A gratitude journal design

I've been thinking about how I'd design a gratitude journal product. A gratitude journal lets you keep a record of things you're grateful for. Proponents say gratitude journaling offers a number of mental health benefits.

Why build a product?

  1. Habit building. One of the common issues with starting a gratitude journal is developing the habit of writing consistently. Products can help develop habits by reminding users to write. There's a dark side to habit building products, so we'd want to stay away from being too intrusive.
  2. Encouraging best practice. For example, journaling too frequently can lead to writing for the sake of it, without properly thinking things through. Journaling too infrequently can mean you drop the habit. A product can nudge users to do things well.

Minimum set of features

  1. Prompt users to list things they're grateful for
  2. Let users to write them down
  3. Store this list


I think the simplest way to implement this (as a centralised product) is via email. Let's look at each of the steps:

Account setup and onboarding

  1. Send an email to our email address. It'll see that we haven't received an email from you before, and send you an onboarding email
  2. Reply choosing how frequently you'd like to be prompted to write a journal entry

Journal entries

  1. Every X days, you'll receive an email prompting you to write an entry
  2. Write it by repling to the email

Changing settings

  1. Send an email asking to change settings? This might need to preformatted so we can parse the email automatically

Closing your account / offboarding

  1. Either: send an email asking to close your account. We'll stop sending reminder emails
  2. Or: if you haven't replied to the last X emails, we'll stop sending reminders. You can resume reminders by emailing


Using email as the main interface means we don't need to worry about a few things:

However, dealing with email is always annoying, because you don't control the channel. You need to maintiain a good sending reputation, not get marked as spam by any email providers etc.


An email-based system seems like quite a good fit for this problem. Working through this design has made me wonder if the 'products built on email' pattern can be abstracted out, and we can build a more generic email workflow system. I'll have a think about this and might write something up about it at some point.