Previously on this blog I’ve written about the benefits of keeping a journal. Today I’d like to expand on that.
There are many types of journals–diaries, travel journals, food journals, etc, but there’s another kind of journal that does more than keep track of your life. There’s a journaling practice that’s been proven to reduce stress and improve happiness. It’s known as Gratitude Journaling.
There’s no doubt that every day we’re bombarded with negative images and messages. Everything in the world is (and always has been) dire. Everyone is stressed. And all of us eventually have to do things like pay taxes and attend funerals. If we only listened to the world around us, we’d never believe that anything good ever happens. We’d only believe that life is hard and then it’s over.
But there’s another way to look at life. Despite all of the difficulties found in adulting, there are also good times. There are weddings and comedy clubs and birthday parties. There’s the surprise reunion with an old friend and a last minute cup of tea with your neighbor who just happened to bring over homemade cookies warm from the oven.
A Gratitude Journal is one of those things in life that’s simple yet not easy. (Like dieting!) It’s nothing more than a daily record of your blessings, of things you’re grateful for, or even just the things that made you smile. It’s an accounting of the good things and people and moments of your life. Keeping a gratitude journal takes you out of the chaos in your head and allows you to clearly see the truth of your life, not what the mass media want you to believe.
There are no rules to keeping a gratitude journal. On simple way is to start by keeping a notebook by your bedside table and every night, before you go to sleep, write down five things you’re grateful for. It could be as simple as the fact the leftovers you had for dinner tasted better the second night. Or the unexpected text message with smiling emojis you received from a friend. It doesn’t matter what the five things are, just that you mentally review your day and record them.
Here are a few ideas to help you succeed:
- Write frequently, at least three times a week. Daily is even better. Regardless of how often you journal, pick a time of day and a place in which to work and be consistent. Do you want to journal in bed before going to sleep? During lunch in the patio behind your office building? Before dinner while your food is in the oven? Just pick one that works for you!
- While you’re recording these five things, be as specific as possible. When you read the entry over later, you don’t want to just remember the event or moment. You want to remember the emotions associated with it. Being specific amplifies gratitude. Saying you’re grateful that your neighbor brought over homemade cookies after she heard about your horrible day at work brings forth more emotions than just saying you appreciate your neighbors.
- Record events and moments that were complete surprises and how grateful you are for what happened. I don’t mean just surprise parties. It’s more about unexpected moments like someone paying for you coffee or a pretty card received in the mail.
- If you find yourself being grateful every day for the same thing (and that’s okay!), try to focus on a different aspect of this thing so you can elicit a different emotion. When good things happen, we often experience multiple emotions. See if you can describe the hidden ones.
- Treat all of these recordable events as gifts. Not like birthday presents, but like small gifts you weren’t expecting. Treating these moments like gifts helps foster gratitude.
- Don’t be afraid to list negative things that you’re grateful for. Sometimes negative things are a blessing in disguise, although it may take us time to realize that. But when you do suddenly realize why you didn’t get that job or why that person you dated once didn’t call you back is actually a good thing, write it down!
- Keep it pretty. This is not a rule, just a suggestion. By using different colored pens and washi tape and adding in small photos and postcards, etc, the journal becomes even more personal. Besides, sometimes it’s fun to write in different colors! For those who don’t like to decorate, choose a journal with paper you love and the perfect pen. When you love what you’re writing with, it becomes a joy instead of a chore.
Do you keep a gratitude journal? I’d love to know in the comments!
Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.
Her acclaimed debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.