For the past couple of weeks I have been working on a gratitude journal. Every day, either morning or night, I write down at least three things that I am grateful for in my life. This process has made me look at a lot of things in life differently, and approach challenges, success and shortfalls with a new perspective.
One big change for me was this past weekend when I was on a team for the Reno Tahoe Odyssey relay race. I was exhausted from having no sleep, my knees were hurting, and I was running 6 miles in the heat of the day in July with no shade. The more I thought about how horrible I felt in that moment, the more I set mental boundaries for myself and the thought of going on was impossible.
I started to think about when I was 9 months pregnant and all I wanted to do was to go running. I missed having the ability to run, which made me miss the feeling of adrenaline and physical freedom. Remembering that feeling made me grateful to be in my situation. I felt grateful to be able to run, to have a support team of good friends and family to do this challenge together, and to have the freedom in my life to choose to participate in this kind of event.
Long story short, having the gratitude journal has formed a habit of gratitude where instead of stressing over things or thinking negatively, I am starting to automatically find gratitude in whatever circumstances led me to the opportunity in the first place, or to reflect on all of the other good things in my life.
“Studies have traced a range of impressive benefits to the simple act of writing down the things for which we’re grateful—benefits including better sleep, fewer symptoms of illness, and more happiness among adults and kids alike.” (Berkley)
How to get started:
- Nothing has to be formal or lengthy; if you just want to start with gratitude, make three to five bullet points for things you are grateful for, who you love, what you hope to do, and what you have been able to do in the past. All of this can help you find the gifts in your current life.
- Try and focus on people and opportunities that you are grateful for rather than things in your life. This will help you get more depth and make it more personal.
- Reflect on what your life might look like without certain blessings, rather than just adding up all of the good things.
- Have fun with it. It doesn’t just have to be a list every time, as you can include drawings, photos, and movie tickets.
After writing down your gratitude, you might find it natural to begin to expand on your thoughts in writing. Writing regularly helps you clarify your thoughts and feelings, solve problems more effectively, reduces stress, and understand your own feelings. “Writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health.” (Psych Central).
Journaling, especially through a time of personal development, helps people keep track of their daily lives and how they change. Most things you do to better yourself can be difficult to measure, but keeping a written record of your experiences and even your down days allows you to look back at how you are handling each day and the challenges in your life, and how you have grown over time.
Tonight, make a list with three bullet points and write down three things that happened today or people in your life that you are thankful for. If you feel inclined to do so, reach out to someone to thank them for something they positively contribute to your life. What are you grateful for?