Gratitude is an emotion and starting a gratitude journal brings forth benefits that will improve your life. Gratitude is how you feel when you’re thankful for something. Think right now about something that you’re thankful for. It can be small like the socks on your feet or it can be larger like the roof over your head, your job, your family or your life.
Gratitude is also an awareness or recognition. When you express or feel gratitude, you’re acknowledging that there is good in your life, in you, in the world and all around you and this feeling can change how you feel inside.
It’s easy to let the negative thoughts, words, situations, events, and actions in the world take over your heart and mind. Many in society seem to focus on the negative. It’s on the news, in magazines and newspapers, and it may be the general tone of the conversations you encounter during the day.
Yet, the simple emotion and expression of gratitude diminishes all of that negativity in a powerful way.
Over the past ten to twenty years many disciplines have conducted studies on the impact of gratitude. What they’ve found is nothing short of amazing. People who practice gratitude have found:
- They’re happier. It increases feelings of optimism, joy, and satisfaction.
- Have less anxiety and depression.
- It’s good for your health. Studies have shown that a gratitude practice strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, and reduces symptoms of illness.
- Get more sleep.
- Recover more quickly from challenges and even from traumatic events.
- Have stronger relationships.
- Stronger connections. People feel more connected to their community.
- Gratitude changes your perspective on the life that you’ve been given. When you have gratitude in your life you:
- Feel less victimized by others or by life. Blaming no longer exists. Rather than look at what you lost or what you don’t have, you’re able to reframe situations and move forward focusing on what you can do and what you have.
- Have a more open heart. Gratitude helps you become more compassionate and empathetic. You’ll be able to connect with people even if you don’t think you have much in common with them. It’s a more rewarding way to live.
- Glass half full approach. With gratitude you’ll be able to recognize and appreciate what you have rather than what you don’t. As you begin to become aware of what is good and positive in your life, what is good and positive will grow.
- Attract more gratitude and happiness. It’s often found that people attract experiences and people based on what they expect. If you focus on and expect good things to happen, more good may show up.
The bottom line is that people who practice gratitude reportedly have a better quality of life. However, this is one of those things in life that you have to experience for yourself before you will be able to fully believe it and before you’ll embrace it into your life.
How Do You Practice Gratitude?
The concept of practicing gratitude begins by creating a habit. Every morning, I write down three things I am grateful for and I can tell you that when I don’t follow my routine, I notice it because my morning feels a bit off. A gratitude journal is a simply writing down what you’re grateful.
You can do this in the morning, evening or at any time that feels right for you.
I also prefer handwriting my gratitude because I believe there is a stronger impact on your brain and mindset. The act of writing seems to wire your brain differently and create a connection between your thoughts and the words on the page.
Does this mean that you can’t or shouldn’t create a digital journal? Absolutely not. If dictating your gratitude or typing it works for you then by all means do that. There are no rules for a gratitude journal.
Why not just set aside a few minutes each day to think about what you’re grateful for? Journaling is the first step to creating a gratitude mindset. After all, the goal isn’t to be grateful for a few minutes each day. The goal is to shift how you think so that gratitude is your natural reaction and thought process.
Once gratitude becomes a part of your daily routine, your thoughts begin to shift. You may not notice this at first but over tie you see how your mind has shifted. For me I noticed it when I stopped struggling financially and just knew all would be well instead of panicking on how things get paid.
So What Do You Need to Start a Gratitude Journal?
There are a few considerations to start your gratitude journal. Not all of them are necessary requirements. However, it’s a good idea to have some sort of plan in place. It will make your gratitude practice easier and more successful.
Gratitude takes practice because shifting your mindset, thoughts, and beliefs isn’t an overnight process. You’ll notice a gradual shift over time. You’ll feel yourself being lighter, more appreciative, and happier. It’s call a gratitude practice for a reason…Gratitude, takes practice. Be patient with yourself and with the process.
We’ve already mentioned a few different options for daily journaling. And the key to know is that finding the time that works for you is where you’ll find you do it more habitually. I referenced that I do this daily – and for me morning works best with my first cup of coffee.
But perhaps you journal at night after you get ready for bed but before you close your eyes. For it to become a habit, you have to incorporate it into your daily life at the same time every day. Make it part of your day.
What are you going to use to journal? Are you going to use a mobile application? Are you going to use a notebook? There are some truly beautiful notebooks. You can find them leather bound for a rustic look or shiny for the fashionista.
You can find composition books with patterned covers or character covers. You might also want a pen or pencil that makes you smile and feel grateful. I actually found that the Panda Planner meets my needs quite well as it has a spot for just that.
The time you spend journaling your gratitude should ideally be uninterrupted time. It should be free from distractions including people, text messages, and phone calls. This time allows you to reflect on the day as well as your thoughts and feelings. And if you’re using a gratitude prompt, then the quiet time will help you find your answer.
Where Do You Find Gratitude?
Finding gratitude can feel challenging. On the first day of your practice you may find yourself sitting at your desk just staring at an empty page. The day was lousy, you’re exhausted, and maybe the gratitude practice just isn’t for you.
You may also find yourself staring at a blank page in your gratitude journal on day 28. You’ve run out of things to be grateful for. You have nothing else to write down. You feel like you’ve hit all the biggies and now you’re thinking about writing down that you’re grateful for push-pins and dust bunnies.
Well, it’s okay to be grateful for push-pins and dust bunnies. There are no rules. Just like there’s nothing too small or too big to be grateful for.
Let’s also say that if you take the time to look around you, to reflect on yourself, your life, your day, and your surroundings, you’ll never run out of things to be grateful for. So let’s start with a list of 25 ideas on where to find gratitude.
- Your body; your health and what your body is capable of.
- Stories; books, movies, plays and more.
- Personal attributes
- Situations or events
- Material items
- In your home
- At work.
Think about each of these items individually. When you’re struggling to find something to be grateful for, you now have 24 categories to choose from.
You don’t have to write down hundreds of things you’re grateful for each day. Strive for somewhere between three and ten.
Your Next Step Get the journal and print it out. It contains 100 tips, quotes, and gratitude prompts to get you started. You can work through them day by day or skip around. There is no right or wrong way to practice gratitude. The practice itself is where the power resides.