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5 steps for creating a gratitude journal to cultivate positivity


Do you keep a gratitude journal? I don't -- but I keep something similar -- a "happiness journal," in which I write down all of the things that make me happy. It's a great source of inspiration and a great way to stop and think about all of the things in life that are wonderful. Today's post was written by Lisa Shoreland, a resident blogger at Go College, and she's here to share some great tips with you on how to keep a gratitude journal so you can cultivate positivity in your life! 


Stress, work and family responsibilities, and routine can trap us in a pattern of negative thinking that feeds on itself and creates more stress and unhappiness. This cycle can lead to other ailments, as well, including constant fatigue and even depression. Finding ways to focus on the positive can help reprogram your thoughts and break this cycle.

Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the best ways to retrain your thoughts to focus on the positive things in your life. Studies have shown that keeping a gratitude journal can have many benefits. For example, a study from the University of California showed that participants who kept a gratitude journal complained of fewer physical symptoms, felt happier and more optimistic about their lives, were better able to meet goals, and exercised more. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when starting your own gratitude journal:

1. Choose Your Journal

What works best for you? Do you find that handwriting in a journal helps you slow down and connect with what you’re feeling? Or do you prefer the instant materialization that typing offers? Decide on a format that works best for your needs and preferences, and use it consistently. You may also decide to decorate your journal in ways that remind you of your purpose or help you feel more positive:

  • Attach or paste photos that make you happy on the cover or on random pages
  • Draw photos that depict your positive feelings about the things for which you are grateful
  • Write inspirational quotes or mantras in the margins
  • Notate special anniversaries and write about why you are grateful for those events and people

Personalizing your journal in this way can reinforce your purpose and make you feel more connected to your purpose.

2. Be Consistent

You should write in your gratitude journal every day, and preferably at the same time of day. If you’d like to start your day on a positive note, write in your gratitude journal after you eat breakfast. If you want to use your gratitude journal to reflect after a long and stressful day, write in your journal just before you go to bed. It is important to associate your writing with other key habits, as well. Even if you don’t write at the same time, write in conjunction with the same activity. For example, you could write in your journal on the subway ride home, or after you’ve finished washing the dishes each night, or after you’re done at the gym. Writing at the same time or in correlation with the same activity helps making it a part of your routine, which will help it more quickly become a habit.

3. Write at Least 3 to 5 Things

Decide on a goal for how many things you’d like to express gratitude for each day, but be sure that it is no less than three to five. You can write your entries in a list or in small paragraphs, explaining why it is you are grateful for each. The key is to get in the habit of becoming aware of all the things in your life for which you have to be grateful. It may be hard to come up with three items in the beginning, but once you get in the habit, it will be easy to see the positive in all the things you do.

4. Be as Specific as You Can

In the beginning, it may be hard to find things for which to be grateful, and you may be tempted to list things like “I’m grateful for my health.” While this is certainly something for which to be grateful, try to be more specific and focus on exactly why you are grateful. For example, instead of saying, “I’m grateful for my husband,” you could write:

  • I’m happy to have such an affectionate husband who tells me that he loves me so often.
  • I’m grateful to have such a handsome husband, to whom I am still attracted.
  • I’m lucky to have a husband who picks up his socks.

Or, instead of writing, “I’m grateful for my job,” you could write:

  • I’m lucky to have a job right now even though many of my friends are unemployed.
  • I really like the people I work with every day.
  • I’m grateful to have a job that lets me have a flexible schedule to work around child care.

Focus on specific, positive things, and the things you have to be grateful for will come more into focus for you.

5. Turn Negatives into Positives

Help really transform your thoughts by finding the positive side of negative situations. Instead of dwelling on things that are not working out – maybe a failed relationship, or financial hardships, or health problems – try to find a positive in those situations. For example:

  • I’m upset that relationship didn’t work out, but now I have time to focus on myself and figuring out what I really want and need in a partner.
  • My husband is still unemployed, but I’m grateful that we were able to pay the rent this month.
  • I don’t feel well and I’m worried about my health condition, but I’m grateful for the insight it has given me into how much I want to get out of life.

This will help you learn to focus on the positive in even the most dire situations.Though it may seem difficult and unnatural at first, keeping a gratitude journal and learning to focus on the positive in every situation will help you cultivate a greater sense of happiness and optimism about your life.


Lisa Shoreland is currently a resident blogger at Go College, where recently she's been researching architecture scholarships as well as student loan deferment. In her spare time, she enjoys creative writing, practicing martial arts, and taking weekend trips.


surviving life after college: a how-to guide




When I first started blogging (over two years ago!), one of the first sites I started reading was Life After College. The adventures (and misadventures) of the site's creator, Jenny Blake, weren't entirely unlike my own post-college experiences. In fact, one of the reasons I started Positively Present was because I found myself in the midst of a quarter-life crisis and was searching (sometimes desperately so) to get my bearings in my post-college world. After an entire life of structure and knowing what's next on my path -- grade school, high school, college, grad school -- I found myself face to face with the open ended question that was the rest of my life. Sites like Jenny's inspired and motivated me -- and helped me to feel much less alone as a bumbling twentysomething.

