Once upon a time my coach has asked me to write down three things I am grateful for in a gratitude journal. She wanted me to do this daily for a month and then provide feedback.
There was not ONE thing in my life to be grateful for and the whole task seemed like a complete waste of time. I was not impressed. I had experienced no gratitude at that point and was feeling more like a victim of the circumstances.
I’ve had a gratitude journal for several years now. I could easily fill several pages with everything I am grateful for in my life.
So, what has changed and what is the point of this task?
Our mind is built to focus on the negative. This is why we have survived – our brain had to remember all the dangerous things that could kill us back in the day to make sure we avoid them in the future.
Today we do not need to save ourselves from wild animals. However, the Negativity bias from those days is still there haunting us. The danger of such thinking is that it is a lot easier to focus on negative, than the positive things in your life.
Focusing on the survival is very opposite to living a vibrant, thriving life that you deserve. So you have to teach your brain how to do this with a help of gratitude journal
What does science say about gratitude?
Gratitude journal is known to have the following “side effects”, according to science:
- better quality of sleep
- improved physical performance
- decrease in painful symptoms
- feeling better about yourself
- improved interpersonal relationships
What does a gratitude journal look like?
You don’t need a book. You can write your gratitudes on a piece of paper and throw it out, if it is something very personal. The most important thing is that you do this regularly, at least in the beginning. I prefer to have a diary – this way you will be able to see the progress you are making.
What matters is that you actually write this down as opposed to typing. Use your hand to physically pull words out of your head onto the paper. The process of writing has been know to have therapeutic and meditative effects. This is because when we write, we switch to the creative part of our brain. This part is rarely used nowadays, when we have the machines do everything for us.
Four key points to remember when writing your gratitude journal.
- Do it daily (at least in the beginning). Once you turn it into a habit, you can choose a specific day to do this (Sunday morning, for example).
- Use pen and paper. After a certain time, you may be able to switch to thoughts of gratitude. For example, I love to incorporate gratitude thoughts into my meditations. But I have spent a lot of time practicing the “muscle” of actually writing things down.
- Do it at the same time. In the morning, before going to bed or during your coffee break – whatever suits you best. This will help you turn this into a ritual. Rituals have been shown to “ground” us and bring stability and peace into human lives.
- Write your journal in complete solitude and silence, turning off the sounds. Use headphones if you are in a space with noise where you find it hard to focus. Gift yourself these 5 – 10 minutes! You are your most valuable and precious asset.
How do you start writing gratitude (if nothing comes to mind)?
Valid question! Tim Ferriss, for example, advises beginners to focus on the following points:
- Relationships. Which people in your life you are grateful to have? You can turn to relatives, friends or colleagues. Which of these people were the best Teachers for you and which qualities do they possess that you admire and respect?
- Current opportunities. What are you looking forward to in your day/life? Is there something you are a little better at today than yesterday (failing, for example!)? What are the things or qualities you appreciate in yourself, such as health? What are some of the physical qualities? Your hair, for example.
- Past opportunities. Are you grateful for the education and life lessons you have had in your life? Your past job, dinner you had last night or the chance to have a cup of tea in peace?
- Something else. What is amazing about living where you are living? The country or the city or even the park you walk through every day? A picture or an item which is right in front of you that brings you joy?
If you really don’t know where to start with the gratitude journal, I can give you some of my personal points:
- Warm bed and a roof over my head
- Food and water
- Hands, feet, legs and eyes to enjoy the beauty of the world I live in
- A teacup, gifted to me by my grandmother. I am drinking from it right now while writing this article.
- Beautiful day outside in my favourite city
- My headache is gone (I had one yesterday)
- I love every member of my family dearly and I am grateful to have them in my life
- I really love and value my friendships. Each of my friends is an example of everything that is possible in life.
- I am grateful for people who push me to be better. Even if it is so hard.
- Waking up early and witnessing a beautiful sunrise this morning.
- Having the opportunity to do what I love and enjoy. I love my job!
- Being grateful for you reading this right now. Thank you 💚
PS If you have questions about this article or need help with writing a gratitude journal, drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org.