How to Use a Gratitude Journal for Depression

Patient Expert
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To cope with your depression and live the best life possible, you need to have as many tools at your disposal as you possibly can. The tools that you choose to keep in your toolbox should be easy to use and work fast. Writing in a gratitude journal is a straightforward and useful tool that you can use to cope with your depression starting today.

Once you develop the habit of writing on a regular basis, you will soon develop an attitude of gratitude. In the article “How to Have an Attitude of Gratitude,” Andrew Merle says that “An attitude of gratitude means making it a habit to express thankfulness and appreciation in all parts of your life, on a regular basis, for both the big and small things alike.”

Developing this new attitude will have a positive impact on several areas of your life. According to Amy Morin, L.C.S.W., developing an attitude of gratitude has seven scientifically proven benefits based on research:

  • It creates opportunities for new relationships.
  • It improves your physical health.
  • It improves your mental health.
  • It enhances empathy while reducing aggression.
  • It improves your sleep.
  • It improves your self-esteem.
  • It increases your mental toughness.

As someone who battles depression, I know what it feels like to struggle through the day. When it's at its worst, I have difficulty getting out of bed and taking care of everyday things. It can feel like I am wearing a weighted straitjacket, and the sadness just doesn’t go away.

I believe that through writing in my gratitude journal, I have been able to cope with my depression and get through some difficult days. I first learned about the idea of a gratitude journal after reading the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. At first, I thought that the idea was cheesy, but I tried it regardless.

Although I have used journals off and on for years since I was a child, it felt like a brand new experience to write in a journal with some structure. Here is the structure that has helped me.

1. Block out 15 minutes of uninterrupted time with yourself. Turn off all electronic devices and take out your journal and a pen.

2. First, write down today’s date and your location. You may decide to look at old journal entries in the future. Having an exact date and location will help you remember what was going on in your mind and life.

3. Focus your attention on your heart and say “Thank you!” to yourself 50 times. Use your fingers to keep count.

4. On the first page, write down everything that you can think of that you are grateful for right now. Be sure to start all of your sentences with “Thank you for …” or “I am grateful for …”. If you in a dark place, this may seem difficult. To make it easier, just focus on simple things that happened in the past hour. For example, “Thank you for a glass of water.”

5. Once you fill up the page, put your attention on your heart and say “Thank you!” to yourself 50 times. Use your fingers to keep count.

6. On the next page, write down things that you want to happen in your life as if they had already happened and you are grateful. Like the things you wrote on the first page, start your sentences with “Thank you for …” or “I am grateful for …” For example, “I am grateful for financial freedom.”

7. Review the list of things that you want to happen. As you read each item, visualize it as if it has already manifested.

8. Write down a statement of surrender, prayer, or affirmation at the end. After following the above steps, I write, I give thanks for the immediate, complete, and divine fulfillment of these desires. This or something better comes forth with perfect timing, according to my higher powers, which bring good to me for me.”

9. Last but not least, focus on your heart and again say “Thank you” to yourself 50 times, using your fingers to keep count.

Once you begin this process, you will notice an immediate, positive shift in your mood. Sometimes this change is temporary and sometimes it will last for days. Getting into the habit of writing in your gratitude journal will make controlling your mood more consistent.

I encourage you to buy a new journal and pen and try this for 30 days. It will establish a new tool for you to cope with your depression. It will provide temporary relief from depression and a more positive attitude, and put you in a better mood. To have a successful recovery, it's essential to have a written plan of action. I encourage you to write your plan and make writing in a gratitude journal a core part of it.

Here are some additional resources:

“Keeping lists of gratitude and kindness made people feel happier, more connected, and more meaningful — doing the work that therapy is partly designed to do, all before a single professional session.”

—    Laura Klein, Can’t Get Therapy? Try Gratitude and Kindness


Mike Veny is one of America’s leading mental health awareness speakers, HealthCentral’s newest social ambassador, and a high-energy corporate drumming event facilitator. He delivers educational, engaging, and entertaining presentations to meetings and conferences throughout the world. Learn more and connect with Mike at TransformingStigma.com.