Life After College - Book Cover Having connected with Jenny over the past two years, I'm happy to call her one of my online friends -- and I'm even happier to announce that tomorrow she launching her blog-based book: Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want. As an avid reader of her site, I've been following her progress -- from finding a publisher to writing and editing to the day she opened the box housing the first copies of her book (so awesome!) -- and when I finally received my own copy of the book a few weeks ago, I was thrilled. Even though I've been out of college for a few years now, I cracked open the book and was delighted to find so many valuable resources inside.

I was also delighted to see two of my very own @positivepresent tweets in the Two Cents from Twitter sections of the book (check out pages 163 and 209!). This is Positively Present's first mention in a real, live book and I have to admit that I feel pretty darn excited about being included in such a great book!

Jenny's book is filled with inspiration and insights about: work, money, home, organization, friends, family, dating, relationships, health, fun, relaxation, and personal growth. Sounds like a lot to fit in one book, huh? It is, but what Jenny's done with all of these important and often stress-evoking topics is amazing. She's created a resource that anyone -- from recent graduates to settled-in-their-lives adults -- can benefit from. I know I write a lot of book reviews on my site (I can't help but share some of my favorites with you!), but this is honestly a must-buy. And here's why... 


The 5 Best Things about Life After College

  • Insightful commentary. Jenny, like me, has been through the real life-after-college experience and she shares her trials and tribulations with great honesty and openness in this book. Having gone through it not that long ago (and still going through it today), Jenny's insights are fresh, current, and, quite honestly, inspiring. Whether you're in a similar stage in life to Jenny, you're just about to graduate, or you did ten years ago, you can gain a great deal of insight from reading about Jenny's experiences -- both personal and professional. Anyone interested in personal development will love to dive into this book and learn from Jenny's experiences. 

  • Interactive experiences. The book is filled not only with Jenny's awesome insight and commentary on her personal and professional post-college experiences, but you'll also find that that book contains a great deal of interactivity. Jenny's created the book with the reader in mind and, unlike some books, she doesn't just offer her advice -- she actually helps you get to work implementing it. My absolute favorite thing about the book is that it's chocked full of exercises to get you thinking about your own life. In each section of the book (aka, each segment of your life), Jenny breaks things down for her readers and asks excellent questions, providing space for you to fill in your answers. Filling out the various portions of the book was such a great exercise for me and really helped me to put in perspective what I want from life -- and how I'm going to go about getting it. No matter where you are in your life, you will benefit from these exercises and, even if you do nothing but answer the questions, you'll gain such a great understanding of who you are and who you want to be. 

  • Inspiring motivation. If you need more motivation than actual exercises that will surely spur you into action, look no further! In addition to Jenny's own wisdom, she shares the insights and experiences of others through two awesome segments featured throughout the book: Notable Quotes and Two Cents from Twitter. (As I mentioned above, two of my tweets were picked by Jenny to be used in the book! Yay!) As a lover of quotes and someone interested in hearing others' opinions, I loved reading through these two sections of the book. I starred my favorite quotes and I'm sure you'll be seeing plenty of them on Positively Present soon. Jenny picked some really motivating quotes that correspond with each section so, as you're reading her insights and filling out the exercises with your own ideas, you're also coming across great quotes and tweets that will give you even more motivation to take the lessons from the book to heart. 

  • Incredible price. Normally I don't talk about prices when it comes to books because, in my little world, books are in their own category when it comes to money. I'll pause before buying a new dress or a new iPad app and ask, "Do I really need that?" but when it comes to books, I'm pretty much willing to spend anything, any time. If you weren't aware by now, I adore reading so, to me, spending money on books is just part of life -- like spending money on food or rent. I'm sure I would have paid whatever Jenny was asking for her book, but when I found out that it's less than $10 on Amazon, I was shocked. You can't even get some ebooks for that price! Totally incredible! Jenny's book is filled with amazing advice, insight, and exercises, and it's pretty crazy that you can get it all for less than $10!  

  • Invaluable resources. Almost as much as I loved the Notable Quotes and Two Cents from Twitter (did I mention that my tweets were in the book? pages 163 and 209!), I loved the Recommended Reading sections in the book. If you're a reader like me, you're always looking for new and inspiring books (and, in my case, I'm always looking for good reads to share with you guys!). And if you have Jenny's book in your hand, you don't have to look much further. Throughout the book, she shares tons of great resources -- books you should read, websites to check out, etc. To me, this type of information is invaluable. When you're reading a book like Jenny's and realize you want to explore one of the topics in more detail, one of the best things you can stumble upon is a list of books relating to that topic. Jenny puts it all right in there, right at your fingertips, making it, well, just plain awesome. 

As you can see, I'm pretty into this book. If I were to write a book, this is what I would want it to be -- insightful, entertaining, interactive, and inspiring. And I can honestly say that whether you're about to graduate college, you're a recent graduate, or your college days are a hazy memory, this book is for you. Jenny offers so many great insights on every aspect of post-college life -- and she shares so many excellent resources too! If you're at all interest in learning more about yourself and your life, this is book is a must have. To learn more about the book, check out the Life After College book website. To purchase a copy of the book, check it out on Amazon. And if you can't wait to get started on getting what you want, download the free 10-step checklist from Jenny's site. It's a great way to get started on the path to living an awesome post-college life -- the life you most definitely deserve to be living! 


