Feeling depressed, disorganized, possibly a little negative regarding certain situations in your life? A gratitude journal just might change your mindset. A great mindfulness tool – let me share my experience and thoughts about the habit of writing down what am I grateful for.
If someone were to ask you what you’re grateful for in the present moment, would you have an answer ready to go? Could you easily recall the small moments in your day that bring you the most joy? The simple habit of reflecting on what you’re grateful for can actually lead to a happier, more content life. All it takes is a few moments of your time and a gratitude journal to record your thoughts. Gratitude journals are not unlike the diary you kept as a teenager, but instead of writing random thoughts about your day, you write about the things you’re grateful for—big or small.
Why Gratitude Journal?
From Wikipedia we get this definition of a gratitude journal:
“A gratitude journal is a diary of things for which one is grateful. Gratitude journals are used by individuals who wish to focus their attention on the positive things in their lives.”
Gratitude, the feeling of appreciation or thanks, has gained a lot of attention in the field of positive psychology. Some studies have found that those who are habitually grateful are happier than those who are not. Furthermore, studies suggest that feelings of gratitude may even possess mental and physical health benefits. Positive psychology strives to develop methods by which one can consistently enhance gratitude levels. Furthermore, the maintenance of a gratitude journal can help relieve depressive symptoms.
The benefits of gratitude
The sky becomes bluer, the sun becomes warmer, and the details are revealed behind my thoughts. I could sit here and try to describe a feeling but to be more pointed let’s review 3 specific benefits:
1) I learn a lot about myself
You will be aware of the time that you are wasting each day. I started to get more things done because I implemented techniques to be more organized.
When I write a gratitude journal entry, I become increasingly cognizant of the actions that I’m taking or not taking in life to make others aware of how I feel. If I spend the time to build my awareness of the positive actions of others, I will more than likely in real life visit them and thank them for their efforts. Sometimes life moves fast, and you take your environment, and the people in that space for granted. Gratitude journaling forces me to think about those situations and act upon them more frequently.
I become more aware of my actions, and as I review gratitude entries from past journals I can better measure my mental growth and attitude over time.
2) It helps reducing stress
Stress comes from a myriad of sources in our life. I was taught from a young age to work hard to earn success.
I find that taking a few moments each morning to be thankful reduces the feeling of the “stressful day ahead”. Maybe you know that you are up against a great force, and you know that what you need to do will take an enormous amount of energy and focus. Take a few moments to calm yourself, be grateful for the way in which you obtained the responsibility, or the way that you were afforded the opportunity. It just takes a minute to be grateful and calm, and suddenly the daunting task at hand is just another life obstacle that you know you can beat. You become more accepting, take a deep breath, and then begin your journey of knocking it out.
3) I can focus on what really matters in life
There are so many different things for us to worry about in life.
I can easily get overwhelmed trying to make so many different projects in my lif. However, gratitude journaling helps to keep the mind focused and clear. Sometimes, as I’ve been writing about a positive encounter with an individual, it strikes me that I should pay attention to what that person is doing to find the positivity that he/she bestowed on me. It’s like reverse-engineering a thought process of what led that person to behave in a certain way.
It inspires me, and it makes me think that I should model my behavior and actions around the same pattern, so that I can find success or the happiness that that person is radiating.
4.) It neutralizes negative emotions
Gratitude works its magic by serving as an antidote to negative emotions. It’s like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger, and resignation.
Everyone’s gratitude journal will be different. Some people will simply write about their day while others might choose a specific gratitude quote to focus on. The most important part is that you pick a schedule that works for you and your lifestyle. Here are some tips to help you start a gratitude journal of your own and how to make it a habit you will easily stick to.
Choose the format you are the most comfortable with
The first step to starting your new gratitude journaling habit is picking a journal format. When choosing a gratitude journal there are a few things to consider. Do you prefer to write in a physical journal or record your thoughts digitally on your laptop or on your mobile? Will you be carrying it around with you or keeping it in one place? These are all factors that contribute to which journal is ultimately right for you.
Traditional (printed) journals offer the most flexibility because they’re durable and portable, but for quick exercises or jotting down reminders throughout the day notepads can be an equally great way to record your thoughts. Whatever you choose, consider whether you’ll be using it exclusively for gratitude journaling or for daily planning as well. Sometimes a new journal is exactly what you need to inspire you to get started. Of course you can also create different sections of your journal (plans,wishes, business ideas, tasks, meetings etc.) but gratitude could be a good starting point when creating a new habit of writing daily. You can buy online a gratitude journal pre-filled with a calendar and tips of use, use a blank notebook or your digital devices. It’s up to you.
