Keep a gratitude journal so you can reframe your thinking, feel a lot less stress, focus on what is working in your life. Ultimately this kind of journaling will help you deal with change in more positive ways. Writing regularly about the things you are grateful for can help you choose how you will experience changes that come your way. Studies have shown there are benefits of journaling of any kind, but there is some exciting research around the very simple process of keeping track of the things we are grateful for in life.
In one gratitude journal study participants who kept a gratitude journal complained of fewer physical symptoms, felt happier and more optimistic about their lives, were better able to meet goals, and exercised more than the control groups in the study. These were students at University of California who got better grades, missed less class, and visited the heathcenter less each semester than the control group.
What is Gratitude? The dictionary says it is the quality of being thankful; it is a readiness to show appreciation for something. It is both a feeling and a behavior. Interestingly, the behavior of showing gratitude can bring on the feeling! And that is what a gratitude journal is about.
Henry Ward Beecher said that ‘Gratitude is the fairest blossom that springs from the soul.” We can continue the metaphor and think about our gratitude journal as our gardening tool kit. As gratitude gardeners, we sometimes lightly rake the soil and sometimes dig deeply and we water the experiences and thoughts and feelings of gratitude that sprout. No matter how small and seemingly inconsequential the seed of gratitude might be, we feed and nourish it, let the sun shine on it and allow it to “spring forth” in our life.
Write! and keep writing! Your gratitude journal is going to work a whole lot better once you actually start writing! Seems like a silly piece of advice, I know. But surprisingly often, we let those good intentions cycle around in our heads. We may believe it will help us deal with change, manage stress, prevent conflict, even strengthen our immune system and enhance our happiness factor ...
But until we actually make a conscious choice to become happier and more grateful, and then actually do something about it .... all the thinking and believing in the world won’t do a thing for us if we don't act!
Be a gratitude scanner. Scan the surface for the seemingly small things you can be grateful for. Here is an entry from my online journal:
And on occasion, be a gratitude diver. You’ll want to dive deep into descriptions of some of the things you write about in your gratitude journal. Dig into the details, unpack what the particular thing or experience really meant for you. In my online gratitude journal I did some pretty deep diving about that choice to not have seconds on the ice cream. It brought up all kinds of other things I'm grateful for. Here are a few things that came up:
It is important to write down at least 3 things you are grateful for each day. But that is plenty! In fact, just the simple act of writing for a very short time and listing those 3 things you are grateful for is plenty.
But it is more beneficial to do a little bit of diving with a few particular things than to “scan the horizon” for zillions of things to grateful for.
That said, if you are just feeling overwhelmed with gratitude on a particular day that is wonderful! Write them all down in your journal! In fact when you feel this kind of overwhelming thankfulness and gratitude, is a great time to do a "fast write" in your journal. Set a timer for 15 minutes and just write until your heart swells and the timer goes off!
Don’t overdo it. The research shows that it is most beneficial to write for at least 3 days in a row in your gratitude journal. But you don’t need to worry about writing every single day of your life. Then it becomes a burden.
Occasionally (three or four times per week) is just as beneficial as daily journaling. Plus you don’t end up fighting guilt feelings when you’ve “skipped a day!”
Notice the tip above said to "set a timer for 15 minutes?" That is really important advice on most of your days. Don't let yourself get carried away. You can continue to think about all the things you are grateful for as your day continues, and then write about them the next day!
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Positive Changes Journaling Community is my gift to you to help you move forward with your journaling process in general. Enroll, complete a profile and join the gratitude forum where people are writing and sharing the things they are grateful for.