 What advice would you offer for living life after college? 
If you're still in college or just out of college,
what advice would you like to receive?  


words to live by: noah + the whale





"Life is Life"

Well he used to be somebody

And now he's someone else
Took apart his old life
Left it on the shelf
Sick of being someone
He did not admire
Took up all his old things
Set em all on fire

He's gonna change
Gonna change his ways
Gonna change
Gonna change his ways

And it feels like his new life can start
And it feels like heaven

Left his house at midnight
Resolute and young
In search of something greater
Than the person he'd become
Threw his bags on to the back
Of his run down eighties car
Headed out to god knows where
The distance is too far

He's gonna change
Gonna change his ways
Gonna change
Gonna change his ways

And it feels like his new life can start
And it feels like heaven
And it feels like his new life can start
And it feels like heaven

(Your life is your life gotta live like it's your life)

And it feels like his new life can start
And it feels like heaven
And it feels like his new life can start
And it feels like heaven

Lisa likes brandy and the way it hits her lips
She's a rock 'n' roll survivor with pendulum hips
She's got deep brown eyes
That've seen it all

Working at a nightclub that was called The Avenue
The bar men used to call her "Little Lisa, Loney Tunes"
She went down on almost anyone

From the hard time living 'til the Chelsea days
From when her hair was sweet blonde 'til the day it turned gray
She said:

You've got more than money and sense, my friend
You've got heart and you go in your own way
What you don't have now will come back again
You've got heart and you go in your own way

Some people wear their history like a map on their face
And Joey was an artist just living out of case
But his best word was his letters home

His standard works of fiction about imaginary success
The chorus girls in neon were his closest things to friends
But to a writer, the truth is no big deal

From the hard time living to the sleepless nights
And the black and blue body from the weekend fights
He'd say:


You've got more than money and sense, my friend
You've got heart and you go in your own way
What you don't have now will come back again
You've got heart and you go in your own way

On my last night on earth, I won't look to the sky
Just breathe in the air and blink in the light
On my last night on earth, I'll pay a high price
To have no regrets and be done with my life


You've got more than money and sense, my friend
You've got heart and you go in your own way
What you don't have now will come back again
You've got heart and you go in your own way


"Waiting for My Chance to Come"
Well I'm just waiting for my chance to come
Just a silhouette against the rising sun
Watch the water, watch the sky
Count the days as they go by
I'm just waiting for my chance to come

Well it takes real guts to be alone
Going head to head with the great unknown
But there is no sweeter sound, on the kings round I'm bound
And just waiting for your chance to come

'Cause it's hard to feel like, you're worth something in this life
When you're walking next to me, I can hear my body speak
We're just waiting for a chance to come
We're just waiting for a chance to come

Your immortal smile is burned in me
When I close my eyes its all see
Among the canyons and the stars
You're the guide inside my heart
I'm just waiting for my chance to come

And you're just looking for a way outta here
Yeah, a way to see this old life all disappear
Take a gamble on your heart, it will lead you through the dark
You're just waiting for your chance to come

'Cause it's hard to feel like, you're worth something in this life
When you're walking next to me, I can hear my body speak
We're just waiting for a chance to come
We're just waiting for a chance to come

And no one's gunna get in my way
Gunna figure it out for myself
Yeah no one's gunna make me stay
Gunna figure it out for myself

'Cause I don't need nothing
I'm just waiting for my chance to come

"First Day of Spring"
It's the first day of spring
And my life is starting over again
The trees grow, the river flows
And its water will wash away my sins
For I do believe that everyone has one chance
To fuck up their lives
But like a cut down tree, I will rise again
And I'll be bigger and stronger than ever before

"Do What You Do"
There's a pleasure
We must all feel
And it's a pleasure I know
Of losing your heart
And then letting love grow

What can I say
Any simpler
That now is all there is
That you're free to be any person
And you're all that you give

'Cause my bones were made in the womb
And now the brains are leaving my tomb
And every piece will be consumed
By the love my heart endured

But if you do
What you do
Yeah, you'll do fine
Yeah, if you do
What you do
Yeah, well, you'll do fine

Oh, and when love comes a-calling
Don't forget the tune
And when love comes a-calling
Don't forget the tune
And just do what you do

Oh, and the ones who taught you how to live
Oh, they know no more than you
So if you trust what's in your heart
Oh, what better can you do
Than if you do what 


I recently came across this awesome, Tom Petty-esque band, Noah & the Whale. Their lyrics are pretty inspiring and, when I tried to choose just one song to share with you, I couldn't so I thought I'd share a bunch of my favorites with you here. Enjoy! 

"Words To Live By" is a segment on Positively Present that features my favorite quote or lyrics from the week. Every Sunday I post a quote or lyrics that have inspired me with the hope that they'll inspire you too. Comments will be closed on these posts, but feel free to tweet the post if you enjoy it or contact me via Twitter