Gratitude is an emotion. It’s how you feel when you’re thankful for something. Think right now about something that you’re thankful for. It can be small like the socks on your feet or it can be larger like the roof over your head, your job, your family or your life.
Gratitude is also an awareness or recognition. When you express or feel gratitude, you’re acknowledging that there is good in your life, in you, in the world and all around you.
Feeling grateful changes how you feel inside.
It’s easy to let the negative thoughts, words, situations, events, and actions in the world take over your heart and mind. Many in society seem to focus on the negative. It’s on the news, in magazines and newspapers, and it may be the general tone of the conversations you encounter during the day.
Yet, the simple emotion and expression of gratitude diminish all of that negativity in a powerful way.
Over the past ten to twenty years many disciplines have conducted studies on the impact of gratitude.
What they’ve found is nothing short of amazing. People who practice gratitude have found:
- They’re happier. It increases feelings of optimism, joy, and satisfaction. Have less anxiety and depression.
- It’s good for your health. Studies have shown that a gratitude practice strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, and reduces symptoms of illness.
- Get more sleep.
- Recover more quickly from challenges and even from traumatic events.
- Have stronger relationships.
- Stronger connections. People feel more connected to their community.
Gratitude changes your perspective on the life that you’ve been given. When you have gratitude in your life you:
- Feel less victimized by others or life. Blaming no longer exists. Rather than look at what you lost or what you don’t have, you’re able to reframe situations and move forward focusing on what you can do and what you have.
- Have a more open heart. Gratitude helps you become more compassionate and empathetic. You’ll be able to connect with people even if you don’t think you have much in common with them. It’s a more rewarding way to live.
- Glass half full approach. With gratitude, you’ll be able to recognize and appreciate what you have rather than what you don’t. As you begin to become aware of what is good and positive in your life, what is good and positive will grow.
- Attract more gratitude and happiness. It’s often found that people attract experiences and people based on what they expect. If you focus on and expect good things to happen, more good may show up.
The bottom line is that people who practice gratitude reportedly have a better quality of life. However, this is one of those things in life that you have to experience for yourself before you will be able to fully believe it and before you’ll embrace it into your life.
How Do You Practice Gratitude?
The concept of practicing gratitude begins by creating a habit. For most people, the simplest habit, and the most effective one is to create a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is a process of writing down what you’re grateful for during the day.
Many people journal in the morning, or at night, or both as they are quiet times. You can keep the journal right next to your bedside. First thing when you wake in the morning, you journal about gratitude or last thing before you go to sleep at night.
Now you can, of course, journal whenever it feels right for you. For example, you might find that journaling in the middle of the day, at lunchtime, helps you have a more positive afternoon and evening.
Also, many people journal on paper. They handwrite what they’re grateful for. The process of writing it down, as opposed to dictating your gratitude or typing it on to your computer or mobile device, seems to have a stronger impact on your brain and mindset. The act of writing seems to wire your brain differently and create a connection between your thoughts and the words on the page.
Does this mean that you cannot or should not create a digital journal? Absolutely not! If dictating your gratitude or typing it works for you then, by all means, do that. There are no rules for a gratitude journal.
Why journal? Why not just set aside a few minutes each day to think about what you’re grateful for?
Journaling is the first step to creating a gratitude mindset. After all, the goal isn’t to be grateful for a few minutes each day. The goal is to shift how you think so that gratitude is your natural reaction and thought process.
Journaling helps you create a daily habit. You’ll think about gratitude once or twice a day for one month, two months, six months or more. The longer you do it, the more it becomes ingrained in your mind.
Once gratitude becomes a part of your daily routine, your thoughts begin to shift. Keep at it, continue journaling, and those changes become even more entrenched. Will you shift back to a negative mindset if you stop journaling? It can happen. If you’re aware, and this does happen, all you have to do is resume your commitment to a gratitude journal.
So What Do You Need to Start a Gratitude Journal?
