Alex Shea

By Alex Shea

mbg Contributor

Alex Shea is a freelance sex and relationships writer based in Texas. She studied Life Sciences at San Jacinto College and has a journalism certificate from the University of Michigan.

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Image by Alba Vitta / Stocksy

October 28, 2022

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More often than not, we wake up with our plates full and a running list of to-do’s that give those plates a never-quite-empty quality. Gratitude is about finding the good in the chaos, not ignoring that the chaos exists (the basis of toxic positivity). It’s easy to feel like we’re not enough as we are, to feel like unless we’re striving for more, we’re not worthy of joy, rest, and love.

But that’s where gratitude journaling comes in: a little (physical) reminder that there is good in your life and you are worthy of all of it. Here’s what to know about the science of why expressing gratitude is so healthy, and 30+ gratitude journaling prompts to help you get started.


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The science behind gratitude.

Gratitude involves pausing to place yourself in the present long enough to appreciate what’s there. “While your brain is wired to seek out the negative to keep you safe, gratitude is a simple way to rewire your brain to see the bigger picture,” therapist Ashleigh Edelstein, LMFT, tells mbg.

A 2015 study1 published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology shows that feelings of gratitude are linked to the anterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex—regions of the brain that influence our decision-making, willpower, motivation, and mood. Choosing to see the good in our lives can lead to better sleep, more empathy, less burnout, and more satisfying relationships.

Moreover, practicing gratitude is our chance to step away from the hamster wheel of self-optimization that the current culture says is necessary to be happy.

“It’s a way of actually enjoying the space that you’ve made for yourself,” art therapist Amelia Hutchison, DKATI, says. “It’s a way of extending beyond wellness that only serves our personal interest and connects it back to the people around us, the spaces around us, and the communities we belong to.”

Gratitude journaling.

There’s immense healing that comes with writing down our thoughts, feelings, and stories. “What we say out aloud or on paper feels real and tangible,” social worker Edie Weinstein, LSW, tells mbg.

By adding gratitude to the mix, we train our brains to intentionally zero in on the bright side of things, without dismissing the darker side. This helps us tune in with ourselves and the pleasures that surround us. “It’s a good way to stretch comfort zones,” Weinstein says of gratitude journaling.

With that, getting down to the actual journaling bit is an entirely individual thing. According to Hutchison, finding a rhythm that works for you is about “getting in touch with your own natural rhythms, whether that’s an hour of the day or a time of your cycle or a season of life.” Knowing there isn’t a magic way to practice gratitude through journaling makes it all the more accessible.

“What’s important is regularly setting aside time to slow down and actively seek out the good,” Edelstein tells mbg.


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Expert prompts to get started with.

Each gratitude journal prompt below is merely a jumping-off point for your own inner knowing, courtesy of a few therapists and my own recommendations as a life coach. Grab your journals and start with what feels comfortable for you. Give yourself grace with what comes up. And know that it gets to be simple:

  1. What are five things I’m grateful for that touch each of my five senses?
  2. What about my home am I in love with?
  3. Name three things I experienced today that delighted me.
  4. What have I recently introduced into my life that’s brought me peace, joy, or comfort?
  5. Name 10 things I like about myself.
  6. Who is someone that makes me feel seen in my day-to-day life, and how do they do that?
  7. Spot five things around me right now that I’m glad I don’t have to live without.
  8. What are some beautiful moments that happened this past week?
  9. Ask, “What powerful lessons have I learned?”
  10. What about my health am I thankful for?
  11. What about my environment brings me happiness?
  12. What about my financial situation am I grateful for?
  13. What about the way I make money brings me joy?
  14. What kind of wonderful do my relationships bring into my life?
  15. What are three things in life I’m thankful for?
  16. What’s something my past self did that I’m grateful for today?
  17. What’s one thing I’d like to be proud of by the end of this week/month/year?
  18. In what ways do I handle a crisis that I’m particularly thankful for?
  19. Name one good thing that happened during my day.
  20. Name something beautiful I witnessed recently.
  21. What simple pleasures am I grateful I get to experience and enjoy?
  22. Ask, “What do I love about the way I grew up?”
  23. What do I have today that makes me happy that I didn’t have a year ago?
  24. What makes me smile?
  25. What am I looking forward to lately?
  26. Write a thank you to someone I care about.
  27. Think of things I do and use on a day-to-day basis: How do these things improve my quality of life?
  28. Reflect on how someone I love makes me feel and what those feelings are.
  29. What are my quirks, talents, and skills, and why am I grateful to have them?
  30. What’s a challenge I overcame to get me to where I am today?
  31. What do I appreciate about my current life circumstances?


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If you want to go one step further with these gratitude journal prompts, “bring it into the visual or [make] something to concretize [those] reflections,” Hutchison says. “After you’ve spent some time creating your list of gratitudes, ask your list how it wants to move into your life.”

This can look like integrating art mediums and physical tokens into your gratitude practice like Hutchison does with this gratitude web and matchbox altar, or creating a gratitude jar to keep on your counter.

The takeaway.

We live in a time where even the best things can get overshadowed by the busyness of everyday life. Moral of the story: If you experience something amazing, sit in it. Let yourself feel grateful. Claim the beauty of your world, scream it, write it down, and then pay it forward and share that energy with the people around you.


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