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.