The benefits of a gratitude journal
Today I have a suggestion for you if you’ve recently (or ever) had the intention to keep a Gratitude Journal.
Unless you’ve been asleep for the last few years, you will no doubt have heard about the health and happiness benefits of focusing on what we’re grateful for.
I wrote a little bit about it in my first book but if it’s a theory that interests you, there are many books that go deeper on the subject.
In my own life, I’ve learned that turning my attention to what’s going well can be a humbling-yet-comforting reminder to focus less on the woes (as attention-grabbing as they may seem.)
So, when it comes to the benefits of gratitude, I’m a convert.
The gratitude journal.
I do love the idea of it. And for a number of years I’ve tried to keep one. Each new year, I’ve bought a beautiful new diary and declared it My Home for Grateful Thoughts. And every year, I start off well… and last till about February. I have a drawerful of mostly-empty journals, abandoned as the whole Must Write Down Grateful Feelings thing became too much of a chore.
For something that was supposed to help me feel better, it was feeling more like yet another job to do. I began to dread my scheduled gratitude-journaling time. Then I would feel guilty for failing to keep up with it.
I loved the idea behind it but, in practice, well, it just wasn’t working. At least, for me. (Please note, anyone who loves theirs and feels it has changed their life, I applaud and respect you, and would love to know your secret for sticking with it.)
For those of us who would like the benefits but struggle with the practicalities, I have an alternative….
Actually, I have two…
Enjoy the benefits of Gratitude Journalling – Shortcut #1
The following tip is very simple, yet the effects can be surprisingly powerful. It tunes into the same vibe as the gratitude journal (ie pausing to notice the good stuff) but without the potential angst of journal-entry-pressure.
It is…. drumroll, please…. the humble smiley face. 🙂
Stay with me.
What if, when jotting down your To Dos in your diary, daytime, schedule, timetable (whatever you use to track and plan your life) – you adorn your favourite activities with a little smiley?
It takes seconds. But, I believe, this ease and familiarity belies its greatness. Firstly, can you draw a smiley face without smiling? Well, it’s possible, but I imagine that whatever causes you to create one on paper will also cause one to sneak onto your face too.
Secondly, by adorning your planner with this symbol of positivity and happiness, you’re acknowledging something fun or joyful in your life. This focus is the root of many of the benefits of gratitude. You don’t necessarily need to give thanks to anyone or anything – appreciation is an aspect of gratitude.
In pausing to appreciate the thing that makes you smile, you are beaming in (pardon the pun) more of the same. (If this sounds a bit unlikely, cellular biologists, quantum physicists and neuroscientists back me up here.)
So, the smiley face – a surprisingly powerful device.
Digital or hand drawn – opt for whichever method you prefer. Then at the end of the day/week/year, you can spot – at a glance – all the best bits of your life. You can instantly see which were good days – any page with multiple smilies can’t be bad!
Plus, this practice may well encourage you to plan more activities that warrant the smiley-stamp. (Some days I put something in my diary that I know I’ll love, just so I can add another Smiley Item.)
On days when you’re feeling the drudgery of your not-so-happy To Dos, a simple reminder of any fun stuff can go a long way to nipping those blues in the proverbial bud. 🙂
More Gratitude Journal Benefits – Shortcut #2
I also have a second alternative to the added pressure of keeping an additional journal – again, using your existing diary or daytimer. (After all, these are usually the tools that dictate our hours and days, ie our lives).
This time, instead of the in-the-moment-of-entry addition of a smiley face, this tip is more of a reflect-and-review kind of activity.
Unlike the conventional gratitude journal, though, you’re not required to dredge up memories of your busy day from a tired and frazzled brain. You have your day in front of you, on paper (or screen).
All you need to do is take a look at where you spent your time and decide which were the best bits. Then, at the bottom of that page, scribble a few notes – your Daily Highlights.
The more you do this, the more easily they will come to mind – plus you have your planner to jog your memory. Even if you’ve had a bad day, there are usually one or two blips of good stuff.
And the gratitude experts tell us that eking out these highlights and giving them some recognition can work wonders for our mental, emotional and physical health. (Particularly if you do it just before you retire for the day.)
Although this is, in essence, a log of things to be grateful for, it removes a couple of the worksteps which will a) make it a more enjoyable habit and thus b) make us more likely to do it.
Plus – no blank pages and subsequent guilt! In fact, you may find that the short scribbles at the end of the day begin to increase in both size and frequency. (I’ve had to go for an A4-size diary this year.)
And before long, you will have kept a substantial (sort of) gratitude journal – without really trying. You will also have transformed your daily planner into a great tool for mood-boosting – both on a daily basis and whenever you feel the urge to review it.
• • •
So there you have it:
(By the way, this is not laziness, it’s efficiency. And on the bumpy creative path, efficiency is undoubtedly our friend.)
Let me know what you think – worth a try?
PPS I promise to not use any more smilies in my blog posts.
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you –
it will be enough.”
If you’d like more simple ways to harness wellness practices for creative boosts, my Starter Kit is for you.
It’s a series of the holistic principles that I’ve discovered and developed from almost a decade of holistic creativity coaching, supporting lovely wellness-seeking creatives just like you.
• You want to enjoy more clarity, momentum, inspiration and flow in your creative life
• You’re craving support, encouragement or guidance but not quite ready for private coaching
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