideas about what you can write about in your journal:

Morning pages

In the morning, sit down and write three pages. Put pen to paper and just write whatever’s on your mind. Dumping any worries or thoughts you may have onto paper provides a sense of relief and clarity.

Gratitude journaling

Write about the things you’re grateful for in your day. It could be anything – the small things that made you smile, events of the day that brought you joy, or your loved ones who were there for you.

Journal prompts

If you don’t know what to write about, there are loads of journal prompts available online that can guide you. Identify a set of 7, one for each day, and switch them up whenever you feel bored or want something different.

Earlier, I shared 5 prompts that I used in this challenge. Here are 10 additional prompts to inspire your journaling journey:

  • What challenges did you tackle today? How did it make you feel?

  • Write a thank-you note to someone who helped you today.

  • What’s one thing you didn’t think you could do but ended up acing today?

  • What 3 things did you do today to take care of YOU?

  • List 5 things you love about yourself and make sure to elaborate!

  • Name one person you’re grateful to have in your life. Why?

  • What was your favourite part of today?

  • What did you learn today?

  • Did you say something harsh to yourself today? Write yourself an apology note.

  • What 3 things will you do today to prioritize your physical and mental well-being?

When to write

Writing in the morning can help you dump your thoughts onto paper and process them before you carry forward with your day. Likewise, journaling at night about the things that went well in your day can leave you with positive thoughts and emotions, promoting better sleep. Try journaling at different times and figure out what suits you best.

An open journal and a fountain pen on a desk, with books and a vase of flowers nearby

Keep your journal and a pen in plain sight. On your coffee table if you prefer journaling in the morning or on your bedside table if you prefer doing it right before bed. This acts as a reminder for you to pause, sit down, and journal. As they say, out of sight, out of mind. So, keep your journal where you’ll see it.

Different ways to journal

Writing isn’t the only way to express yourself. You can even draw or doodle in your journal. After writing in my journal, I would often doodle some of the things I came across in my day. Doodling engages your creative side, and it’s a great way to de-stress. In fact, doodling offers various benefits such as mood regulation and improves problem-solving. Drawing is also a great outlet after a long day.

A woman doodling some flowers in her journal

You can even include pictures in your journal. Humans are highly visual creatures. If you’re writing about something you’re grateful for, adding a relevant picture makes it that much more real in your mind and amplifies your feelings of gratitude.

Writing in a physical journal is great, but if it isn’t your cup of tea, that’s okay. Perhaps you prefer a digital journal that you can easily access on the go. There are loads of journaling apps that you can use such as Presently and Journey. Presently is a gratitude journal with a nice, minimalistic design. Just open the app and write in it whenever, wherever. Journey is a more sophisticated journaling app that provides daily journal prompts and allows you to add photos, videos, or voice recordings in your journal entry.

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Overall, journaling has been a wonderfully cathartic experience and I highly recommend that you try it too! As with most things in life, there’s really no one size fits all approach to journaling. Explore different journaling styles and tools to figure out what works best for you.

If you’re interested in adopting other positive habits, check out my other 21-day challenges where I break down the benefits of different habits and provide tried-and-tested strategies for building habits!

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Hi there!

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Hi, I’m Vidhya. I’m a freelance writer and millennial who often struggles with adulthood.

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