Keep a Gratitude Journal: Sustain the Benefits of Positive Thinking All Year

Researchers are learning a lot about gratitude lately. We know gratitude can increase happiness in your life, and that it has actual health benefits. My favorite way to focus on gratitude is with a gratitude journal, which is simply a means of routinely noting the people, events, and things in my life for which I am thankful. Now that Thanksgiving is over, a journal is also an effective way to practice mindful gratefulness all year long.

Just Do It

So, where do you start? Keep it simple. You don’t need a journal designed especially for gratitude, or anything fancy at all. Any old notebook will do.

Start when you’re ready; there’s no need to wait for a special date. Tonight is fine, if you like. Some people like to focus on gratitude in the morning when they first wake up to get their day started off right, while others keep a running tally all day long. I personally like to write about the things I’m thankful for at the end of the day.

Put Your Stamp on It

A gratitude journal is what you make of it. Think about writing a list of 3–5 things you noticed today for which you’re really thankful. Just brainstorming the list makes you feel better, and writing it down takes it a step further, cementing it in your mind and preserving it for future reference.

You could make a short list and be done, but I like to go an extra step. It would be so easy to just write the same list each night, but then the practice would become rote and lose its meaning, so I try to mix it up. For instance, when I write that I’m thankful for my husband, I try to focus on one specific thing about who he is or something he did for me: his laugh, a thoughtful gesture, the way our eyes lock from across a crowded room. When I get specific, I find more individual things to be thankful for and appreciate what I write even more.

Every day, I know I’m going to have to think of those five things, so I’m always on the lookout. This focus has an effect: In my experience, you find what you’re looking for, and my perspective frames the way I see the world. When I’m looking for things to be grateful for, I find them everywhere.

A Boost When You Need It

I still have days when it’s hard to feel grateful, whether because of the news, heartbreak, or disappointment. I try to think up something anyway, and sometimes the simple fact that I survived the day is part of my list.

On rotten days, I find that reading back through my gratitude journal is a great way to lift my spirits, and maybe that’s all I can do that day. The gratitude journal is not there to nag you or feel like a chore. If you miss a few days (or longer), just pick up where you left off and get back to it. No one is keeping score.

That said, sometimes it’s helpful to share our gratitude — and hear about the gratitude of others. Each year in anticipation of Thanksgiving, the #30DaysOfGratitude hashtag takes over Twitter as people tweet the things for which they are thankful. It’s an uplifting experience for me each time I read through the list. This action is all about appreciating the beauty that exists in our lives and building on that practice throughout the year.

Join us in sharing your gratitude this year with our Twitter hashtag, #GratefulAllYear.

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