In case you haven’t noticed, I am really into morning rituals, and gratitude journaling has become an essential part of my practice. While initially skeptical and more than a little bit worried that I would turn into a Live, Laugh, Love Lady, I can tell you that the benefits of gratitude journaling far outweigh any sense of embarrassment.
There are a lot of guides out there for how to gratitude journal. Here are five reasons why you should start gratitude journaling today.
A needed attitude adjustment
Two years ago, I needed an attitude adjustment, and I knew it. My mind tends to head straight into dark places, and so I work hard at getting myself out of them. Walks help, certainly. So does travel. However, changing my focus from what I didn’t have to what I do required a more precise approach, and I needed some more help.
So, at the risk of turning into a Live, Laugh, Love Lady, I decided to follow in the footsteps of people I admired and pick up gratitude journaling.
Here’s how I started:
I am grateful that my mom is still alive. I am grateful for this little doggo asleep on my lap. I am grateful for heat. I am grateful for not needing to do anything this evening. I am grateful for what I have.
My mom is a cancer survivor, and she had had a good report at her six-month checkup. Otherwise, there are some fairly common elements to focus on in a gratitude journal. My dog Ollie. Heat. Time. While I’ve added more to the general framework (and I would really like to have something to do in the evenings these days!), these elements pop up in my gratitude journaling almost daily.
Coffee shows up a lot. Of late, the man who power walks past my apartment singing with the most beautiful voice (sound on for the video below!). Friends. My home. An opportunity to do better each day.
I am grateful for the Singing Man. Sound on!
Gratitude journaling each day, especially when it is hard
When a friend died all too soon after a vicious illness, I expressed gratitude for her life and for having known her. While she was sick, I expressed gratitude for her and focused on qualities I valued in her. I still felt anger and sadness, but saying thank you for the privilege of having known her helped.
When I found out that I had to move after more than twelve years in the same place and had no idea how I was going to possibly afford a new place, I expressed gratitude for having a home that day. My fear, anger, and sadness over losing my home didn’t vanish, but focusing on having a home that day helped ground me. And when I found this home and realized that it might actually be a better one, I expressed gratitude for that, too.
When the pandemic started, I added my continued health. And my life. My life might have gotten very small, like all of our lives, but I still had life. And health. I found myself giving anywhere I could to help those who had lost jobs or had gotten sick.
When another dear friend was on a ventilator with Covid, I expressed gratitude for him each day, and when I heard that he woke up and I got to talk to him, my joy filled an entire page.
When work stresses me out, and it does a lot, I express thanks for having a job, and I focus on my favorite part of it, some of the best colleagues, many of whom have become friends. I still complain, I’m good at it. But it helps.
Lately, I have taken said thanks for getting what I needed the day before and that I will get what I need today. This simple expression helps me to remember that I have gotten this far.
And you bet your booty that I express gratitude for crocuses coming up in the spring. For trees. And sunny days.
It doesn’t fix everything, but gratitude journaling helps
Does gratitude journaling cure all, and am I just a ray of sunshine that, in the words of one of my besties, “oozes positivity”? Nope.
Have I turned into a Live, Laugh, Love Lady? Also no.
Do I still go to dark places? Yep.
Gratitude journaling does not fix everything. But it helps.
Five Ways Gratitude Journaling Can Help You
1. Gratitude journaling shifts your focus, if only for a moment
Taking a few minutes in the morning to write out the things you are thankful for takes your focus off your troubles, or, perhaps more importantly, changes your perspective on them.
Keeping up this practice over time can help you catch yourself and change your focus even in the moment. Not every time. But enough to help.
2. Gratitude journaling can improve your relationships with loved ones—and yourself
Writing out why you appreciate your loved ones helps you to appreciate them and focus on what you love about them. Especially when things are not going so well, this can help to deal with hurt (obviously not always, and some things require more than a few lines in a journal to help address).
This also works on yourself. You have superpowers, express thanks for them. You’re also doing your best. Go easy on yourself.
3. Gratitude journaling has effects throughout the day
Sometimes I catch myself, like when I see a crocus, or the way light hits a building just right in the late afternoon, making note that I should be grateful for this. And then I think that I could just be grateful for it right now. My focus shifts.
4. Gratitude journaling raises awareness of your privilege (and can do something about it)
One of the things I used to think when I heard about this is that it was a practice for the privileged. What I didn’t realize is how powerful this practice is at pointing out to me what I have and that injustice keeps others from having the same. It reminds me that I have an opportunity to do better, to act.
5. Gratitude journaling gives you a record of your life
If you keep a journal every day of what you are grateful for, you will have a record of good things in your life. Hard things. Memories that may bring some sadness, but also joy.
What about you?
Do you keep a gratitude journal already? What do you get out of it?
Are you considering trying it?
Please share in the comments.
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