There are a few considerations to start your gratitude journal. Not all of them are necessary requirements. However, it’s a good idea to have some sort of plan in place. It will make your gratitude practice easier and more successful.
Gratitude takes practice. Being grateful and shifting your mindset, thoughts, and beliefs isn’t an overnight process. It’d be wonderful if you could go to bed one night with the burdens of the world on your shoulders and awake the next day feeling light as a feather with no cares in the world.
That doesn’t generally happen. Instead, you will notice a gradual shift over time. You’ll feel yourself being lighter, more appreciative, and happier. It is called a gratitude practice for a reason…Gratitude takes practice. Be patient with yourself and with the process.
We’ve already mentioned a few different options for daily journaling. We mentioned journaling in the morning or at night or both. We also discussed a lunchtime habit. What matters more than when you journal, is that you journal when you can make it part of your daily routine.
Maybe you journal in the morning with a cup of coffee. Maybe your journal at night after you get ready for bed but before you close your eyes. For it to become a habit, you have to incorporate it into your daily life at the same time every day. Make it part of your day.
What are you going to use to journal? Are you going to use a mobile application? Are you going to use a notebook? There are some truly beautiful notebooks. You can find them leather bound for a rustic look or shiny for the fashionista.
You can find composition books with patterned covers or character covers. You might also want a pen or pencil that makes you smile and feel grateful. And of course, you can begin by printing out this book and using the space provided to document your gratitude.
The time you spend journaling your gratitude should ideally be uninterrupted time. It should be free from distractions including people, text messages, and phone calls. This time allows you to reflect on the day as well as your thoughts and feelings. And if you’re using a gratitude prompt, then the quiet time will help you find your answer. Before we get started, let’s take a quick look at where you can find gratitude because sometimes it can be difficult to tap into this powerful feeling.
Where Do You Find Gratitude?
Finding gratitude can feel challenging. On the first day of your practice, you may find yourself sitting at your desk just staring at an empty page. The day was lousy, you’re exhausted, and maybe the gratitude practice just isn’t for you.
Conversely, you may find yourself staring at a blank page on day 28. You’ve run out of things to be grateful for. You have nothing else to write down. You feel like you’ve hit all the biggies and now you’re thinking about writing down that you’re grateful for push-pins and dust bunnies.
Well, it’s okay to be grateful for push-pins and dust bunnies. There are no rules. Just like there’s nothing too small or too big to be grateful for.
Let’s also say that if you take the time to look around you, to reflect on yourself, your life, your day, and your surroundings, you’ll never run out of things to be grateful for. So let’s start with a list of 25 ideas on where to find gratitude.
4. Your body; your health and what your body is capable of.
5. Stories; books, movies, plays and more.
17. Personal attributes.
21. Situations or events.
22. Material items.
24. In your home.
25. At work.
Think about each of these items individually. When you are struggling to find something to be grateful for, you now have 25 categories to choose from. In fact, once you’ve worked through the 100 gratitude prompts and tips, you can then start working from this list.
Finally, before we dive into the gratitude journal, please keep in mind that you don’t have to write down hundreds of things you’re grateful for each day. Strive for somewhere between three and ten. Consider being consistent. For example, you might decide to write down five things each day that you’re grateful for. This consistency simply adds some structure to your gratitude journal and makes it a bit easier to get started.
Your Next Step
I am so grateful for you in being here and would invite you to download this "Gratitude Journal" which can be printed out to promote the practice of gratitude in our day to day life. It contains 100 tips, quotes, and gratitude prompts to get you started. You can work through the content daily or skip around. You can use and re-use the pages as each of the day's experience is unique. There is no right or wrong way to practice gratitude. The practice itself is where the power resides.
Start with being grateful for life.
I suggest that you use the following mantra every day in the morning (and again before bed) and you will tap into the force and power of true and full gratitude:
"Today I am grateful for LIFE! I am grateful for the opportunity to be here on this journey. Even when there are challenges before me, I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful for life! No matter what, I am grateful for LIFE!"
Click here to download your journal. Namaste!