Five Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal

I used to think keeping a gratitude journal was easy.

I had this little workflow setup through Launch Center Pro on my iPhone which asked me different questions at the end of each day. My answers were then sent to Day One and saved there forever.Those answers always ended up being repetitive and monotonous. I’d rarely dive into descriptive thoughts or feelings, instead opting to just finish the end-of-day quiz and get to sleep.Of all the journaling habits I’ve developed, gratitude journaling became the most boring and fell by the wayside.

Research suggests I made a mistake.

Gratitude journaling has a wide range of benefits. It improves sleep, improves your sense of wellbeing, and improves your willingness to accept change and disruptive events in your life. For me personally, gratitude journaling has also improved my spirituality.

And, most importantly, gratitude journaling surely improves positivity and an outlook for the future.

Getting back into gratitude journaling required some research. Along the way, these five tips jumped out as fundamental cornerstones to keeping a gratitude journal.

Let’s jump in.

1. Be descriptive, personal, and positive: Gratitude journaling works best when you genuinely dive into that which you are grateful for. Like authors describe all the functions of a scene in a storybook, so too should you when describing your gratefulness.

Focusing on people and your relationship with them also brings about a better sense of satisfaction. Sure, we are all grateful for some things, but it’s usually the people in our lives who have the greatest impact. Focus on people and move from there.

And of course, gratitude journaling isn’t going to improve your positivity if you’re not actually positive in your writing. Science has shown it’s easier to remember negative events than positive events, so this could be the most difficult step of all. As Lisa Shoreland states over at Positively Present:

Help really transform your thoughts by finding the positive side of negative situations. Instead of dwelling on things that are not working out – maybe a failed relationship, or financial hardships, or health problems – try to find a positive in those situations.

2. Don’t go through the motions and don’t overdo it: I let my gratitude journal slip by the wayside the first time around thanks to a repetitive sense of going through the motions.

More research: Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research suggests writing less in your gratitude journal (but still under some sort of structure or schedule) leads to more happiness than writing more often in your gratitude journal. I feel like this has been effective in my journaling as well — I feel happier and more grateful when I explicitly choose to journal about gratitude. Anecdotal at best, but I can attest to it.

3. Employ Tim Ferriss’ gratitude journal methods: Tim Ferriss is well known for his bestselling books and life coach lessons, but his approach to keeping a gratitude journal is one of the best. Ferriss focuses on four categories to ensure gratitude journaling keeps its splendor.

  1. Focus on relationships
  2. Focus on opportunities
  3. Focus on great events
  4. Focus on simple things

I find a particular impact when focusing on opportunities and great or important life events, but each of these categories could have a different impact on you. Relationships, again, are the most impactful aspects of most of our lives, while opportunities keep inspiration flowing into our lives to trigger great events.

Overall, Tim’s categories appear to flow from start to finish to help you recognize a greater process.

4. Use surprises as gratitude journal triggers:
This is an easy one. Whenever something important, surprising, or memorable works its way into your life, you can use the event as a trigger to jump into your gratitude journal. When these events happen, it’s easy to describe whathappened, how it happened, why it happened, and your reaction to the result.

I think this can improve your happiness, sense of self-satisfaction, and sense of self-realization, but it can also help develop successful habits. If there is an underlying pattern to the surprising and memorable events in your life, journaling will help recognize that pattern.

Plus, journaling triggers make journaling too easy.

5. Be grateful in the morning and reflective in the evening: We’ve talked about the Five-Minute Journal once before here on the Day One blog.

The structure of the journal is simple: be grateful in the morning and reflect at the end of the day. The Five-Minute Journal has three simple tasks each morning. First, you recognize three things you are grateful for. Second, you visualize three things that would make the upcoming day great. And third, you complete two different personal affirmations. Then, at the end of the day, you can unwind by reflecting on the great events of the day.

Overall, the structure is simple. But the structure leads to starting each day on a positive note and ending each day with a smile on your face.


I’ve found grateful moments occur around important life events — both good and bad life events — and around family events. I’ve used these types of events to trigger gratitude journal writing, but I’ve still found it difficult to create a habit without any sort of trigger.

Fortunately, actually being grateful doesn’t require writing it down. You can recognize your own gratefulness in a conversation with your spouse or friend, or you can express it through prayer. Journaling is only one avenue for improving gratitude and happiness.

Although, journaling may be the most effective avenue.

10 Journal Ideas to Revitalize Your Summer Journaling

How to make sure a summer to remember ends up in your journal

With the sun shining, the waves crashing, and the grass growing, it can be hard to keep a growing journal. It’s the reality of the beautiful summer season — inspiration may be at an all-time high, but finding the time to record in your journal can be difficult.

