There are reminders all around to be thankful in fall, but did you know that reflecting on all we have to be grateful for throughout the year leads to better health, greater mindfulness, and more fulfillment? According to NPR, one study shows that gratitude journaling measurably transforms health and overall wellbeing and improves sleep, chronic pain and immunity.
So What Exactly is Gratitude Journaling?
Gratitude journaling a way to focus attention on what makes life worth living. Regularly jotting down what you’re grateful for is a mood booster that encourages a more positive outlook. You’re actually training your brain to become more attuned to the good things.
There are many mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional benefits to gratitude journaling. The act of taking time out of your day to reflect on the things you’re thankful for can help shift your focus from negative to positive thoughts. This can lead to increased happiness and satisfaction with life. And gratitude journaling can help reduce stress and anxiety levels, improve sleep quality, and lower inflammation in the body. The activity is also associated with increased self-esteem and self-compassion, and has been linked with increased energy levels and lower blood pressure.
Getting Started with Gratitude Journaling
When you start, it might be easy to gravitate toward material things, the things you see around you, like a new home or a new car. Of course, gratitude for those achievements feels great. But to reap the greatest benefits, take the practice deeper by remembering simple things like that perfect cup of coffee or the intangibles like personal growth. Maybe you’re grateful for the physical comfort of a cozy blanket, blue skies, or that workday that went smoothly. Anticipate upcoming plans or think about the people you care about, you’ll get more out of your journaling practice by expanding your focus.
Next, be sure you’re really present to the practice. A gratitude journal can be a powerful tool for shifting your focus from what’s lacking to what’s working. To make the most of it, avoid checking the box or going through the motions. You might be surprised at how good it feels to focus on all the good things in life!
Make just a few minutes each day to be present. It doesn’t have to be a long time – you don’t have to write an essay. Work in time at the start or the end of each day so that it becomes a habit. Go a step further, make a cup of hot tea or light a candle to make the experience an everyday well-being ritual.
Gratitude Journaling: It’s Quality That Counts
Remember, the goal isn’t to try to list as many things as possible. Research has shown that it’s quality, not quantity that matters most when it comes to experiencing the benefits of gratitude journaling. In other words, it’s better to focus on a few things that you’re truly thankful for, rather than trying to come up with a long list of superficial items.
By taking the time to reflect on these moments of happiness, we can train our brains to pay more attention to the positive parts of our lives that we might otherwise gloss over in a busy day. What unforeseen lucky events occurred? Write about something that surprised you in your day. Think finding a $5 bill in your coat pocket or that Zoom meeting that got canceled. Not only do unexpected events brighten our day, but they also remind us that life is full of wonderful surprises.
A gratitude journal is a great tool for building positive thinking and mindfulness, but don’t get overwhelmed by the details. Some people feel like they need to write in their journal every day, but a study from the University of California Berkeley found that writing once a week can actually be more beneficial. The key is to be specific about the things you’re grateful for and to reflect on how they’ve made your life better.
Gratitude Journaling Prompts to Get You Started
- Spend a few moments each day reflecting on what went well.
- Make a list of people who have made a positive impact in your life.
- Keep track of the little things that make you smile.
- Recall moments when you felt particularly blessed during your day.
- Jot down things you’re looking forward to, like an upcoming date or visit with a friend.
- Take note of the natural beauty around you, whether it’s watching the sunset or admiring the colorful flowers outside of your window.
Taking a few minutes each day to reflect on the good in your life can have a transformative impact on your happiness and well-being. If you’re not currently keeping a gratitude journal, consider starting one today.
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