I've been keeping journals since I was about 14 or 15, consistently. I write down just about every aspect of my life, which will leave the future a very boring record of one girl who really liked staying at home. However, I journal mostly for my benefit--not really anyone else's! This is really the perfect way to approach journaling, because it removes the stress of creating some kind of "record" for anyone other than yourself.
Gratitude journaling is something that has emerged, quite recently, as a way to journal through anxiety and depression. Basically, in a gratitude journal, you write the things you're thankful for. It's a pretty easy concept on paper. But getting started (especially if you're struggling with anxiety or depression) can be overwhelming.
Here are some tips and resources for getting started.
1. Pick a journal you like.
I have tons of notebooks lying around my house. Some I use whenever I need a sheet of paper--to make a grocery list or write down a reminder. Some I am saving for a very specific purpose. (I have a London journal that I've been hoarding since 2011. Someday!) What I'm saying is: don't just use any notebook you have lying around. Pick a notebook you really want to use. Something pretty. Or something utilitarian (if that's your style). A journal with your favorite kind of paper. And remember, use your favorite pens (or whatever pen, again, if that's your style). If you're persnickety about these things, don't work against them.
2. Find some prompts.
When I first started gratitude journaling, I would end my usual journal entries with 5 things I was thankful for or 5 things I enjoyed that day (even if it was a crappy day). Overtime, it got more and more difficult because I found myself listing the same few things every day. Recently, I copied my friend Charlotte's gratitude journal format (that she borrowed from someone else and posted on her Instagram!) to help me get restarted. Alternatively, you can find tons of gratitude journal prompts on Pinterest. You can follow my Pinterest board on journaling here, complete with tons of prompts and inspiration.
3. Make it part of your routine.
Journaling works best, for me, when I do it every evening. Some people prefer journaling in the morning--it just really depends on your style! There is something alluring about waking up in the morning and drinking your morning coffee while you journal. However, life with a toddler means that does not happen in my world, but if it's possible in yours, go for it. Make filling in your gratitude journal part of your routine.
4. Write as little or as much as you want.
If you work best writing lists, go for it. If you want to write pages and pages... that's fine too! Lots of gratitude journal lists suggest one thing or the other--I suspect in the belief that you might run out of steam or only do superficial journaling if you go either way. However, for me, it's entirely personal; sometimes, I want to write a lot. Sometimes, I'm just going to write a list.
5. Don't force it.
Sometimes, I just can't think of anything I'm grateful for besides the fact that I woke up and I get to go to sleep! That's kind of a bummer, right? Unfortunately, it's the truth. However, I find it easier if I don't force it. Some days, I just cannot think of anything I want to write down and that's fine. Maybe the next day, I'll think, "Gosh, I'm in a better mood now and I can see I should have written this." If I force myself, I'm lulling myself into a false sense of "This is fine. It's all fine." If you can't think of anything to write, it's really, totally ok to not write anything. Or to write, "I'm drawing a blank. I hope I feel better tomorrow."