A guide to starting a gratitude journal (and actually keeping it)
If you’re looking to practice more mindfulness in your day-to-day, keeping a gratitude journal can be a grounding and effective practice. Here’s a guide to get you started.
Gratitude journaling is a simple yet powerful tool to practise mindfulness and reap the benefits of gratitude on a daily basis. When you are experiencing visceral emotions like grief, anger, sadness or anxiety, gratitude journaling helps to shift the focus towards positive emotions and work as a stimulus for motivation when you need it most.
Even going through the bleakest days, you will find something to be grateful for. The underlying principle behind gratitude journals is to get into the habit of being thankful that serves as a reminder of our blessings and help us stay more connected to the present reality. According to the latest research, showing gratitude for the positive outcomes in our lives has many surprising health benefits that include better sleep, improved mental health, better mood and a healthy heart.
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How do you start a gratitude journal that you will keep?
Gratitude journal immediately disconnects us from a toxic or negative mindset and nudge us to prioritise self-care. And it doesn’t even have to take too much time. Just five or more minutes a day are enough. Before you lay the groundwork for gratitude journaling, know that there is no right or wrong way to go about it.
As you embark on your gratitude journey, bear these tips in mind to make the most of this practice.
Getting yourself the perfect gratitude journal
Choose a journal – textbook or digital – or whatever resonates with you. You can pick a physical journal – lined, unlined or a mobile app to jot down thoughts. Remember that it doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but you should feel good while writing on it.
Picking a specific time to write
You can write at any time of the day. The focus should be on making it a habit to reinforce feelings of thankfulness and positivity. For example, you can choose to write in the morning and start your day on a positive note. You can also integrate it into your nighttime routine to help you sleep peacefully. Ensure that you do it every day and set aside the ‘gratitude time’ that works for you. It is easy to get into a routine by associating it with other habits or rituals like making evening tea.
Choosing your method
When you start a gratitude journal, focus on simple things around you to express your gratitude and appreciation for. You don’t need to find big things right away. You can take cues from gratitude prompts to explore your feelings.
Maybe start with three things in life you are grateful for or something that happened to you during the week. Write about a time when you were grateful for a learning experience. Reflect on your achievements. List things that you look forward to, write down positive affirmations and so on.
Alternatively, you can start a ritual. Light your favourite candle or incense. You can chant or meditate. In a nutshell, try to experiment and make it as fun as possible to do it consistently.
Focus on the benefits of gratitude and stay mindful while journaling
Don’t see gratitude journaling as just another errand. While journaling, expand your awareness and focus on the feeling. You can write a few positive quotes, affirmations or enlist the benefits of practising regular gratitude on the first page of your journal as a reminder to keep going.
Gratitude is strongly associated with many physical and mental health benefits. Researchers have found that one of the biggest benefits of gratitude practice is increased optimism and a general feeling of well-being.
The Law of Attraction also comes into play here. As we extend our thankfulness and instil within ourselves the feelings of contentment, we attract more of it.
Gratitude helps to reduce stress and enhance the quality of our sleep.
Another study suggests that the act of gratitude leads to the secretion of dopamine in our brains which is the reward chemical and it further motivates us to do better.
Check-in with yourself at least once a week
Once you get into the habit, it might get overwhelming to write daily. While some people will start to rush through it, others will give up halfway. The best way to counter this is to set an achievable target. Consider checking in with yourself once a week. On other days, it can be your best pick-me-up.
Don’t beat yourself up or feel discouraged if you can’t journal every day. You can set yourself a personal ritual to journal on the weekends to reflect on the things that inspired you the entire week.
The famous 21/90 rule dictates that it takes 21 days to form a new habit and 90 days to make it a permanent life change. Commit to three weeks of gratitude journaling and see how you feel about it.
This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong.