Take one look at your Instagram feed and chances are you’ll come across a few pictures of gratitude journals and happiness planners. Although such journals are indeed extremely Instagram-worthy, they are far more than just trendy notebooks; gratitude journals have been shown to improve health and wellbeing. People who keep gratitude journals report many benefits such as higher energy levels, more enthusiasm and determination, greater progress towards personal goals, fewer physical symptoms and a more optimistic look on life in general.
In her book Strip Naked and Re-Dress with Happiness, life coach and inspirational speaker Maria Hocking teaches how to survive adversity by turning challenging situations into positive gifts. Gratitude is one of the steps needed; it helps you to change the focus from what you don’t have to what you do have. “The more attention we give what has gone wrong, the bigger the problem grows in our mind. The more our mind fills with problems, the less space we have for the good stuff,” explains Maria. Focusing on the good in your life will make you feel calmer and will enable you to find solutions to your problems.
Although many diaries are designed to start at the beginning of the new year, the good news is you can start your own journal at any time. If you’re as much of a stationary maniac as we are, there’s never enough excuses to buy yourself a gorgeous new notebook – so just go for it, today.
Take a few minutes every evening to fill in your gratitude journal. Find a quiet place to sit and reflect on your day, noticing how you feel right now, and any other emotions you felt during the day. You could even note these emotions in your diary and write down what happened to make you feel that way. Even after keeping a journal for just a few days, you should start to notice positive changes in your mind and body.
Four things to include in your gratitude journal:
1. All the good things that happened today
This exercise really helps to make you aware of all the positive things in your life. Even when you haven’t had the best day, you should be able to find little things that weren’t so bad. Looking for the positives among the negatives helps to lift your mood and realise that perhaps it wasn’t such a bad day after all. Maybe the sun was shining, or someone held a door open for you? Learn to appreciate the things that you maybe wouldn’t have noticed before, even if they don’t seem significant.
2. Three things you are grateful for
This is obviously the most important aspect of keeping a gratitude journal, but it is where the magic happens! Everyday, pick three things that you are grateful for and note them in your journal. They can be things that happened that day, or things/people in your life that you are grateful for. As you write down each one, really think about what it means to you and how much you appreciate it. You may wish to write down, or just think about, the reasons why you are grateful. In time, you should realise that you have so much to be grateful for in your life, in which case you might like to write down more than three things each day.
3. Something you are looking forward to tomorrow
In our ‘How to Find Happiness Every Day‘ article, we suggested finding something to look forward to every day. This could be something like meeting a friend for lunch, relaxing with a film after work or using your break to research where you’d like to go on your next holiday. When we follow the same routine day in, day out, it can be too easy to get stuck in that rut and feel bored. Penciling something fun into your diary each day, no matter how small, will help you feel more excited about the day ahead.
4. Carry out a monthly reflection
At the end of each month, you could reflect on how the last few weeks went, and what you would like to happen in the next month. Think about what went well and what didn’t go so well. Write down anything that happened that you consider to be negative, and try to find a positive side to it. Even if you cannot see a positive, is there a lesson that you can learn from the experience? It’s normal to have bad days and life won’t always be a smooth path, but try to believe that everything happens for a reason, either to make way for something better or to help us grow stronger as a person. It’s easy to focus on negative experiences instead of positive ones, but regularly expressing gratitude will enable you to change your mindset and become a happier, more positive person.
Photos by Luis Llerena and Cathryn Laverty via Unsplash; Edar via Pixabay