How to Keep a Family Gratitude Journal

Lamont holding his daughter.
November 26, 2018
by Allison Weber

It’s a constant challenge to practice mindfulness, living in the present moment instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. And it’s especially difficult to do this during the holidays with so many things competing for our attention.

The good news is that there are lots of habits and tricks you can try to practice mindfulness. A gratitude journal, for example, is an easy activity that the whole family can participate in. It's also a fun way to help your family spend more quality time together and share what they are thankful for. Customize the tradition to suit your family’s needs, making it a one-time activity after your Thanksgiving meal or something you update weekly during the holiday season.

Here’s how your family can make their own gratitude journal:

  1. Gather your journaling material. This can be a special holiday notebook or blank sheets of paper you bind together.
  2. Assign a notetaker to capture the family’s thoughts. This is a great job for someone who needs a little practice with handwriting or spelling.
  3. Take turns responding to these questions about gratitude:
    • What are you most grateful for? Ask for details. Instead of sharing simple answers like “I’m grateful for food,” offer up items like “I love eating Grandma’s sweet potato casserole on Thanksgiving.” 
    • How do the things you’re grateful for make you feel? Expand the conversation by sharing how something makes you feel and how it helps you. For instance, you could journal about how eating Grandma’s sweet potato casserole reminds you of how much she loves your family.
    • What would life be like if you didn’t have some of the things you’re most grateful for? How would you feel? Explore how tough it might be to go without some of the things that bring your family joy. This may be a good time to talk to your family about hunger in America. After all, discussing the challenges facing our country could help your kids learn how to practice empathy and gratitude from a young age. How to Talk to Kids About Hunger and Real Stories of Hunger can give you some ideas and resources for approaching this topic with little ones. For example, you could read or watch a story of a family facing hunger and reflect on the sadness a hungry family might feel looking into their empty refrigerator and the gratitude they might feel after receiving groceries from a local food pantry.
    • What has helped you stay grateful? Share experiences, stories or habits that have reminded you to practice gratitude in your own life. Explain why they stuck out to you, and how they changed your thinking. For example, tell your family about a person who practices gratitude despite life’s challenges. Or share an activity you did that helped you feel thankful. You can also brainstorm activities that your family can pursue together in the New Year to give thanks and give back. Find your local food bank to discover how you can volunteer in your community. 

Creating a family gratitude journal is a great way to have meaningful conversations with your loved ones during the holidays. You’ll be glad you made time to reconnect during the season's hustle and bustle, and if you save your journal each year, you can enjoy looking back and remembering what everyone shared.

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