A gratitude journal is a diary we can keep, listing the things we are grateful for. It is used to focus attention on the positive things in our lives. The simple habit of reflecting on what we’re grateful for can lead to a happier, more satisfying life.
For most of us, focussing on the good and appreciating our lives takes effort. By keeping a gratitude journal, we may develop a practice to keep ourselves accountable to developing appreciation and being happier. In time, keeping a gratitude journal will make being grateful as natural as breathing. It helps to rewire our brains towards a more positive outlook.
Studies have shown that people who keep a gratitude journal experience better sleep, more happiness, lower stress levels, a greater sense of calm and clarity, more presence to their lives, more inclination to exercise, better connection to others, and lowered symptoms of physical pain. They tend to have an overall more positive attitude and more enthusiasm, determination and progress in achieving goals. They are also more likely to want to help other people. Overall, studies have shown that people who keep gratitude journals have proven to have greater psychological and physical benefits when compared to people who don’t.
Below are some tips on how to keep the most effective gratitude journal:
- Writing in your journal once a week is optimal. It’s great to think of things you are grateful for on the daily but studies have shown that people are happier when they keep their gratitude journaling to a weekly routine. And however busy you are, you can make time for this once a week.
- Try and focus on five things that you can be super grateful for. Limit yourself to under 10. Remember, this is not an all or nothing scenario. You are looking to build a lifelong habit. You will have lots of time to list all of the things you are grateful for. This limit helps with keeping things fresh so that you can really dwell on each item in detail without it getting repetitive and boring. It will keep you legitimately interested and involved in your practice.
- Don’t just go through the motions and treat this like a to-do list. You’re making a decision to be happier and more grateful for the gifts in your life. Sit with that. Get elaborate. See each item on your list AS a gift. Really delve deep when you sit to write in your journal. This is not a casual thing so don’t be casual about it. Take the time to really feel your gratitude.
- Research has shown that when we translate our thoughts into concrete language and writing, it makes us more aware and it deepens their emotional impact. You may not be comfortable with writing things down but remember, this isn’t for anyone else’s eyes. There is no right or wrong thing to write and there should be no judgement attached to what you pen. Try and surrender to the process and be as honest and heartfelt as you can.
- The things you choose to be grateful for can vary from the mundane, general, timeless, intellectualized, or profound. Think back on your week and think of anything that gave you joy. What continues to give you joy? Is it your favourite band? A sunny day? An activity you enjoy? The generosity of a stranger? Anything you see in your life as a gift?
- The type of journal you choose should suit you specifically. Do you like to write in a physical journal with a pen or record your thoughts digitally? Will you carry it with you as a reminder or will it be kept in one place? Do you like lined or unlined paper? You can doodle in it, add artwork, paste photographs into it. There are no rules. Make it work for you.