Keeping a gratitude journal

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley is making it easy to try out a gratitude journal, with an interactive online project launched this month that’s shareable on social media. At, anyone can sign up for a two-week journal plan that includes prompts to get your grateful thoughts flowing.

It also includes a survey so researchers can mine the data to look at the effects of gratitude in many specific ways, Emiliana Simon-Thomas, who, with Robert Emmons of UC Davis and others, developed the $5.6-million project, said Thursday.

At, participants take a survey of 78 questions, then get a little nudge for two weeks to write in their journal, perhaps sharing their grateful states on Facebook or other sites. At the end, after another survey, they’ll get a report on their own changes — and be invited to stick around and continue to express gratitude, perhaps less frequently.


Of course, you can express gratitude on your own, and here are some of Emmons suggestions:

• Occasional “gratitude journaling,” one to three times a week, is more effective than writing every day.

• Journal writing is more effective if you make the conscious decision to become happier, more grateful, more positive.

• Gratitude in depth is more important than “gratitude by the numbers.” In other words, elaborating on a particular benefit in detail is more beneficial than listing several benefits more superficially.

• Another recommendation is to focus on “mental subtraction” of good things from your life: Consider, for example, what life would be like if you had never met your spouse rather than how grateful you are for that spouse.

—Mary MacVean