Our days rarely go according to plan or without unexpected challenges. The ability to appreciate what works well is a special gift that some of us have. Others need to cultivate a sense of appreciation, as it is a vital way of powerfully transforming our lives.
Keeping a gratitude journal lets us assess those aspects of our lives for which we feel grateful. This practice “fires up” our brain to be more appreciative. Rather than focusing on the disappointments and setbacks that we invariably experience, we train our minds to tease out the sweetness of our days.
Perhaps this means lunch with a dear friend, a walk with your beloved dog, a yummy cup of coffee, or a great yoga class. These can be the moments that we learn to savor, rather than dwelling on the stuff that brings us down.
Choosing to be grateful in a deliberate and systematic way, by keeping a journal, helps to quiet down the negativity and build a more positive perspective. The shift in what we choose to focus on can make a profound difference in the moment–to-moment experience of our lives.
Instructions for keeping a gratitude journal:
- Choose a notebook that you can keep by your bedside at night and use exclusively for your gratitude writing. Find another place to keep notes during the day such as your phone, a small notebook or laptop. It is best to write things down when they come to mind, if possible. Most of us are not trained to tease out the lovely moments of our day, until we get some appreciation training!
- Try to write 3-5 events in your journal each night, so that you go to bed remembering the positive aspects of the day. The mind is most receptive to ideas and memories when we are in a relaxed state. Don’t be surprised if this practice stokes your creativity engine. You might also notice yourself sleeping more deeply and having better dreams.
- Aim to write consistently in your gratitude journal. Developing this good habit will lift your spirits and will have lasting benefits such as emotional resilience, greater self-esteem, more fulfilling relationships an enhanced sense of well-being.
- Just keep writing and adding to your journal without judging and assessing. In time the ritual of writing will become more ingrained and pleasurable. Eventually you might find yourself noticing events that otherwise might have been missed or ignored.
- Keep in mind that your experience of gratitude need not only be written in your journal. Showing appreciation and thankfulness to the people in your life also develops greater happiness, optimism and connection. Both the giver and receiver of gratitude receive physical and psychological benefits. They also tend to like each other more as a result of being appreciated!
What do you feel grateful for today? How can you express your appreciation to someone you love?