On the other hand, inspiration could be at an all-time low due to the drawn out days of work and little time to rest or recuperate. It’s easy to fall into the second trap.

Fortunately, we’re here to help on the inspiration front. Any one of the following ten journal ideas could grow into a mammoth journal on their own. No pressure. Grab one, two, or all ten ideas and get back into your journal this summer.

1. Travel Journal

This is a no-brainer at this time of year. At least 23% of Americans planned and booked a vacation by the end of May 2017, so there should be no shortage of travel journaling going on.

The results can be breathtaking. I kept a travel journal of our trip to Europe last summer and have revisited those journal entries exactly one year after. It’s fun to sip on a cup of coffee with your significant other and reminisce about the ups and downs of taking trains and airplanes through Spain and Italy.

One day, you won’t remember where you were or how you got to each place. Storing the details in a journal can be a huge boost to your travel memory.

2. Photo Journal

Photo journals can go hand in hand with many others on this list, but it’s especially easy to develop a photo journal with Day One’s Activity Feed. If you snap a photo on your iPhone or if you add a photo to Instagram, Day One automatically picks up the photo and can quickly add it to an entry.

If, like me, you want to see where you came from as a photographer, Activity Feed can be a great tool, or, if you’re a visual person, keeping memory-jogging photos helps stir the brain.

Photos are worth a thousand words, so a thousand photos will tell you a lot about your past-self.

3. Pregnancy Journal

I’m on the wrong side of the biological fence on this one, but I know my expecting-wife wants to look back on her pregnancy and learn from her first go-around. From different foods, to different moods, to different triggers for physical symptoms, keeping some sort of pregnancy journal can help ease the load as the term goes by.

Even more so, reflecting on the amazing gift of growing life before birth can bring a tear to your eye. It does for me. I still can’t get over the dramatic shifts and changes I see in my wife each day, let alone the awe and wonder at the child growing within her.

I’m not a parent yet, but I bet most parents would look back on their pregnancies and be met with a wink and a smile. They’re worth reflecting on, even if you go through a particularly enduring set of struggles.

4. Collections Journal

I know a few numismatists who would greatly benefit from keeping a collections journal. The level of technical detail in coin and currency collecting is jaw dropping. Throwing it into a searchable journal can make it a bit more manageable.

Using Day One, collectors could snap a photo of their latest collection addition, jot down a few specifics, note the value, and store the entry away for future visits. If anyone ever asks which year, or which series, or which rating you’ve given the item in hand, a quick search can do the trick.

Collection journals may not be visited as often as a few other journals on this list, but keeping data on each individual piece can be invaluable for both collectors and those looking to learn a thing or two about your hobby.

5. Bucket List Journal

Another one of those journals you may not visit all that often, a bucket list journal would be great for living life with passion and excitement. Wanted to skydive your whole life? Keep a checklist, note your experience, shoot a photo, and add it to your journal when complete.

At the top of my bucket list is a visit to Fenway Park to watch a baseball game before the historic park closes. Whenever I get to check the item off the list, you can be sure a few photos of the old seats, the Green Monster, and the classic scoreboard will line the top of my bucket list journal entry.

One day.

6. Food/Drink/Beer/Wine Journal

This is another no-brainer journal, and one which greatly benefits from a little automation. Back in January, we published a mini-guide to using TextExpander and Day One to automate a bunch of mundane typing tasks. We highlighted film/comic/book reviews in the TextExpander guide, but it can easily be adapted to a food/drink/beer/wine journal.

Trying a new brew or a new bottle? Whip out your iPhone, snap a photo of the cuisine, and fill out a quick TextExpander survey you can reflect on in the future. I find this kind of journal takes some considerable time to develop, but can be a great resource if you’re with a group of friends aiming to try something new.

Was that India Pale Ale good the last time you tried it? Your food/drink/beer/wine journal probably has the answer.

7. Property Catalog/Asset List

Asset lists are numerous and wide-ranging in my little world.

Except that I don’t have one of my own.

Personal asset lists may sound earthly and possessive to some, but these types of lists can be exceptionally valuable under numerous circumstances. Applying for a debt product at the bank? Having a complete asset list in your journal can yield a better answer than “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” If catastrophe strikes, your property catalog/asset list can help your family ensure your estate is well taken care of.

Plus, asset lists have this inherent ability to show — in some numerical fashion — some of the fruits of your labor.

So, whether for the positive or the catastrophic, keeping an asset list updated in an accessible fashion can pay dividends in the future.

