Team activity — Journal gratefulness

An activity to help the mind focus on what is positive to balance out the need to deal with the negative.

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Time required

15 minutes 


This activity requires a way for each participant to record their answers. 

Suggested wording 

Our brains can be trained to focus on anything. For example, you may rarely notice a Jeep vehicle on the road. However, once a friend of yours gets a Jeep, you may suddenly notice them everywhere. The reason for this is that your brain is now looking for that kind of vehicle.

There is a saying: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” 

We can train our brains to look for problems everywhere. We are often trained in critical thinking, which encourages us to find flaws in every situation. However, sometimes when we think critically about every positive experience, we can take away some of our enjoyment of it. We can also look at everyone through a critical and judgmental perspective, therefore making relationships less enjoyable. 

We don’t want to lose our ability for critical thinking, but we want to balance it out by also optimizing our ability to see the positives in situations and people. One way to see the positives is to purposefully look for things that we can be grateful for. These things can be characteristics, situations and experiences that we have on a day-to-day basis. Just like the Jeep, we can begin to see the positives that were always there but may have been overlooked in the past. 

Writing down the positives helps us retrain our brains to recognize what is good in our lives and what we can be grateful for. This can help change the quality of our lives.

You can do this activity on paper, in an actual journal or online. You can do this to take some time for yourself either at work or at home. Sometimes when we are especially stressed, taking a few minutes to remember the good things in our lives can help put our current stressor in perspective. 

You don’t need full sentences. Point form notes are also okay. You might give yourself a certain number of gratefulness points to write down, or you can set a timer on your phone. Take some deep, calming breaths as you begin to think reflect on your day and life. 

Right now, I would like you to do this activity thinking as broadly as possible. When we’re having a bad day or struggling, it may seem like there’s nothing good or positive in life. If this is the case, you might be grateful for something like no traffic on your way to work, a parking spot close to the grocery store yesterday in the rain, or that you got to work on time. 

Gratitude comes in all shapes and sizes. You have 5 minutes to write as many things as you can; don’t stop writing until I tell you that the time is up. 

[After 5 minutes.] 

I’d like to ask everyone to now share one or more things that they are grateful for. 

[Take up as many answers as you can in one minute either virtually or in person.] 

In the workplace, one way you can use your break time for a similar activity is to write down what you’re grateful for in terms of your job, the people you work with or the accomplishments you’ve made that day. 

You can choose whether you share this or not, but the positive impact on your mind will happen in either case. Some workplaces even put a gratitude board up where people can post what they are grateful for that day. 

When you post how grateful you are for help or advice from co-workers, the positive effects can expand to everyone. 

Find more activities like this at Team building activities.

Contributors include.articlesDavid K. MacDonaldMary Ann BayntonWorkplace Strategies team 2007-2021

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