Focus on the benefits of gratitude
Understanding why you’re doing something instead of just jumping in will make your new habit easier to stick to. For example, you know you have to brush your teeth and even though the act of brushing your teeth isn’t necessarily enjoyable, you do it because you know it prevents cavities. The same applies to gratitude journaling (although it’s a lot more enjoyable than brushing your teeth).
The main benefits of gratitude journaling include lower stress levels, a greater sense of calm and a whole new level of clarity. You’ll learn more about yourself in the process and gain a fresh perspective that allows you to recognize the hidden blessings in your life. As you continue the practice, you’ll be able to focus your time and energy according to the things that truly make you the best version of yourself. And that’s what coaching is targeting end of the day.
Dedicate time to write in your gratitude journal
Finding time to write in your gratitude journal can be difficult at first because it feels like another thing on your neverending to-do list, but after you get into the routine it becomes second nature. The easiest way to maintain a gratitude journal is by making it a habit. Try attaching it to an existing habit like having your morning coffee. Doing this will automatically give you a dedicated time to write. Also, shift your mindset and think about it as something you want to do, not as a chore.
You might think that you have to journal daily to see the benefits, but consistency is key. If writing daily works for you then go for it, but if you can only squeeze in once a week, that’s fine too. As long as you get into the routine of writing in your journal on a regular basis, you’ll start to notice the benefits.
Tips for starting
It’s just an idea, but probably it’s a useful starting tip to define 3-4 sections and stick to it.
If you struggle with filling on a daily level at some sections, you can change it later on.
You can start with sections of gratitude for:
– listing event you are grateful for that day
-an opportunity you had or a goal you reached
-for a great experience you had
Also you can add another section to list at least 3-5 things that make this day a great day. This also helps you set a positive mindset.
You can add your personal motto or confirmation sentence next, or a short not of your last night’s dream.
If you are a night owl tipe and you fill your gratitude journal in the evening, you can also add a section with the great things that happened that day. Last bat not least you might add some thoughts about what you could change, and what do you need to improve?
Of course there are hundreds of other ways to fill, and overtime you will find the best way for yourself.
If you’re new to gratitude journaling, it can feel daunting to look at a blank page. Try writing about these simple prompts to get the gratitude flowing:
- Write about a time you were grateful for something a loved one did for you.
- What are three ways to thank someone without saying “thank you”?
- What is something that makes you unique that you’re grateful for?
- Look out the window, what’s something you’re grateful for outside?
- Think about the work that went into the clothes you wear or the house you live in.
- If you had to give up all of your possessions but three, which three would you keep and why?
- Write a thank you note to yourself.
- Pick a random photo, and write about why you’re grateful for that memory.
- Write about something you’re looking forward to.
- Write about something in your life that you have now that you didn’t have a year ago.
- Reflect on a time you made a mistake and what you learned. What are you grateful for about that learning experience?
- Write about why you’re grateful for your house—these quotes about home might help inspire you to expand your thinking.
- Think back to the last time you laughed until you cried, and write about it.
- List three things that made you smile
- Think about someone who helped shape the person you are today, and write about what they mean to you.
- Think about a time you were able to help someone else.
- List three people who helped you through a tough situation.
- Name someone who did something nice for you unprompted.
Find the best way that works for you!
One of the most liberating parts of gratitude journaling is that there are no rules. It’s for your eyes only (unless you choose to share it with someone), so feel free to make it all about your interests and what makes you happy. Love to doodle? Get a journal with blank, unlined pages and accompany your notes with drawings. Are you a visual person? Practice your photo skills and paste prints onto your gratitude journal.
As you become more comfortable, consider getting your family involved. Share the things you’re grateful for around the dinner table or make it part of the nightly bedtime routine. It can be great family time and will help hold you accountable.
Check yourself regularly
Just like it’s important to know why you’re starting a new habit, it’s also a good practice to check in with yourself every once in a while. Are you feeling any different after one week? One month? One year? Think about how your happiness has improved over time. Maybe your interactions with others have improved or your self-talk has become more positive. If you ever need to pick me up, go back and revisit old pages to see how far you’ve come.
Now that you know how to get started, you’re well on your way to a successful gratitude journaling practice. You might find that reflecting on the things you’re grateful for will inspire you to express that gratitude to others. Consider sharing a sentimental best friend quote with a friend you’ve lost touch with or send a thank you card for a small gesture someone did for you. Just remember not to get too discouraged when starting your journal, it takes time to create a new habit. The positive effects are endless, now it’s time to find out for yourself!
Though it’s a new habit to start that requires your extra effort, as it only work if you are consistenly making your notes day by day, month by month. I’m sure you will soon find absolutely rewarding your personal gratitude journal. You can google for additional tips, or you can do it in your own way and soon you will feel the positive impact of your mood and being mindful. I usually suggest my coaching clients to start their own gratitude journal if they have not started so. I created my own template, you can download from here.