As human beings, worry comes easier to us than gratitude unless we practice it. Being grateful is a muscle to be exercised. It is not automatic. We go to the gym to get fit or connect with a friend to be sociable even if those activities are not easy at different times in our lives. Keeping a gratitude journal daily or even weekly establishes being grateful as a practice we say is important to our wellbeing.

I have friends who swear by writing in the morning as the best time. I wish I could say that I write in a gratitude journal daily but I don’t. They say that it reframes their outlook for the day, clears out all the chatter. That’s great except I’m NOT a morning person. If you are, try writing down your gratitudes in the morning.

I prefer to do my gratitude journaling at night. Why? Most days, distressing events happen in the world and I see them on TV, or my phone or hear about them from friends. I may be angry or outraged or saddened by them. I may have upsetting things happening in my own life, like worrying about money or health or relationships. Since David passed away in 2016, I wonder what my life alone will be like and if I will be granted another love like him. It’s unpredictable and uncontrollable. By the end of the day, I am stressed out. Does this happen to you too?

I wish I could say that I write in a gratitude journal daily. My father used to say, “There are no atheists in foxholes,” and people go to prayer in fearful times. I confess I have gone to journaling my gratitude more often when times are tough than when they are not. At night, all the things I am worried about swirl around in my head like a tsunami and I wake up in the midst of a panic attack. I sleep uneasily, my rest is interrupted and I wake up exhausted at the beginning of the day. You can just imagine the shape I am in by the end of the day.

Keeping a gratitude journal before going to sleep is essential both for a good night’s rest and for launching into the morning in a positive and hopeful frame of mind. When I wake up, I don’t have to dredge up a reason to get up because I went to sleep in a state of joyful expectation. What gratitude provides is knowing that, no matter what our circumstances, there is good in our world. Tracking gratitude is also valuable as we see our joys expand and our trust in ourselves grows too.

There are so many ways to keep a gratitude journal. Any way that pleases you is the right way. Sometimes it’s hard, when life is kicking us in the teeth, to find something, anything to be grateful for. Other times, there is so much to be grateful for, it feels greedy to write everything down. Your overflowing gratitude does not take away from anybody else. In fact, if you dare, you model what is possible for them too. 

When I write in my gratitude journal, even sporadically, I look at the five areas of true affluence, which I use in my affluence code consulting work and ask,

What am I grateful for:…

…in my work?

…in how I spend my time?

…in my relationships with friends, family, colleagues and clients?

…about my money situation?

…about my health?

Sometimes, I don’t see anything to be grateful for in one or more of these areas. It doesn’t matter. Even a single gratitude, when watered, grows. I do take note of the places I struggle to be grateful and look even harder for small seeds I can acknowledge and nurture. The result of my writing down gratitudes before I go to sleep is that, whatever I reflect on and, especially make a record of, which is a kind of claiming, follows me into the morning. And it can do the same for you.

Keeping a gratitude journal daily can transform your life because it changes what you notice about that life. But even writing down what you are grateful for periodically opens up your possibilities to good news. It’s a mindset shifter, a magical, magnetic attractor of all you desire. Gratitude is a muscle, which when exercised, can bring peace, a good night’s sleep and expectations of good outcomes which come true. 

How will you practice your gratitude today?


  • Alison BW Pena

    Bad Widow Consultant and Speaker

    Alison Pena aka Bad Widow lives in NYC with her boyfriend, Wayne. She met and married David Beynon Pena, an incredible artist, in October 1996 and was widowed in September 2016. She is a consultant, speaker and author. For fun, Alison loves hanging with friends and family, music, travel, Maine, doing open mics, writing, exploring and learning new stuff. Alison started to offer resources about how to reclaim resilience and resourcefulness after a loss or transition, including work, relationships, health, money and love. She supports clients to 1) re-engage with life fully, 2) reinvent yourself and 3) rebuild networks after loss or transition.