Transforming Life One Thankful Moment at a Time: The Story of 3000 Gratitude Journal Entries

Transforming Life One Thankful Moment at a Time: The Story of 3000 Gratitude Journal Entries


8 min read

The best thing I ever did in my life was starting a gratitude diary 8 years ago.

Oprah Winfrey said, "16 years ago, I started writing a gratitude diary, and it was the most important thing I've ever done." As someone who has been keeping a gratitude diary for 8 years, I know it changed my life since I started it on July 15, 2012.

People often ask me, "April, how did you endure that long period?" Eighty percent of surviving the four years of litigation was thanks to the gratitude diary.

The gratitude diary contains everything from the day I received the lawsuit in 2016, the hardest decision of my life when I had to shut down ChattingCat in 2017, to the day I received the verdict.

The book "Happier" played a significant role in starting my gratitude diary. Written by Tal Ben-Shahar, a psychology professor at Harvard University, in 2007, the book advises to write a gratitude diary for 21 days at the end of Chapter 1. I was dealing with depression and felt like I was wandering through an endless tunnel. I tried to escape depression by exercising and fulfilling my bucket list, but my condition didn't improve much. So, I decided to follow the professor's advice for at least 21 days.

My first entry in the gratitude diary reads like this:

July 15, 2012, Gratitude Diary This Sunday morning, after a good night's sleep, I went to the 'Sound Mind & Body' gym for a workout with J. Over the past two years, J has been my workout buddy and trainer. Without him, I couldn't have embarked on audacious challenges like "building a six-pack." I felt grateful for having him by my side.

In the afternoon, I argued with J over a trivial matter, but this kind man reached out to me first. Meeting J, who puts up with my temper, makes me think I must have saved a country in my past life.

I have a 10-month-old kitty that purrs by my side today. This guy is completely dog-like. Although I know that cats of the same breed can have different personalities, meeting this one makes me think I might have saved a country not once but twice in my past lives. :)

After dinner, I reluctantly agreed to J's insistence on watching the sunset... Ah, it was bliss. We went to Discovery Park, and in that vast space, there was nothing but us two, the sky, forest, paths, wind, sunset, and the sea (actually a bay, strait).

On the way home, we went to buy ice cream, and the exact ice cream (Haagen-Dazs Rum Raisin) I wanted to buy was on special sale!

And below that first gratitude diary entry, there's a reflection added: "... It wasn't easy to write down five things since it's my first time. It seems that learning to be grateful, to think of things to be grateful for, and to be aware of them moment by moment requires habit."

The following day's entry also reads: "I'm slightly looking forward to what grateful things will happen tomorrow. It's only been two days, but I think starting the gratitude diary was a good decision."

How to Write a Gratitude Diary

Before going to bed, write down five things from the day you are grateful for. The number five isn't important; what matters is consistency. And actually writing it down is crucial because of the power of writing.

It doesn't have to be grand. For example, "I took the bus today, and the bus driver greeted me cheerfully, which brightened my mood. Thank you."

Finding these five things before bed may seem easy but isn't always so. The key is to write "every day," regardless of whether it's a good or bad day.

There are days when it seems impossible to write anything. To avoid staring blankly at a blank screen before bed, it's necessary to capture small moments of gratitude throughout the day. I used to jot them down in my notepad as they occurred. By doing so, you can vividly live through every moment of gratitude that might otherwise pass unnoticed, making your day happier.

The Power of the Gratitude Diary

My gratitude diary contains more than just everyday records. It also holds entries about the day I got accepted into an MBA program, the day ChattingCat won first place on a TV show, and the exhilarating experience of meeting the presidents of South Korea and the United States.

However, it also chronicles the downward spirals of life's rollercoaster. It includes days when I had to let go of people while running the company and days when I felt betrayed by someone I trusted.

August 11, 2016, was the day I received a lawsuit notice. The reason I didn't fall apart upon receiving it was due to the gratitude diaries I had diligently written. That day's entry begins with, "1,360th Gratitude Diary. Today was a day I needed the power of my gratitude diary. A day it showed its strength!"

There are days when you feel like you're settling to the bottom. What has saved me on days when I felt utterly helpless against life's trials was writing in my gratitude diary, even with sleepy eyes, "in spite of everything."

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Q: I'm afraid that living with gratitude might make me less ambitious and content with the present. How do you address this?

Just because you savor and enjoy your food, does it mean you'll never seek out tastier meals? Certainly not.

How I view the events in my life can make it either a blessing or a curse. Accepting life's ups and downs with gratitude and finding things to be thankful for can turn every experience into a gift life has given you.

Above all, a person with a healthy mind dreams more and can take on more challenges. The gratitude diary keeps my mind healthy.

Q: I feel like I have nothing to write about.

Feeling like you have nothing to write often comes from not yet being accustomed to seeing the world with eyes of gratitude. Even if it feels forced, trying to write will soon put you in a proactive state of seeking "good things." Consider it like running: on sunny days, I think, "Today will be great for vitamin D production." On cloudy days, "I'm grateful I can run without sweating too much." And when it rains, "Today's a good reason to rest!" I'm thankful for that.

On the other hand, if you write dryly, your daily entries will start to feel the same, and writing will become tedious. So, try to add some flesh to the repetitive daily events when you write them down.

Q: April, how have you managed to write a gratitude diary every day for 8 years?

Naturally, there are days I don't feel like writing, and days when it seems like there's nothing to write about. In fact, before a habit forms, doing anything daily can be challenging, not just keeping a gratitude diary. So, just trust the process and start.

As mentioned before, the value of a gratitude diary really comes into play during tough times. To prepare for those days, start accumulating points of gratitude from today. What has saved me on days when I felt helpless against the trials we often face has been the gratitude diaries I've kept "even though I really didn't want to write," or "even though I felt like there was nothing to write about."

In my case, setting a goal and declaring it publicly has made it easier to continue, especially since I've been posting publicly on my blog.

Set a goal to form the habit over 21 days. Once you've achieved your goal for these 21 days, you'll feel a sense of accomplishment.

Q: Isn't it too much exposure of personal life? Why do you choose to write publicly?

Having written honestly on my blog for a long time, I'm not particularly concerned about exposing my life or thoughts. However, there were moments when I found myself censoring content due to my role as a company director, and I pondered switching to private entries.

The main reason I didn't go private is my comfort with being open, cultivated over many years of writing publicly. It's not that I write for an audience, but over the years, people who've consistently followed my writings sometimes send messages of support after reading about the challenges I've faced in my gratitude diaries. This support has been a significant source of strength for me.

Furthermore, I believe the past 3,000 entries of my gratitude diary represent who I am. During the lawsuit that labeled me as a fraudster, explaining my situation was difficult until the judge summarized the case. In those moments of feeling unjust and powerless, I thought to myself that these 3,000 entries of gratitude diaries speak volumes about the life I've lived, even without my detailed explanations. I'm truly glad I chose to write them publicly.

Lastly, I aspire for the gratitude diaries piled up in my blog to reach five thousand and then ten thousand entries. Thus, despite privacy concerns, I continue to write publicly.

"If you concentrate on what you have, you will always end up having more. If you focus on what you don't have, you will never have enough." - Oprah Winfrey

To those who wish to find happiness, I will share the greatest secret I know. Just write a gratitude diary, if only for 21 days. :)

Note: This post was originally written in January 2021 in Korean. As of yesterday, I've written the 4012th entry in my gratitude journal. Still counting.