Last Updated on March 2, 2020
If you were asked what you were grateful for in this moment, what would you say? Would you have a ready answer? Are there any small moments in your life that you consider worth being thankful for?
It’s easy to think that life hands you lemons and throws curveballs your way. The difference you can make lies in what you do with those lemons and curveballs.
Should you figuratively throw them back at life, or will you accept these hurdles, small victories, and unique learning experiences and be thankful for them all the same? When certain moments in life get overwhelming, would you take the time to express gratitude?
Gratitude is being thankful for and appreciating what you receive. The act of acknowledging the good in your life can even make you happier, according to Harvard Health. Gratitude allows you to connect with something bigger and greater than yourself. It also makes you feel more positive emotions and helps you deal with difficult times.
Each person feels and expresses gratitude in different ways, but one’s things for certain: practicing gratitude can be cultivated. You can start by being thankful for your childhood, or by being present in the moment, or by being hopeful for the things to come. Perhaps you may even already be practicing some of these and just aren’t aware of it.
One of the ways that you can begin practicing gratitude consciously is through keeping a gratitude journal.
Gratitude and Its Science-backed Benefits
Gratitude has a number of benefits proven by science. Aside from emotional benefits, gratitude can have a positive impact on your social relationships, personality, health, and even career.
Gratitude has also been shown to promote an individual’s well-being. According to an article by Dr. Randy A. Sansone and Dr. Lori A. Sansone, experiencing positive feelings such as gratitude and appreciation can help an individual have a better sense of well-being.
Even if you’re not used to expressing it, the practice of gratitude can be cultivated into a healthy habit. Aside from keeping a gratitude journal, here are other ways to practice gratitude regularly:
- Write thank-you letters to individuals who have made an impact in your life.
- Paying it forward, or doing an act of kindness or donating to a cause. If kindness has been given to you, give back an act of kindness to show your gratitude. It doesn’t have to be direct, either.
- Paying attention to how you think, especially in stressful or difficult situations, and choosing to think objectively and clearly can help your mind get into a state of calmness and gratitude.
Benefits of a Gratitude Journal
Dr. Robert A. Emmons (University of California, Davis) and Dr. Michael E. McCullough (University of Miami) both conducted research on gratitude.
In their older studies, they conducted an experimental comparison that showed how individuals who have gratitude journals experience an overall better quality of life and greater optimism for the future compared to individuals who were asked to only record challenges and general life events. Additionally, individuals who kept gratitude journals were more likely to have made progress with their goals.
Writing down what you’re grateful for can give you a fresher perspective on things that are often taken for granted. Writing allows you to refocus on the things that are important to you. A gratitude journal can also help you become more mindful and enable you to learn more about yourself.
Starting Your Gratitude Journal
A gratitude journal is a powerful ally that can change your life for the better. While it may be difficult to see the good in negative situations, a gratitude journal can help you experience the power of simply feeling gratitude and its numerous benefits.
Here are some useful tips to help you start your own gratitude journal—it’s not as difficult as it sounds!
1. Choose your journal.
This is the easiest step. When picking a journal, consider the following factors:
- Are you more of a “traditional” journaler or do you lean towards recording your writings digitally?
- Will you be carrying your journal around or will you be keeping it in one particular place?
It’s also best to keep your gratitude journal separate from your other notebooks, as it helps to focus your writing.
2. Think things through.
Make an effort to become consciously grateful. Don’t just write on your gratitude journal for the sake of complying with your gratitude exercise. Take a moment to be present and internalize what you’re thankful for.
3. Make use of gratitude journal prompts.
Some days, writing may not come as easy as you’d like it to be. Here’s where journal prompts come into play. Almost anything in your life can be used as a journal prompt, from your childhood to your favorite smell. There are also several online you can use as guides in case you’re stuck.
4. Turn the negative into a source of something positive.
Some days are better than others and some end up being worse. During bad days, try to dig deep to find something to be thankful for. The act of finding the good in something bad can have positive health benefits, such as having a positive bearing on health, particularly in individuals who are diagnosed with heart disease.
Maintaining Your Gratitude Journal Habit
While starting a gratitude journal might be the easy part, maintaining the habit of journaling can be a bit more challenging.
These tips can help you keep the habit alive to help you keep enjoying the benefits of being grateful.
1. Consciously turn your gratitude journal into a daily habit.
Make it into a daily habit. When forming a journaling habit, commit to it for a minimum of 21 days. Use this daily repetition to help reinforce your writing habit, until it becomes a part of your routine.
2. Check in with yourself.
Check in with yourself regularly. How have your interactions with yourself and others improved over the course of your journaling? How different are you feeling now? You might be surprised to find how great you’ve progressed since beginning your gratitude journal. Seeing results also helps keep you motivated to continue.
3. Try focusing your journal on four categories, as suggested by Tim Ferriss.
Thinking of topics to be grateful about can be tough. You might get discouraged along the way, which can cause you to abandon your gratitude journal on the wayside.
However, you can organize your thoughts better and help streamline them by focusing on these four categories:
- Simple things
Gratitude is something that may often be overlooked, especially when times get rough. But paying attention to and being thankful for what you have, even for the smallest things, can indeed make impactful changes in your life.
What do you have to be thankful for today?