We should write because it's human nature to write. Writing claims our world – Julia Cameron
Gratitude Journal? Yea, right. The idea of journaling may seem like just another thing to squeeze into your already-busy day. Isn't it enough that you take a moment to reflect on your day as you climb into bed? Certainly. However, if you've ever journaled, you understand the power of putting pen to paper. When we write something down on paper, we use a separate part of our brain. Writing sort of tricks our brains into thinking we are doing that very thing we write about. Therefore, if we start recording thoughts on positive things that happen in our day, our attitude shifts and this affects our mood. This positive effect on our brains is why it can be beneficial to start a gratitude journal.
Demonstrating gratitude has proven to actually change your brain and improve mental health. Research demonstrates that in order to experience the benefits, you don't necessarily need to share your gratitude with others. The simple act of writing down what you are grateful for shifts your perspective from negative to positive thinking.
So, if you're kinda considering doing it, here are some simple tips on how you can start a gratitude journal...
1. BUY YOURSELF A JOURNAL
We all know how it feels when you set out to shop with the intention of buying something for yourself. It makes you feel good! Purchasing something for yourself, no matter how small, is a treat. So, taking the time to go shop for a journal helps to set the stage. When you set this time aside, you are assigning importance. If you go to a bookstore, browse through and touch some of the journals. Your eye may be drawn to a journal that is right for you. The journal you choose reflects your personality and spirit - a book you look forward to writing in.
2. SET ASIDE A SPECIFIC TIME
This step is crucial. Developing a habit takes consistency. Assign importance to the time you use to journal as you would assign importance to a doctor's appointment. Show up. For many people, setting aside time first thing in the morning works the best. Julia Cameron, the famous poet, writer, and playwright emphasizes the importance of an activity she calls, Morning Pages. Although not a gratitude journal, morning pages is stream of consciousness writing that is done first thing in the morning, when you are fresh, clear, and free of distractions. Recording thoughts of gratitude first thing in the morning is a nice little ritual that sets the tone of your day.
Maybe you are working a traditional 9 -5 job, so setting aside 10-15 minutes before you return home may be a good time for you. If you can't make it to a coffee shop, simply keep a journal in your car. Journaling as you transition from work to home can become a moment to unwind before you are faced with more responsibilities.
Of course, in the evening or before bed is also a good time to journal. The end of the day is often reflective and may be the best time for you to record experiences which affected you in a positive way.
The point is to choose a time that works best for your schedule so you remain consistent with your journaling. Everyone, no matter how busy, can find 10-15 minutes in their day.
3. REMEMBER, YOU DON'T NEED TO BE A WRITER
Starting a gratitude journal shouldn't be a chore. Critiquing your own grammar and style will only discourage you from writing. Besides, you may start to experience flashbacks of the red pen marks that decorated your papers from grade school. You are not writing an essay. Writing in a gratitude journal should be a form of free association. An avenue to reflect, express your thoughts and set an intention of gratitude. To pause and record your thoughts while they are fresh in your mind. Remember, nothing is too silly to write about. As Julia Cameron so eloquently explains, 'we should write because writing brings clarity and passion to the act of living. Writing is sensual, experiential and grounding. We should write because writing is good for the soul.'
4. CHOOSE A JOURNAL PROMPT
If you develop writer's block, don't let that discourage you. Try a little prompt. There are plenty of gratitude journal prompts out there. Pinterest is a great resource for finding a list of gratitude prompts. Print out the list that resonates with you and keep it tucked in your journal for inspiration. Here are a few to get you started:
A book of blank pages can be exciting....or intimidating. There are lots of books created to act as a gratitude journal. These books are designed to inspire and lead you through journaling. Each page has a fun journal prompt or numerical list with unique subject titles. All of these books are organized in a way to help you reflect and record important moments of your day.
Ok, so you've established the ritual of journaling. Now you just need to reflect. The simple act of transcription releases the energy of your gratitude. You will notice, even after journaling once, that you unlock a part of you that is reflective. You instantly become more grateful throughout your day. Mindfulness arises naturally when you start journaling on a regular basis. When you step back from the schedules and routines of modern life, you create a space where perceptions are allowed to shift and there is greater consideration for all that surrounds you. You will begin to notice and appreciate small things that you never even thought about. The bonus - don't be surprised if you start to express gratitude towards the things that once annoyed you.