JOURNALING: How & Why to Try a Gratitude Journal (
Many people process thoughts, emotions and feelings through journal writing. But you don’t always have to pour your heart and soul onto the page to benefit. There’s as many different ways of journaling as there are notebooks, ledgers and bound books to write in.
A Gratitude Journal is an excellent vehicle to test the journal-writing waters, since it’s a positive, supportive, and non-demanding way to track your days.
What is a Gratitude Journal?
A gratitude journal is simply a notebook or ledger where you write down daily things you are grateful for. You could also use your computer, tablet or smartphone. The quickest way to start is to jot down a single thing you’re grateful for in your calendar.
“A slightly more involved way to journal your blessings is to challenge yourself to write three to five things you’re grateful for each day,” offers Cheryl Lynch Simpson, career coach and journaling instructor at Ed2go.com.
You may be tempted to jot down the same things every day, Simpson says. I’m grateful for my home, my family, and food on the table are common. But this kind of repetition gets boring. Zero in on details that inspire you, make you laugh or smile, or touch you in some way.
- The beautiful flowers on the way to work
- The glass of wine enjoyed with my spouse
- The compliment my sister gave me today
You’ll start to notice a heightened awareness of moments you want to add to your gratitude journal—a kindness shown to you, a funny thing your child said, or a random moment you might have otherwise overlooked.
Why Keep a Gratitude Journal?
A gratitude journal is a simple way to get into journaling, and is good for all ages.
“It’s a low-cost, easy-to-implement form of journaling that can be accomplished in less than a minute a day, yet it uplifts, empowers, and engenders a positive outlook on life,” notes Simpson.
Gratitude journaling can help support you at times when you feel down or frustrated, or are in transition. It helps build your ability to reflect on your life and cultivate self-awareness, self-confidence, and improved optimism.
What Are the Benefits?
A gratitude journal forces you reflect on all you have to be thankful for. Some days you might have big, concrete things like a promotion or a vacation. Other days may be as trivial as a good cup of coffee. But gratitude is a transformative emotion that empowers you to cope with challenging life circumstances. One 2011 study in the journal Applied Psychology found that people who practice gratitude could quiet their minds and sleep better than those who didn’t.
It may be because gratitude is a healing emotion that refocuses your attention from what you don’t have, to what you do, Simpson points out. Gratitude journaling gives you a daily infusion of positive thinking and helps you exercise your optimism, instead of focusing on the negative.
Other Styles of Gratitude Journaling
Blessing jar: Write down something you’re thankful for everyday day on a small piece of paper and store it in a gratitude or blessing jar. It’s fun and revealing to go through the jar and pull out random snippets of paper to remind yourself of all you’re grateful for. Doing so can especially help you get through a tough day.
Free writing: Free-writing gratitude journaling tracks not only gratitude, but what you’re grateful for that you don’t have yet, but want. Write anywhere from 5 to 10 sentences on a blank page of paper sharing what you’re grateful to have now. “After that, sprinkle in gratitude statements about what you don’t have yet (but pretend you do),” suggests Maddy Moon, a speaker, coach, and retreat leader. The idea is that sending out positive messages about the things you want to happen—a promotion or move to a new city—releases them to the universe, helping you manifest them.
Right-hand/left-hand journaling: Claudia Matles, a certified wellness instructor, has clients write “What are you grateful for?” in the hand they write with. They then write their response with the opposite hand. Using the non-dominant hand forces you to respond from a more fragile, authentic place, since writing this way takes focus and concentration, and forces you out of your comfort zone.
Woo-hoo moments: Record only your woo-hoo or “yahoo” moments of the day—things you did well, that made you smile or feel proud, says Kimberly Hershenson, a therapist based in New York City. “The emotional release can help improve stress, anxiety and sleep.”
Other articles of interest:
- Bedtime Reading Recos to Fall Asleep
- JOURNALING: How & Why to Try a Problem-Solving Journal (Part 2)
- JOURNALING: How & Why to Try a Visual Journal (Part 3)
- JOURNALING: How & Why to Try a Dream Journal (Part 4)
- JOURNALING: How & Why to Try a Feelings Journal (Part 5)
- JOURNALING: How & Why to Try a Sleep Journal (Part 6)
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