A Gratitude Journal is a great way to implement mindfulness and positive psychology into our daily life. We are so overwhelmed with negative messages every day. Everything we are told to consume and to buy is marketed as a way to make our lives better – that we will not have enough to make us happy until we get the next thing, or have the next experience. These messages can wear us down, allowing us to forget the benefits and privileges of what we already have. More importantly, it distracts us from who we already are and what we have to offer.
Beginning and ending our day with gratitude can truly make a world of difference to our lives, focusing in on what we have, how lucky we are, and that we are coping. This is not about ignoring the bad in life – unfortunately none of us really have a problem doing that. What we do have a problem doing is stopping, appreciating, and feeling it is enough, for now. This is not about denying all the hardships and obstacles we face, it is about simply taking a proactive moment, twice a day, to remind ourselves of what we do have, from having the ability to partake in a loving relationship, to simply having milk in the fridge for our tea.
While there are numerous apps for gratitude, I find the art of putting pen to paper can be very soothing. It also allows for a practice that is separate to everything else we do on our phone. Ritual is important. (While I think it can be great to have a gratitude app that we can log positive moments or thoughts in as and when they happen, in order to begin the morning and bedtime ritual I think it’s very important to keep it offline for now).
My tips for creating a beneficial gratitude ritual:
- Keep your journal in your room. If you do not have a desk space, keep it by your bed. I find that the more attractive the journal (whether that is ornate or minimalist for you is your call!), the more enticing it can be to begin.
- Before you leave your room in the morning, take 5 deep, SLOW breaths. Open your curtains.
- Write down what you are grateful for in this weather -directly respond to your environment each morning. Whether it is appreciation for a clear sky and warm weather, or having an umbrella, or having had a roof over your head while it thundered outside overnight, find the gratitude for your current privilege in relation to the weather.
- As you are facing the day ahead, consider your blessings. This can be as straightforward as “I have milk in the fridge. I can afford a coffee on the way to work. I have access to a public transport system. I have a job. I have central heating, I can afford the vitamin C that I take every morning. I was privileged enough to get the education which affords me a job”. While this may seem simplistic, it channels your mindset into a place of coping.
- Don’t rush your words. Reflect and consider how you feel and see what comes to mind. You might surprise yourself.
- No matter how good or bad you feel, try to pinpoint what you are capable of getting from this day, whether it is “I have the good health and energy to have a productive day” or “I have a cosy duvet and internet access to support me through this difficult day”.
- So not include negatives. While it can certainly be beneficial to write out our negative feelings – our fears, our pain – that is for another journal. This is a clear focus on the positive, however much or however little you feel there is in this exact moment. Stay in this moment. Remember, this is not about being in denial or about forgetting the negative. It is about remembering and appreciating the positives. There is more than enough external and internal ways for the negatives to be reinforced. Take this small time for yourself.
It’s really good to repeat the ritual at night whenever you can, as a reflection on the day’s positives. Even it was a day from hell, find the gratitude. If you had a fierce argument, find the gratitude in your ability to communicate. If you are angry about your communication, find the gratitude in that too. “I am grateful to be know that I need to work on my communication skills, and I can take personal responsibility for my actions. I am lucky to be capable of self-reflection as I learn my way”.
If you are interested in reading more about gratitude journaling, I like the positive living websites Tiny Buddha, Elephant Journal and Trust Your journey.
I challenge you to commit to a gratitude morning and evening ritual for 2 weeks – see if it makes a difference – and please let me know how you get on via twitter! @Bebhinnfarrell1