[This is one of a series of 30-Day Experiments to do this year instead of New Year’s resolutions.]
If you want a surefire way to improve your life, both emotionally and physically, gratitude journaling is it. You can go as hog-wild as you want with it, but in its simplest sense it is simply focusing on what you’re grateful for by writing it down.
It’s not just a nice warm fuzzy idea. There is a bucketload (the technical term, I believe) of research showing the very real and wide-reaching impact that gratitude has.
Here’s an excellent primer on what research has found on the benefits of gratitude, which can include:
• Stronger immune systems
• Less bothered by aches and pains
• Lower blood pressure
• Exercise more and take better care of their health
• Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
• Higher levels of positive emotions
• More alert, alive, and awake
• More joy and pleasure
• More optimism and happiness
• More helpful, generous, and compassionate
• More forgiving
• More outgoing
• Feel less lonely and isolated.
While there is no “right way” to gratitude journal, here are some tips to get you started.
- Make it easy to start with. Keep the journal next to your bed and jot down five things you’re grateful for before you go to bed. Keep it to a one-sentence description. Review the list the next morning when you get up to start your day. Over the thirty days, if you find yourself wanting to dive in deeper, feel free to up the number of things in your list or the amount you write. But if it starts to feel onerous, dial it down again.
- Ask questions. Go through these gratitude-prompting questions to help prompt ideas for what to write.
- Make it real. Don’t just mechanically go through the motions of writing things down. Try to really feel the gratitude.
- Remember, size doesn’t matter. This isn’t about finding grandiose things to be grateful for. If they’re there, great. But it might just as well be gratitude for savoring a cup of coffee.
- Make your day a gratitude zone. As you go through your day, make a conscious effort to notice things to be grateful for. That will both have a positive effect on your day and make your Gratitude Journaling easier.
Ultimately, it’s about whatever works for you. Play with it and see what feels most natural, fun, and effective.
If you decide to take this 30-Day Experiment on, keep us posted here on how it goes!
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