8. To-Do Lists

To-do lists can be endless for some people, so I tend to think of this inspirational journal idea more in the “productivity journal” manner.

In my little journal habit, keeping to-do lists is epitomized by getting my hair cut. Every five to six weeks, I’m ready for a haircut (this time tends to get shorter as I get older). But lazy Josh doesn’t have the foresight to schedule a haircut on the day his prior haircut is finished. Instead, the to-do item is marked down in my journal and I can refer to the correct dates in that manner.

Obviously, keeping some sort of record of your productivity can provide great benefits. You can track when you’re most productive, when you’re least productive, or how long you can stay in the zone before needing to take a break. This is tremendously effective when addressing your self care. No matter your productive capacity, recording and analyzing the results can make you that much more efficient and productive.

9. Financial Journal

Keeping a financial journal can have a broad scope. Perhaps you’re an investor who likes to track opens, highs, lows, and closes. Or perhaps you have a financial bucket list. Or, if you’re keen to have those nostalgic conversations when you’re much older, you can track each time you received a wage increase (my grandfather tells me used to work for about a nickel an hour when he was a kid).

Financial journals can also record great (or bad) entrepreneurial ideas and track the growth of a business opportunity. Maybe one rendition of the idea doesn’t work in today’s current market, but, after a few iterations and discussions with a professional, the business idea becomes more feasible. Having a record of how you built out a business idea can make you a more skilled entrepreneur in the future.

10. Prayer Journal

It’s always good to leave the best for last.

Prayer journals can be powerful, no matter your walk or faith in life. You can use the journal as a source of meditation or to provide better structure to your thoughts and prayers. Then, in reflection, you can view your struggles and high points and learn going forward.

Day One is exceptional for keeping a prayer journal.

For one, you can dictate a journal entry if you find yourself in prayer during a time where you’re unable to type.

Secondly, you can create entries late at night without stirring awake the others in your bedroom. I often find my mind to be completely empty and free for prayer after waking in the middle of the night. If it’s the type of prayer to record, it’s simple to reach over, grab the iPhone, and type out what’s needed without turning on any lights.

Everyone is different. Some will choose to ignore this idea entirely, while others will prefer to keep their prayers in a more traditional format. No matter your preference, keeping a prayer journal can have a powerful effect in times of reflection.

Wrap Up

If you’re like me, the middle of the summer calls for a dust-off of the journal. I’d generally argue your time is better spent in the great outdoors, but keeping the journal habit flowing through the summer months can have lasting benefits.

In an ideal world, you don’t need any of the above ideas to get back into gear. Better yet, you have a plethora of other journal ideas to keep the inspiration flowing.

But for those like me who’ve had a harder time getting in front of a computer or typing out an entry on the iPhone, these ideas can get you back into the swing of things.


The Way I Journal: Daniel J. Olsen

Here’s how Day One helps a soldier track his life

Who are and you and what do you do?

My name is Daniel J. Olson, and I am a US Army Soldier, full-time dad, and college student. I also journal a lot, play guitar, take pictures, do artwork, and do family history work. I am a Latter-day Saint. I have been married for almost seven years now to my amazing wife, Jessica, and we have two goofy kids.


When and why did you start journaling?

Well, I’ve actually been journaling since about 1998. My maternal grandfather journaled all the time while I was growing up, and I later saw a movie called, “The Mountain of the Lord”, in which then-President Wilford Woodruff spoke of the importance of the Latter-day Saints being a “record-keeping people”. I ran with the idea and (except for a few parts here and there) have been doing so continuously since 2004.

What is your journaling routine?

In the morning, if I remember what I dreamt, I’ll write that down first thing. Throughout the day, depending on where I go, I use the Check-In feature. I also have an hourly prompt, where I write a small snippet of what’s going on.

There are also times when I take pictures and will create entries based off those.

Do you focus on longform writing or in capturing small memories of life?

Well, it’s a combination of both. Depending on what I have going on, I’ll either do a small entry, or if I’m abridging my older journaling into Day One, it can become quite long.

I’ve been all over the United States while growing up, as my dad’s career warranted such moving, and to South Korea once, as part of being in the Army.

Do you have a favorite spot where you like to journal?

I built my own “man cave”, as it were, some time back and that is my own personal space. It is in there that I like to have calming music (Gregorian Chants usually or something similar) to focus.

What was your first entry in Day One?

I actually have a tag, called “Entry Milestone” for marking off “x” number of entries. The very first one was done in Day One Classic:

“Nov 21, 2014–10:24 a.m.

So, I decided to try Day One for journaling and whatnot, and see how it goes.

Its interface is short and sweet, to-the-point.

