AN INTRODUCTION TO GRATITUDE JOURNALING
The everlasting quest to save mental and physical health has thrown up a lot more questions than answers. These questions have been answered in different ways, with the most popular ones being meditation and yoga. In this blog, we’re talking about the third one: gratitude journaling. There is so much to be grateful for if you take the time to notice it. To quote Cicero: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others”. But what exactly is a gratitude journal? What are the benefits of having a gratitude journal? What should you write in a gratitude journal?
What is a gratitude journal?
A gratitude journal can be defined as your journal where you write down the things you’re grateful for. Every day, you get the chance to start a new chapter as every day you get offered a fresh page, waiting to be filled with words, feelings, and thoughts. A gratitude journal, also referred to as a mindfulness journal or self-care journal, helps you ignite your passion, count your blessings, celebrate your joys and uncover your happiness. It has become popular over the years in the field of positive psychology.
Oprah Winfrey was one of the first advocates of the power and pleasure of being grateful. She kept a gratitude journal for over a decade and urged her viewers to do the same. Every day, she wrote down five things she was grateful for. She made gratitude a priority in her daily life. To quote Oprah: “I know for sure that appreciating whatever shows up for you in life changes your personal vibration. You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you’re aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots.”
If we compare a gratitude journal and a diary, we see a difference in the focus of the action. A gratitude journal focuses on what you’re grateful for, whereas a diary focuses on what happened during your day. In your diary, you’ll probably write down both the positive and negative aspects of your day, resulting in not only focusing on the good or helpful things in your life.
Gratitude journaling has become highly in demand over the years and is also widely spoken and posted about on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. With over 30 million views on hashtag #gratitudejournal on TikTok and over 700 thousand posts with hashtag #gratitudejournal on Instagram today, it’s safe to say that journaling is getting more and more accepted in our daily routines. We’ve added some TikToks below to showcase to you that gratitude journaling works for others.
@thoughtcatalog This routine made me a better human being. 💛 #selflovejourney #nightroutinecheck #nightroutinevibes #gratitudejournaling #gratitude #mindfulness ♬ original sound - Zackery
You might wonder: for whom is a gratitude journal? Gratitude journaling is for those who want to become more open to receiving more of the good things in life. It’s for those who want to focus on the positives in their lives and the world. Isn’t that something we all want in our lives?
Why is it useful?
We know a lot is happening in the world right now. The news and (social) media remind us of it daily. However, it’s not naive to recognize the hurt that surrounds us, and consciously look for the good in every moment. We often tend to focus on all the things we perceive as wrong, rather than what goes right in our day-to-day lives. Through practicing gratitude, you can become more aware of all the good things happening in your life. You’ll eventually see and appreciate the good things that may have always been there.
Spending time with friends and family and a promotion at work may be obvious joys to be grateful for. But how aware are you of the things you actually feel grateful for? When you focus on what makes you feel grateful, it allows you to be fully present and notice not only the big but also the small sparks of joy in your daily life. This is one of the most valuable things to mention when talking about what gratitude journals are good for.
What are the benefits of gratitude journaling?
As mentioned earlier, journaling can have many benefits on your mental and physical health, next to yoga and meditation. Some people even state that gratitude journaling has changed their lives and has been very helpful to them. Let’s dive into the benefits of journaling, and the potential effects it has on your well-being.
Journaling is good for your mental health, but why? If you focus on the good, soon you will see, enjoy and appreciate more. Psychological studies show that practicing gratitude can increase your happiness by 25%. Practicing gratitude is an easy and effective way of retraining your brain. Gratitude is associated with positive emotions and greater happiness, and with that come many benefits to improve your mental health. Some benefits:
- It lights up the brain’s reward pathway and sparks the activity in the brain that is connected to your sleep, mood regulation, and metabolism.
- It increases social connections and makes you feel more satisfied with your friends, family, school, work, and yourself.
- It increases your empathy and compassion. As we feel more thankful, we tend to act more pro-socially to others.
- By challenging negative thought patterns, practicing gratitude helps calm anxiety, reduce stress, clear your mind, and lower depression symptoms.
What and when should you write in a gratitude journal?
