Join the Year of Gratitude Challenge

Purpose Behind the Journal Prompts

The purpose of this Year of Gratitude Challenge is to help ourselves and others cultivate more positive attitudes toward our lives and our experiences—especially when facing adversity. This means, of course, reflecting on what we have, being more mindful throughout the day, and actively choosing to practice joy. Yes, practice. Yes, choice.

Practicing and choosing joy takes a significant amount of encouragement and experimentation and willingness to forgive yourself when you fail. We all stumble a little or sometimes even fail outright. The Year of Gratitude Challenge is 52 weeks devoted to  gratitude, mindfulness, and happiness and is an excellent way to combat your brain’s natural and evolutionary tact of focusing on the negative things in life.

The Release of the Journal Prompt

Every Monday, we will release a new prompt here that will allow you to reflect upon what gratitude, mindfulness, and happiness looks like in your life. Sometimes the prompts will be silly, light-hearted, or unusual. Other times, we might strike you deep, deep in your heart with a serious prompt. Both types of prompts have merit for the Year of Gratitude Challenge.

What you choose to do with a prompt is up to you. Although we encourage you to physically write down your responses to a prompt, you do get to choose how you want to respond and participate in the challenge. According to research, however, writing in depth once a week about a topic is beneficial to cultivating a happier life. Of course, much depends on you and your own conscious decision to really dig into the exercise. It’s not a thing on your to-do list so much as a moment (or several moments) to explore your own life and reflect meaningfully on it.

Whether this reflection occurs in writing or in your head is up to you, but we strongly encourage you to write down your responses because you’ll better be able to dig deep into your feelings and reflect on the positives you do have going for you.

Get the Most out of Responding to a Year of Gratitude Challenge Prompt

As discussed, you will get more out of the challenge if you actually commit pen to paper and use the prompts as journal prompts rather than thinking prompts.

Rachel once bought a gratitude journal that she was really excited about, but she stopped using it after a few mere weeks. Why? The journal featured the exact same layout and questions every day. The task of recording things and people to whom you were grateful became monotonous and boring, not exactly the stuff of brain-changing attitude adjustments. The layout also did not encourage deeper reflection. Instead, it asked the writer to regurgitate three people to whom she was grateful every day. Bottom line: it didn’t work for her.

This blog works in a different way because each prompt is intended for the writer to respond more deeply. To get the most out of responding to a given prompt, spend time thinking about the prompt. Maybe you think about the prompt for several days before responding, or maybe inspiration strikes you right away.

Still, whenever you do sit down to write or to reflect, be specific. Elaborate upon your examples and dare to delve deep into your emotions. Use concrete nouns and sensory language (that’s the English teacher in Rachel speaking). Instead of writing you felt good, you could explain the physical happenings in your body when you felt good. These details connect this abstract idea (good) to something concrete (physical sensations). The more you concentrate on the positive details of the experience, the better you’ll be at rewiring your brain toward a positive outlook.

Alexandra and Rachel Share Their Responses for the Year of Gratitude Challenge

After the prompt is posted, we will share their own responses to the prompt that week. We are good friends, but we struggle with distinct issues related to living our own best lives.

I’ve been struggling with my anger for years (okay, decades), but I’m starting to feel like I have a handle on it now that I’ve been overwhelmed by responding to a life-changing diagnosis of fibromyalgia. It’s (not) funny how a crushing medical diagnosis changes your perspective on your anger issues.

Alexandra has been struggling with her anxiety as she deals with work and family stress. From my perspective, she is one of the most thoughtful and good-spirited people I know. She is a champion of gift giving and all around delightful. As her good friend, though, I also know how hard the last couple of years have been for her. We’ve both been working hard at juggling our negative feels to live that best possible life.

We hope that seeing the difference in our own lives and how we tackle choosing to live more gratefully, mindfully, and happily will be alternately useful, hilarious, or touching.

Reader Submission Fridays and Community Participation for the Year of Gratitude Challenge

On Fridays, we will share a reader’s submission to the prompt for the blog. You can read about the submission guidelines here and submit your own post for possible sharing on the website. One of the goals of this Year of Gratitude Challenge project is to reveal the diverse ways people with their own unique experiences and challenges can pause and reflect on gratitude, mindfulness, and happiness regardless of that person’s background.

Are you a mom? Cool! Are you a dad? Awesome! Do you have fur babies or no babies? Great! Are you still in school or working or retired or unemployed? It doesn’t matter. We want to hear your voices. Choosing joy isn’t always easy, and that’s why a supportive community can be vital.

Besides submitting a response to a prompt for the blog, you can also interact with us throughout the week in comments to the prompt itself, on our responses, on Facebook, or on Instagram. In fact, please do so! We’d love to share successes and failures at choosing a joyful mindset.