We spend most of our lives in pursuit of happiness, peace of mind, contentment, and perfection in everything. A happy family, a beautiful home, a swanky car, a well-paying job, financial stability, and social status.
We pursue all these materialistic goals believing that they will bring even more happiness, peace of mind, and fulfillment. In truth, these are mirages – illusions or fantasies – something that you hope to achieve in the future but may not materialize at all.
Do you know that you hold the key to all these elusive good things in life right there in your hand?
All you need to do is access the key and open the door to all good things.
The key we are talking about is gratitude – the feeling of thankfulness and appreciation of things we already have.
Read on to learn more about gratitude, ways to practice gratitude, and the benefits of maintaining a gratitude journal.
What is a gratitude journal?
Journaling is a technique that involves keeping a record of all things you are grateful for every day. The idea is to use it to jog your memory as you tend to forget the positive things in life.
From major events to seemingly inconsequential daily happenings, everything goes into a gratitude journal. Similar to a diary, you make entries against each day.
The entries in a gratitude journal typically include the most enjoyable moments of the day, all those events that made you happy, those special people you came across, and such like.
A physical journal works the best for this purpose as the act of writing down itself is considered beneficial. If you find this hard to manage, an electronic version would suffice. You may note them down on your phone or laptop.
Benefits of a gratitude journal
Journaling has been proven to improve focus and wellbeing. Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the most popular ways to practice gratitude. Not-so-hard to make it a habit and easy to manage, gratitude journaling acts as an instant pick-me-up when you are feeling down and out.
Here are some more benefits of keeping a gratitude diary.
1. Enhances positivity
We all know that a positive outlook has numerous benefits. But the question is how to shift the mindset? Experiencing the feeling of gratitude through gratitude journaling offers one of the simplest ways to achieve this.
A gratitude journal can help build positivity in two ways. While sitting down to write the journal, you are prompted to go through the day’s events trying to find positivity in each one of them. This helps you remember the good happenings of the day you would otherwise forget.
Later on, when you are feeling down or depressed and thinking that nothing good ever happens to you, your mind may be too preoccupied to recollect the blessings you have had earlier. All you need to do is read the journal entries to remind yourself that life has been kind to you and you have had happier times in the past. Even if things are not going your way at present, this too shall pass and happier days will be back soon.
A gratitude journal can make you more optimistic about the future. This will prompt you to work harder towards realizing your goals.
2. Increases self-esteem
The feeling of contentment can make you feel better about yourself. Though the goal of gratitude journaling is to focus on the good things you have already experienced in life, it also makes you more optimistic and gives you a “can-do” attitude. And this is what self-esteem is all about.
A gratitude journal is also a record of all your achievements and triumphs as they are all good things for which you are grateful. It serves as a reminder of what you are capable of. This can do wonders for your self-esteem.
3. Raises happiness level
As the outlook turns more optimistic and your self-esteem receives a big boost, naturally you will feel happier. When your mind is constantly thinking about the good things in life while making journal entries as well as occasionally reading them, it is a recipe for a happier mindset.
As you can focus more on good things, your daily experiences will become more positive and relationships stronger and healthier. All these are bound to make you feel happier.
4. Reduces stress
A gratitude journal prompts you to focus on the good things in life, thereby forcing you away from the vicious cycle of negative thinking, sadness, and depression. As your mind is more and more engaged in positive thoughts, your stress levels are bound to come down.
The feelings of happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment can work miracles on your mental outlook. Not only do they improve your mental health, but studies have also proved that they have a direct effect on your physical health as well.
How to start a gratitude journal?
A gratitude journal is similar to a diary. Instead of writing down your random thoughts and events, this involves writing about things that you are grateful for – both small and big. It is a diary with a focus on gratitude.
What works for one person may not be suitable for another. However, some common threads are noticeable in good gratitude journaling.
- Pick out a journal (if going for the traditional way)
- Set aside ample time to write in the journal
- Create the right ambiance
- Begin with gratitude-inducing prompts (a newbie may need this)
- Think up newer topics every day
- Observe the effects of journaling on you after a month or so
Gratitude prompts can be photos or messages you received or something that made you smile or laugh uncontrollably. Or a person or an incident that got you goosebumps. When searching for fresh topics, some suggestions are strangers who made an impact, a song that brightened your day, a new dish you tasted, or something new you learned.
Do remember that the gratitude journal is for your eyes only unless you choose to share it with someone. There is no need to hold anything back or be perfect or diplomatic. Allow your mind to wander and take you wherever it wants to go or whatever it wants to explore. At times, you would be surprised by the journal entries but keep it that way.
Our mind is wired to hold on to negative thoughts and let go of the positive ones. From major issues to small hiccups, every single bad event in our lives is analyzed and dissected for hours or days. On the other hand, simple pleasures and small victories or even big ones are easily taken for granted, ignored, and/or forgotten.
A gratitude journal is a simple and effective way to remember the good things in life. In fact, it forces us to scan the day’s events and search for positivity. It makes us look at the brighter side of things and pay attention to the good happenings, even if they are trivial to remember otherwise.
Starting a gratitude journal can have a profound impact on your outlook and behavior. Observe the changes in you after a month, or six months, or a year. You would be amazed at the transformation.