Scientists say gratitude can have all manner of psychological and neurobiological health benefits. It can improve your relationships, make you more patient, and can even help you sleep better at night.
I believe in science. So, why are the pages of my beautifully bound gratitude journals so empty? I’ve tried bullet journals, simple spiral notebooks, and even branded gratitude journals with flowery, unthreatening pages.
And so far the best gratitude journal for me is my iPhone.
If you’ve ever splurged for an expensive camera and still find yourself using your smartphone to take photos, then you’re familiar with the idea that the best camera is always the one you have with you. The same goes for gratitude journals.
It doesn’t matter how fancy your writing is, how thick the paper is, or how much you paid for your pen. The point of a gratitude journal is that you are mindful of the things in life that you appreciate and are thankful for. And you never know when the gratitude mood will strike you, so you always want to be prepared.
Here are five ways to turn your phone into a gratitude journal:
1. The iPhone Notes App
There are dozens of paid and ad-supported apps in the iPhone and Android app stores, but before you start downloading, consider the tools that come pre-installed on your phone.
If you use an iPhone, the Notes app is a great place to express gratitude. I keep my Notes app on the home screen of my iPhone. If you have an iPhone 6s or later, the easiest way to start journaling is to use 3D Touch:
- Simply press down on the Notes app until the Quick Actions menu appears. (You need to put a little pressure into your press. Its different than a long press and hold.)
- Choose “New Note” and type something like “Gratitude Journal.”
- Then write down what you’re grateful for.
Voila, you’ve got a gratitude journal. Plus, you can add sketches, photos, or even links to music in your note.
If you want to keep your Note private, click the share sheet icon in the top right and then tap the lock icon so you can only open your Note with a password, TouchID, or FaceID (if you have an iPhone X).
2. Google Keep
If your phone runs Android or if you’re not a fan of the iPhone Notes app, you might want to try Google Keep. It’s free for Android and iPhone users and also works great on the iPad or in your web browser on a computer.
To open a new note, press down on the app to choose “New Note.” You can create a new list, a new photo note, a new drawing, or a new audio note. Then, just create a title and start typing.
If you have trouble remembering to write in your gratitude journal, tap the icon of the finger with the string on it and set a daily reminder for yourself. Choose a time when you’re likely to have your phone and a few seconds free to write down what you’re grateful for. You can even specify that you want to be reminded when you’re in a certain place.
Lately there seems to be a serious backlash against our use of technology, especially social media. But there are real benefits to social media. I love taking photos of the things I’m grateful for in my life. So, why not use your Instagram account as a dedicated gratitude journal?
It’s true there is a very fine line between public gratitude and bragging. Who among us hasn’t been annoyed by our friends pictures from their Maui vacation with a description of #blessed? But if you’re grateful for your mom, dad, child, best friend, waiter, janitor, etc., take a photo of them, post it (with their permission), and tell the world.
Gratitude journals are great for recording the small things you’re thankful for, too. If you’re inspired to take a photo of something beautiful, Instagram is a great place to post that.
If you already spend a lot of time on Instagram, you could start a new account and keep it private to you or to your Whole Life Challenge team. Then set a reminder on your phone to post a photo every day of one thing for which you’re grateful.
If you’re specifically using a gratitude journal to improve your mood, I recommend an app called Daylio, which is free for iPhone and Android.
This super simple mood tracker lets you tap one of five different emotional faces to express how you’re feeling. Then it asks you what you’ve been doing and offers a list of different activities like work, friends, travel, party, good meal, etc. to help you correlate your moods to your activities.
To use the app as a gratitude journal:
- Tap the plus sign at the bottom of the app.
- Choose a mood.
- Then, on the screen that says WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO, choose the activities.
- Then, under Add Note, type what you’re grateful for.
After you’ve recorded data for a few weeks, check your stats under the Monthly Mood Chart to see how certain activities affect your mood.
5. Gratitude Journal by Lorraine Miller
One of my favorite features of The Whole Life Challenge is that it teaches us how small habits can make big changes in our lives. That’s also the idea behind the app Gratitude Journal by Lorraine Miller.
Miller is a health coach, writer, and speaker and the free app is not just a gratitude journal for your phone. It also provides a thirty-day guide to encourage you to express gratitude, which Miller calls “Vitamin G.” Her short writings explain the science behind why expressing gratitude is important and how you can make it a daily practice. It’s all part of Miller’s From Gratitude to Bliss program.
To follow her coaching, all you have to do is set a reminder within the app and then commit to not ignoring it. Each day you’ll see an inspiration and a prompt to write down five things you’re grateful for.
Now You Just Have to Use the App
Just because you found the perfect app, doesn’t make expressing gratitude any easier. Whether you forget a few days or ignore those notifications you set for yourself on purpose, know that you’re not alone. Sitting down to write or type what you’re grateful for, isn’t second nature for most of us. It requires slowing down and being vulnerable, but once it becomes a practice, the benefits are really worth it.
Got a gratitude app suggestion I didn’t mention here? Reach out to me on Twitter. I am @meganmorrone. I would love to hear from you.