How to Turn A Blank Notebook into A Gratitude Journal (and create a Happiness Advantage, even if it sounds hokey)

How to Turn A Blank Notebook into A Gratitude Journal (and create a Happiness Advantage, even if it sounds hokey)

How to Start a Gratitude Journal

Drawn to Paper.

You know there’s something good about journaling and you want to try it. But where do you start?

As a surface fabric designer, I tend to run into a lot of fabric lovers. Yet on the other hand, if you’re not into fabric, I’ve found the majority of the time, you love stationery pieces! (I mean, really love them– because even though you have a stash of notecards or a new planner at home, you land into a shop, see something new, and find yourself buying more!)

As for me, I confess to both.

I always had a project for my fabric, but when it came to my pile of lovely notebook journals, I wasn't really using them. “I should start journaling” I thought to myself. But where should I start?

A Gratitude Journal

This is what I figured out. Start with a gratitude journal. After researching the topic and improvising on what I found, here is my version of one.

First of all, the purpose of a gratitude journal, besides feeling the obvious intangible benefits, is to identify what really matters to you.

Actually, it’s a little more than that. And you’ll want to see for yourself.

You'll also find some of the reasons as to why it works. Warning: good things are going to happen...


WARNING: Good things are going to happen


Getting Started

There are three basic steps to starting your gratitude journal.

  1. Grab your favorite blank notebook journal and draw a line down the middle of the page, dividing it into two columns
  2. Write Achieved/Good Things at top of one column, and Gratitude at the top of the other
  3. Set aside 10-15 minutes before you sleep to fill out your journal

Why at the end of the day? Important.

Knowing what you want and identifying what matters to you, in addition to writing it down before you sleep, sends a request to your subconscious.

You could say, you are directing your subconscious mind to create the outcomes you seek.

Kind of woo-woo, I know. But...

“A man cannot directly choose his circumstances, but he can choose his thoughts, and so indirectly, yet surely, shape his circumstances.” — James Allen.

 gratitude journal by teresa magnuson, draw a line down the middle of the page

ACHIEVED // GOOD THINGS // list five

In the first column, list five things you achieved today or five good things that happened today– or a combination of both.

[ If you only do half of the journal starting out, do this half!! ]

Stumped? Try listing obvious accomplishments. You don’t have to over-think it– list something as simple as “washed a load of clothes”  or “made low-carb breakfast”  “stopped by the new coffee shop for a mocha” etc

The purpose of this half of your journal is to remind yourself of the progress you’ve made and feel good about it, and at the same time, introduce more of the positives.



Now we’re off to the second column. For the next step, you’ll list and identify what matters to you for the day. 

At the top of the column, write out five letters/words, leaving a few lines after each one. 



These are abbreviations to five gratitudes and you’ll list your answers to them, working your way down the page. I originally came across this version of the journal when I followed Craig Ballantyne and his newsletter Early to Rise. This is how he explained it.

G stands for Gratitude. List that “one big thing” in your life you’re grateful for today.
stands for Opportunity. List an opportunity you are looking forward to or are grateful to have.
Did. List something you did today that was important.
Do. List that one thing you’re going to do tomorrow that is important.
A  stands for Appreciation. Finally, list someone or something, you feel appreciation for in your life today.


And there’s more.

Creating the Happiness Advantage

I couldn’t resist bringing up this finding. According to happiness researcher, Shawn Achor in his book, The Happiness Advantage, a gratitude journal really starts to instigate and make good things happen in your life because of the profound effect it has on the way our brains are wired.


“Making a list of good things or accomplishments may sound hokey at first or ridiculously simple...[but ...]
When you write down good things that happened, your brain will be forced to scan the last 24 hours for potential positives– things that brought small or large laughs, feelings of accomplishment at work, a strengthened connection with family, a glimmer of hope for the future.
In just five minutes a day, this trains the brain to become more skilled at noticing and focusing on possibilities for personal and professional growth, and seizing opportunities to act on them.
At the same time, because we can only focus on so much at once, our brains push out those small annoyances and frustrations that used to loom large into the background, even out of our visual field entirely.”  


So, if you’re reading this in the first place, you probably didn’t have to be all that convinced of the benefits of a gratitude journal. Yet now you have a reason to get started. 

Welcome to your gratitude journal– be the designer of your own destiny and unlock your happiness advantage! It starts with 10 minutes, tonight!


[Download and print out my Cheat Sheet for you as a handy reminder of what to write when first starting your journal.]




teresa magnuson with Tigger, sunny and clear

Who and What is Sunny & Clear?

When you mix a Minnesota graphics + surface designer you get magic! As a hybrid artist, Teresa turns her illustrations into something artsy and nice– fabrics, home decor and stationery.
Sunny & Clear was founded in 2015. Teresa brings you whimsical and hand-drawn works, inspired by living in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes and the delight of a perfect sunny day. “Welcome to my colorful world, where it’s always sunny and clear!”
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