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  • Writer's pictureSteve Watts

I write so I can hear myself think!

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

Gratitude is 'not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.'


I have started a new Journaling for Wellbeing course this month with Sunderland Recovery College. The first session looked at the importance of recognising gratitude as a fundamental aspect of the human condition. An increasing volume of research is being conducted to help us better understand the benefits of thinking positively and expressing gratitude. One way to do this is through journaling, either by writing free form prose in a notebook, or in a more structured way in a published gratitude journal that can bought in a local stationery shop or on-line.

After just one week of gratitude journaling Sally, a member of the current group, commented that by journaling she was better able to see what she can and cannot control. This resulted in her view that the bad days weren't as bad as anticipated. Thus, by focussing on the positive and recording her thoughts in her journal Sally was reducing her tendency to catastrophise the upcoming events of her day and better able to put things back into perspective.

Sally went on to confirm that she feels in a better place mentally because she can see the positives in her life more clearly. Her night time routine is to sum up the day and the 'positive thoughts help to carry me to sleep.' This is similar to another course member from Grace House last year who stated that 'journaling on an evening helps me sort through the events of the day and make sure I end it well, focusing on the positives.'

Every day presents its challenges and nobody is excused these, but after just one week of gratitude journaling Sally is already feeling the benefits of focussing on the positives in her life. You can set up your own gratitude journal very easily, perhaps using or adapting the following template to your needs:

__/__/__ (add date)

(Complete these sections in the morning)

Today I am grateful for:




What would make today, a great day?




I am good at(this is an affirmation statement to remind yourself of what you have to offer) __________________________________________________________________________________



(Complete this section at night)

The three best things that have happened today are:




Several Journaling for Wellbeing course members on previous courses have adopted this format and use it every day. They have credited it with turning their lives around. Indeed, one course member earlier this year stated that 'it has turned my life around 180 degrees.'

It is a short-form bullet point approach to journaling and can be completed quite quickly in a few minutes in the morning and again in the evening. It could be argued that it is not 'proper' journaling because it's not long form prose writing, but for course members who are new to writing or hesitant about writing, it is a good starting place that can be expanded over time.

Sally, on the current course, completes both a short form journal with bullet points like the one above, alongside a long form prose journal. She suggests that the short form journal helps her to quickly focus on the positives without the challenge of a blank page staring back at her. It is this getting to grips quickly with the positives that she credits with a change in her attitude.

For those who like to work in a visual format, and especially when working on gratitude with children, gratitude trees can be an exciting and creative way to express gratitude (see below). You can either create a tree with blank leaves attached ready to fill in or you can create separate leaves to add on. The tree could be small scale and fit into a journal, or larger and attached onto a wall, fridge door or pin board. There are many examples of gratitude trees on Pinterest, amongst other sites.

Gratitude Tree

The evidence to support the benefits of gratitude journaling includes a study by University of California Professor Robert Emmons, who following a study in 2015 suggests that grateful individuals are more likely to stay on top of their health and, because they have less stress in their lives, they are less likely to develop chronic health problems. You can discover more about the findings of this study by following this link Gratitude is good medicine (

Emmons argues that 'gratitude blocks toxic emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret and depression, which can destroy our happiness.' When thinking about expressing gratitude in your journal nothing is off the list, which can range from your morning coffee to a beautiful sunrise, a helpful neighbour to the courses that are offered by the Recovery College and your fellow students.

It is never too late to start so why not commit now by completing this statement and building your gratitude journal one statement at a time, one day at a time and notice the benefits - today I am grateful for ............

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