6 Ways Filling in a Gratitude Journal Will Change your Life
Recently, it feels like gratitude has become a buzzword.
You see it all over social media, people throwing gratitude questions away like rice on a bride and groom, you can even find infographics on Pinterest to help you learn how to become more grateful.
Gratitude will change your life!
Gratitude makes every day better!
Gratitude reduces stress! Anxiety! Nervousness! Fear!
Gratitude is the winning attitude!
And for the sake of honesty, I’ll share what I think about that.
Well, it’s true.
As cheesy as it sounds, gratitude changes your life.
So, what is a practice of gratitude, exactly?
It’s deciding to focus - every day - on what you are happy to have in your life. You can focus on the simple things, or the big things, or mix them. The most important part here is 'deciding;' it's a conscious act you're doing for yourself.
I was introduced to gratitude journals through Alex & Mimi Ikonn, the co-founders of Intelligent Change, the company that created the 5 Minute Journal (and even a kids version!) and the Productivity Planner, two great tools to initiate, well, smart change in your life.
I am now on page 239, which means I have officially written in the journal for 239 days; I stopped writing in it for a couple of months, and also used the Daily Greatness Yoga Journal for a month or two, which works more or less the same way. Some days, I just do it in my head if I forget.
During winter, I write that I’m grateful for the roof over my head and the blankets to keep me warm almost every single day. When I book a plane ticket, I write that I’m grateful for the opportunities to travel. When I hug my husband, I write that I’m grateful to have someone kind and reliable to spend my every day with. When I wake up thirsty, I write that I’m grateful for unlimited access to water.
What matters when writing in your journal is meaning your words
You can really write about anything and everything. What matters is that you really feel whatever you’re writing about - leaving the robot mode, which can be tempting when you open the same journal every single day. The idea is to really mean what you’re writing, to really feel that everything you can enjoy in your life doesn’t have to be there.
How to keep a gratitude journal:
The easiest thing is to simply make a list of 3 things you are grateful for when you wake up. The 5 Minute Journal gives you an inspiring quote every day and sometimes a weekly challenge (like to smile at a stranger or re-watch a movie that uplifts your mood). There’s also a space for 3 things that will make your day great and 2 lines to write affirmations to determine the mindset you want to be in during the day. In the evening, you take 5 minutes before bed to write down 3 things that you loved and something that you could improve.
Why does having a gratitude practice change your life?
Here are the top 6 reasons I have to convince you to start keeping a gratitude journal today.
1. It forces you to stop being entitled.
Whether we’re talking about access to water or to the latest iPhone, it is easy to forget you can enjoy these things because you were born on the right side of the planet, or of a continent, or in the right family. Writing that you are grateful for these things puts to the forefront of your mind that it is not the norm to enjoy them, and that you could be in a situation where you wouldn’t be able to. And because you can never plan a disease or an accident, recognizing your healthy body and mind also seems like an important thing to do.
2. It puts things into perspective.
Simply put, your life could be much worse than the way it is now. The simple fact that you are reading these words means that you have access to an electronic device + internet, which means these are things you can focus on instead of worrying whether you’ll have enough money to eat or pay rent at the end of the month.
3. It builds your compassion.
Because you could have it worse, it means other people probably do have it worse. If you appreciate what you have, you can feel sympathy for those who don’t, maybe even take action to help. Need I say more?
4. It helps you create a positive mindset.
I think I’ve made my point already but waking up realizing you have everything you need and more will only improve the rest of your day. Working to feel more grateful automatically puts you in a positive mindset, and whenever negative thoughts come up, you can go back to this sense of gratitude and see the bigger picture: everything is well in your world.
Everything is well in your world
5. It allows you to be curious.
Asking yourself about what it is that you appreciate in your life puts you in a questioning mode; you’re training your brain to feel curious every morning and chances are this will infuse in other areas of your life. Making sure you have space for curiosity in your life enables you to stay open to learning and growth, which can only take you to interesting places.
6. It creates a space for everyday beauty and small miracles.
What about writing down that you’re grateful for birds chirping outside your window when Spring comes round? Or for how juicy and sweet apples are? Or for the sun rising and setting every day - without any human intervention whatsoever? Or for how nice it feels to make eye contact? The world is filled with colors, smells, sensations - just waiting for you to notice them - and your gratitude journal will help you do just that.
Do you have a gratitude journal? What's one reason you like to fill it in every day?
P.s. To kickstart your gratitude practice if you don’t have one already, I challenge you to write a list of 108 gratitude today (108 is a sacred number in yoga). The more you’ll write, the easier it’ll be to come up with things you’re grateful for. There is so, so, so much to be grateful for.
The resources I use:
- The 5-minute Journal
- The 5-minute Journal App (which my husband uses; the bonus is that you can add a picture to your day!)
- Daily Greatness Yoga Journal
- Tips to keep a gratitude journal from Greater Good Magazine (UC Berkley)
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