A little while back I came across the concept of a gratitude journal. It's such a simple idea, and yet I can honestly say it's had a profound effect on my mood and the way I perceive the world. In fact, I'm such a convert that I want to spread the word to anyone who hasn't yet heard of a gratitude journal. So without any further ado…
A gratitude journal is quite simply just that, a journal in which you write the things you're grateful for. However, unlike a normal journal or diary, you're only allowed to write positive things in a gratitude journal.
Why keep a gratitude journal?
It can be easy to slip into the habit of focussing attention on the negatives in life. Perhaps you're worn out by ill-health, or you might be experiencing financial difficulties. You may be unhappy with your current circumstances, or consumed by a desire to own something you just can't afford,or it could be another reason altogether. Whatever the cause, it's pretty miserable to feel negative all the time, and if that's how you feel then chances are you're attracting negative people or situations into your life, which just perpetuates a cycle of negativity.
Keeping a daily gratitude journal may help you to turn this around. By making a conscious decision to focus your attention on the positive side of life you can start to shift your thinking from negative to positive. The more you look for the good things in life, the more you'll find.
How do I keep a gratitude journal?
Firstly, you'll need a place to record your entries. You can use a notebook, a diary, a journal, a file on your computer or other method. The important thing is to pick something that's going to work for you, because you need to be motivated to make daily entries in your gratitude journal. If a beautifully covered book will help motivate you, choose that, but if you prefer technology you may choose a computer file or even a blog (just have a think about whether you want your entries to be private or open to be read by the rest of the world!).
Once you've chosen how you're going to record your entries, you just need to start. Each day, record in your gratitude journal the things you're grateful for that day. If you find it hard to remember the things you're grateful for when you sit down to write in your gratitude journal, it might help to make notes as things occur to you during the day.
I write in my gratitude journal each night, just before I go to sleep. For me, this means that I end each day on a positive note, I seem to sleep more peacefully, and I start each day in a brighter mood. But again, it's important to pick a time when you're going to be the most motivated to write in your gratitude journal. The important thing is to commit to making entries every day.
Opinions vary as to how many things to record in your gratitude journal each day "“ some people suggest that you list one thing, other people suggest that you record up to five or more things. I've found five to be a happy medium, simply because the first two or so things come to me reasonably easily each day, but I often have to stretch to get to four or five.
I've also seen seen it said that you shouldn't record the same thing twice in your gratitude journal. I think it's up to you. I try to avoid saying the same thing on consecutive days, but sometimes I'm just truly grateful for something that I've been grateful for before, and I think that's ok.
Really, the one hard and fast rule is that you can only record positive things. Otherwise, I'd figure out what works best for you, and stick with that.
When you start, and on good days, you may find it relatively easy to think of things to be grateful for. After a while, and particularly on difficult days, it can be a struggle. However, it's on the difficult days that it's most important to make entries in your gratitude journal, as it's on those days that you need your positive outlook the most. When I'm having a particularly trying day, and it seems hard to imagine that there could be anything to be grateful for, I've found it really useful to re-read my earlier journal entries to help to reframe my outlook and get some inspiration.
You might also want to mix it up when it comes to the things you record in your gratitude journal. I sometimes find that I've been focussing on one area of my life (for example, my family or my job), and when that happens I try to expand my horizons by including other aspects of my life (a smile from a stranger as I walked around the grocery store, or having a particularly great cup of coffee).
Once you get the hang of recording the things you're grateful for in your journal, why not try spreading the gratitude with the people around you. Thank the person who made the great cup of coffee, pass on the smile to another stranger, send some good vibes to a friend in a postcard or email, or let your colleagues know how much you appreciate them. You might also like to visit Gratitude Connection to share your daily gratitude journal entries, and to see what other people are grateful for.
Today I'm grateful for…the opportunity to share what I've learned about gratitude journals. I'd love to learn about your experiences with gratitude journals, and to hear what you're grateful for today.