I just finished eating some Ramen and am about to go smoke.”

How many entries do you have in your journal?

You have to understand, I’ve checked in at a LOT of places and have copied over a LOT of journaling from when I was younger. Plus, using IFTTT, I have my assorted social media accounts tied in, which go to a Social Media journal.

For All Entries, I have 11,277 entries at the moment, with 3,301 pictures.

For my Regular (Daily Record) journal, I have 7,785 entries, with 1,062 pictures.

For Social Media, I have 2,690 entries, with 2,149 pictures.

My other journals are: Dreams (Nighttime Record), Church Things, My Discourses, Church — Reading & Notes, and Misc. Lifelogs.

What is your favorite or most-used feature in Day One?

I would have to say that the ability to take my old entries and add them into Day One, thereby providing richer context to my story / history is probably the greatest one. I love how I can add the place and time, and the weather at the time is automatically retrieved. Being able to see everywhere I’ve been on globe is absolutely wonderful, too.

Do you mostly write on the iPhone, iPad, or Mac?

Most of the time, it’s my iPhone. If I’m copying over my older journaling, then my Mac. Sometimes, I do use my iPad if I can’t use my iPhone and my Mac is off or away from me.

Do you follow any organization rules?

The only real rules I follow are when I do a Daily Summary, or if I’m entering the older entries.

With the older entries, I bring up the Word Doc (or text file) and have it on one screen, and in Day One on another screen, I’ll create a new entry on the corresponding date. Next, I select the general location (to ensure the correct timezone is showing), followed by the exact address whenever possible. Then I’ll copy over the original text, make any formatting adjustments as needed, and finally set the time or approximate time if none was given.

Have you ever relied on Day One for something unexpected, or used it to recall details about a specific event or date?

There have been times where I wasn’t sure where I’d been, and other times when I wanted to “set the record straight”, so-to-speak.

Day One Goes Premium


Day One is evolving. We’re transitioning to a more stable subscription business model to ensure this app and these services always stick around.

This week we’re releasing the Day One Premium subscription service. It includes the ability to create more than ten journals and access all future premium features.

If you have already purchased Day One (version 2.0 and later), the features you currently have will always be yours to use without any additional cost. This includes encrypted sync, ten journals, multiple photos per entry, and all ongoing maintenance updates and improvements.

As an additional benefit for our existing customers, we’re offering Day One Premium for 50% off (regular price is $49.99).

Thank you for being a founding part of making Day One what it is today, a trusted platform for personal writing, special moments, and reflections on life.

For more information, check out the Day One Premium FAQ or contact us.

Day One Book: Two Months Later

The new way for Day One users to preserve their memories.

Nearly two months ago, we launched Day One Book as a new way to preserve the moments captured in Day One. Since then, our users have printed thousands of entries with Day One Book, and the response has been amazing.

“While many people are content to view the ups and downs of their lives within the confines of an app, others may prefer to see their lives unfold in a traditional book. That’s the new feature of Day One that longtime journal writers are going to love — printed books.” — AppleWorld

“I’m into the idea of a well-designed journal that incorporates the details of my digital life in a longer-lasting print format. — The Verge

“I suspect Bloom Built [has] a hit on its hands.” — MacStories


While we still have a few features we want to add, like international shipping, we wanted to give you an update on Day One Book and what it can do.

Using Day One Book

When we designed Day One Book, we wanted it to be as simple as possible for you to print the content you wanted to preserve. With up to 400 pages per book, there’s a lot of space to fill. Want to print your daily reflections but not your work journal? You can select specific journals to print. Want to make a book of all your summer vacation photos? It’s easy to filter pages by specific tags. We’ve also added the ability to print your Instagram photos to Day One Book directly from the app.

Print your Instagram photos and view map data

Our in-app editor makes it easy to customize your printed journal. Pick a photo for the cover, choose colors, and customize the title of your book. Want to see all the places you’ve been? You can add a map for each month’s worth of entries. Day One Book also includes all your journaling metadata, including location, the weather, and activity.

Getting started is easy. Simply open the settings menu on iPhone or iPad and select “Book Printing” to preserve your memories. Books start at $19.99 for 50 full-color pages, and are available in paperback or hardcover.

In-app ordering takes less than a minute

What can you print?

There’s no limit to the memories you can capture with Day One Book. Here are a few things we’ve seen people printing:

  • Document a vacation
  • Preserve your ticket stubs
  • Recap your children’s sports seasons
  • Save a year’s worth of memories

What else can you print? If you’re experiencing writer’s block, or just want some additional ideas of what to print, contact us.



Journal from here, there, everywhere.

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