Why keep a gratitude journal, you might ask? That is an excellent question my dear friend, one that I hope answer for you here.
First off, the most exciting aspect of practicing gratitude is that it costs nothing. See when you are going through a tough time, it can be hard to remember to be grateful for all the good things the universe has given you but writing in your gratitude journal often, you are able to reflect just what you have been blessed with. Also, there are stacks of benefits that can be gained from writing and expressing gratitude.
So what exactly is ‘Gratitude’?
Gratitude – Comes for the Latin work ‘gratus’ meaning ‘pleasing, thankful’. The quality of being thankful or readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. It is being grateful for what one has.
It starts with acknowledging the goodness in your life. In a state of gratitude, you say ‘yes’ to life. You affirm that all in all, life is good, and has elements that make it not just worth living, but rich in texture and detail. Acknowledging that you have received something gratifies you, both by its presence and by the effort the giver put into choosing it.
Gratitude is recognizing that some sources of this goodness lies outside of your self. At this stage, the object of gratitude is other-directed; for you can be grateful to other people, to animals, and to the world, but not to oneself. At this stage, you recognize not only the goodness in our lives, but who is to thank for it, and who has made sacrifices so that you could be happy.
Tossing off the half-hearted “thanks” won’t cut it, for deep gratitude has to come from within and in a meaningful way. Practicing gratitude means paying attention to what we are thankful for to the degree of feeling more kindness and compassion towards the world at large. It can motivate people to make positive changes in their lives.
Studies show that people can deliberately cultivate gratitude by literally counting their blessings and writing letters of thanks. This proactive acknowledgment can increase well-being, health and happiness. Being grateful and especially the expression of it, is also associated with increased energy, optimism and empathy.
Why keeping a gratitude journal, will be beneficial for you;
- Improves your psychological health. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
- You are likely to feel closer to friends, family, loved ones and opens the door to even more relationships. Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends, according to a 2014 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or send a thank-you note to that colleague who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities.
- You are likely to enjoy life more. Grateful people are more likely to behave in a pro-social manner, even when others behave less kindly, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. The participants experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.
- It is good for your physical health. Grateful people experience feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, as they are more likely to take care of their own health. They seem to exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups.
- It is easier to cope with tough times. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy, found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder.
A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for – even during the worst times – fosters resilience.
We tend to remember when bad things happen, and which can make us unhappy. If we make the effort to increase how often we experience gratitude, it can balance out our emotions. Now that does not mean you should ignore/forget your problems, or that the things wrong with your life are unimportant. It just means that good memories will also stick in your mind, so you get to enjoy them for longer.
How do you feel after writing in your gratitude journal?
1. Write. Take about 5 – 15 minutes or so a day or every couple of days, to think of and write down the things that may have happened to you since the previous day or days that you’re glad you were able to experience. This is the time to get really specific about each moment that brought you joy.
A great way to get into a routine is to write in your gratitude journal before bed, or if you prefer another time during the day, you can set a reminder on your phone. I personally enjoy writing at night so that I can include things that I am grateful for, from that day.
2. Take pictures. Set yourself a mission to photograph little things in your everyday life that make you smile and place them in your gratitude journal. As the old saying goes ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, holds true here.
3. Tell Others. Tell someone that you are grateful to have them in your life, whether it is someone you look up to, or someone who just makes you happy. Take the time to tell them how you feel.
You don’t have to think up a whole bunch of really significant things in order to be grateful. You can be grateful for the smallest things, such as the sunshine, your morning coffee, or the fact that you made it to your train on time. Be sure to stretch yourself beyond the great stuff right in front of you. Opening your eyes to more of the world around you can deeply enhance your gratitude practice. Make a game out of noticing new things each day.
If you have children, take a moment with them before bed-time, to ask them, what they are grateful for and this is a great opportunity for you to share with them as well.
Becoming a more grateful person helps you to network, increase your decision-making capabilities, increase your productivity, and helps you achieve your career goals, as well as making your workplace a more friendly and enjoyable place to be.
It is time to begin your gratitude journey…
So go ahead and get your self a gratitude journal, and start jotting down all the beautiful things that this life has given you. Comment below what you are grateful for right now. I would love to hear them.
I am grateful for all the beautiful people that have taken the time to read this and I am grateful for the journey that they are about to undertake.
Lots of Love
(Co-founder of divinelymindfulmeditation.com)
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