Starting a gratitude journal might feel or seem overwhelming. What should you be grateful for when gratitude journaling? Luckily, what and when you write in a gratitude journal is, of course, up to you, as you are the muse of your own story. If we’re talking about how often you should write in a gratitude journal, our suggestion would be to do it as often as you feel like, but try to make it a consistent routine and write in your gratitude journal daily. However, don’t force it. If you don’t feel like journaling today, then just simply don’t. It should be an addition to your life, not a burden. Experiment with writing in the morning, in the afternoon, or at the end of your day, to find what works best for you. Should you need some inspiration for what to write when journaling, let us offer you a list of potential ideas and examples.
- Implement the “Five Alive” method. Write down five reasons you are thankful to be alive today.
- Make a gratitude list using the 10/10/10 worksheet method. This method is based on the law of attraction and will help you to manifest the things you want. Write down three rows of ten numbers, and make a list of the ten things you desire, the ten things you are most grateful for, and lastly, the ten things you love to do.
- Describe your favorite moment of every part of the day. Reflect on your morning, afternoon, and evening. Is there a moment you are grateful for that has happened during each part of the day? Don’t just look at the big highlights of your day, but also look at the smaller moments that were special. How about that cup of coffee you had and enjoyed? That short walk in the park?
- Write about a success you had, and who or what helped you accomplish it. Think of successes big or small, related to work, life, or relationships.
- Write about a hobby of yours. How does this hobby make you feel and why is it special to you? Are there specific memories or people you associate with this hobby? Do you make enough time to practice this hobby?
- Write down what you’re grateful for to have today that you didn’t have a year ago. Again, think about the big highlights like new people you’ve met or that new job you started, but also the small things or your personal growth. Have you developed a new skill for example?
- Look at the pictures you’ve taken on your phone that day. Describe one that makes you feel happy or grateful. Is it because of the people who are in the picture? Or is it the moment that has been captured? Reflecting can help us remember and appreciate those special moments and people.
There are also guided gratitude journals out there with pre-fixed questions to help you along the way. The SOPHIA MAE Gratitude Journal prompts you to think about some questions whenever you decide to journal, for example:
- What are you grateful for today?
- Name 3 things you appreciate about yourself
- What could go better?
Alternatives to journaling
Instead of writing in a journal daily, many apps are available that help you accomplish the same results and practice gratitude daily. Some options include Reflectly, Gratitude - Happiness Journal, and 5 Minute Journal. Does writing down the things you’re grateful for not sound like you? There are many more ways to practice gratitude. Here are some options:
- Embrace the beauty of nature and life by spending time away from your electronic devices. Go for a walk or bike ride and appreciate the beauty and peace nature, and life for that matter has to offer us.
- Write handwritten thank you notes to thank someone for their help, love, friendship, support, or knowledge. It’s one of the easiest ways to express gratitude and has the potential to be the most impactful, especially to the person you’re thankful for.
- Thank people in service of you. We encounter them daily: waiters, baristas, teachers, and police officers. We extend thanks and appreciation by simply thanking them, either face-to-face or with a small note.
How do you keep up with it?
When you have decided to start journaling, but wonder how to keep up with it, here are some journaling tips from SOPHIA MAE’S founder Monica Geuze.
- Make it a routine to write in your gratitude journal every day at the same time or same moment. Monica keeps her gratitude journal on her nightstand. When she decides she’s going to sleep, she writes in her gratitude journal.
- Keep it small and simple. Write down the things that have impacted you, and try to also focus on the little things like biking to work instead of going by car. Challenge yourself to uncover gratitude in the unexpected moments, and focus on who you are with and where you are at that particular moment.
- Try to be as specific as possible when describing the things you’re grateful for.
- If you can’t find gratitude on a particular day, try to acknowledge the negative things, too.
- Try not to (only) focus on the material things that you have, but on the things that allow you to be and do what you want.
Gratitude journaling is a simple yet powerful tool to develop a more positive outlook. It can be a powerful tool for mental health. Besides that, gratitude journals can be incredibly helpful in the moment, when you're upset or your anxiety is running high. But we don't just recommend keeping gratitude journals as a way to treat mental illness or negative emotions. We also recommend them for people who are just trying to be happier and more content with their lives. In fact, we recommend it to everyone! Gratitude journals are one of the simplest ways to practice mindfulness, improve your overall well-being, advocate for yourself, and become happier. Do you want to start gratitude journaling and are you interested in purchasing one? Feel free to have a look at the Gratitude Journal by SOPHIA MAE.
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