I’ve written about the many benefits of journaling before, and if you have not yet started a journaling practice, the holidays are a wonderful time to begin. This is a time of year when we are often already reflective of our lives. During the holidays, we stop and remember the ways in which we are blessed, the positives and negatives we have experienced throughout the year, and the people who have touched our lives for better or for worse. Instead of simply reflecting and allowing those insights to pass, it would benefit you to write them down.

Here are some tips for starting a gratitude journal:

1. Find a journal that makes you want to pick it up and fill its pages.

You can purchase a simple lined journal or even make one from a stack of stapled blank paper. But consider investing in a journal bound of beautiful material, in your favorite color, or adorned with an inspirational saying that speaks to your heart.

2. Set aside time to write in your gratitude journal each day.

Like making time for meditation, yoga and other restorative practices, creating a special time for journaling each day helps give the act weight and importance in your life. Start your day writing thoughts of gratitude while you are sipping your morning tea or end your day remembering all you have to be grateful for by writing in your gratitude journal just before bedtime.

3. Not sure where to start? Start with lists.

If you find yourself at a loss for words, try easing into your journaling practice by writing one to five things that you are grateful for each day. These can be simple one-word answers or full sentences.

4. Write without editing.

When you first start, you might hesitate and doubt the way the thoughts in your head will come out on paper. This gratitude journal is not about perfection; remember that no one else will see this except for you. Write freely, without editing your words, without fixing punctuation or spelling. By writing without editing, you are allowing your subconscious to rise into consciousness. By doing this, you are becoming more aware of your authentic self and your true values in life.

5. Use your gratitude journal as a guide.

Sometimes, we find ourselves stuck in life, unable to move forward or make tough decisions. A gratitude journal can help ground you, and remind you of the things and people that are truly important to you. Take time once a week to look back over your words. What were you most grateful for? What challenges turned into positive situations that resulted in gratitude?

In life, empathy, kindness, and gratitude go hand in hand. Fostering a deep sense of gratitude can help give you a wonderful perspective on life, one that includes giving thanks well beyond the holidays.

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  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at EmpowHER.com since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Amazon.com. Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.