Before sharing my personal experience on keeping a gratitude journal, I would like to briefly talk about what gratitude is and the benefits of expressing gratitude.
So what is gratitude anyway?
Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one already has, as opposed to, for example, a consumer-driven emphasis on what one wants.
Benedictine monk, Br. David Steindl-Rast, underlines two qualities with regards to gratitude:
– Appreciation – you recognize that something is valuable to you, which has absolutely nothing to do with its monetary worth.
– the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves
There are many benefits of expressing gratitude, and these benefits are particularly obvious in the practice of gratitude journaling. It only takes a few minutes each day.
The problem is that it’s not enough to simply decide to be grateful – we must actively practice it until it becomes a habit.
For some of us, starting and maintaining a journal can be difficult at first because it’s just another thing one has to remember to do. This is exactly how it was for me at the beginning. I’ve been looking back through my gratitude journal and I’ve noticed how difficult it was until I’ve managed to make a habit out of it.
I have first started at the beginning of 2017, if I can even say I’ve started then, as I’ve only written down the date and nothing else. And so it went for the first four days of January 2017. That is how committed I was…
My first gratitude note was written on 5th f January 2017. And then, again, I’ve skipped a few days until the 9th and so on. Basically, it was quite a struggle to follow through.
Since 26th of January till 8th of September…nothing. Not even one page, not even one word. Completely blank. No gratitude.
September and October were again a bit of a struggle, not really writing regularly. Up until the 25th of November, when something changed. I‘ve moved my gratitude journal on my nightstand and I said to myself that I will write in it each night, even if it’s just a few words, but I will write something. No more waiting for the right time to make a commitment and stick to it.
And since that day, I keep writing in my gratitude journal, every single evening, just before going to sleep. It’s now a part of me, a part of who I am.
Not only have I noticed what a struggle it was to form this habit but I have also observed another interesting fact. At the beginning, I would only write down a few lines, not much to be grateful for apparently. But soon enough, the things I was grateful for started flowing and pages were filling up quickly. My perspective soon changed. All those little things I was taking for granted now turned into blessings. For me personally, this is the most beneficial aspect of keeping a gratitude journal: becoming aware of the gifts I am blessed with every single day. Even when I have a bad day, I am still able to find the good things that happened to me; shifting the perspective from what I want and I don’t have yet to what I have and what I receive each day has had a huge impact in my life, helping me to easily overcome the bad days that we all have.
After keeping a gratitude journal for a while, you will soon realise it’s well worth it, this I promise you! Keep at it every night until it becomes a habit. Hopefully, writing in your gratitude journal will stop feeling like a chore because it really is a peaceful time to just sit down and write about all the things you are thankful for.
Some of the benefits I have personally discovered by keeping a gratitude journal:
– Feel more relaxed and calm at night before going to sleep.
– It’s an exercise to help you become more present, more aware.
– With time you will notice how your reasons for gratitude will become more and more abundant.
– Your bad days won’t be as bad, as you will find that each day is filled with things, people, actions, that sometimes we take for granted.
– You can remind yourself of nice things that happened, memories, when you look back in your journal.
– It’s a habit that brings along a peaceful time, to unwind, to just sit down and write about all the things you are thankful for.
Here are a few tips for keeping a gratitude journal:
– Give yourself 5-10 min in the evening to write in your gratitude journal.
– Keep your journal on your nightstand so you can have it handy and see it before going to bed.
– Don’t worry about how and what you should write, just write down whatever you want, whatever comes to mind.
– You can keep it as simple as: ‘’I am grateful for the nice walk this morning, for the soup my friend brought me today….
– Sometimes you might skip a night or two. That is ok too. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
– Be creative – you can include anything: movie tickets, photos, silly drawings from a friend of yours that put a smile on your face. Anything at all. It doesn’t even have to be a list.
– When you get a surprise – be sure to write it down. One day I got a message from a friend’s mom. She cooked a soup she knew I liked and she wanted to give me some. It was a really nice surprise.
– Write down when your friends, your family, the people in your life do small things for you. Once, a friend of mine knew I was broke and sick and she brought me food that day. People thinking of you… now that’s something to be grateful for!
So go on. Give it a try. I would love to hear how you get on!