The secret to being grateful is actually no secret at all. Every day, we have the choice to practice gratitude and express appreciation for life and everything in it.
With the combination of stress, work, responsibilities, and routine, it can be easy to get trapped in a negative pattern of thinking. This detrimental cycle can lead to added stress, lack of happiness, and even health issues. Finding ways to experience more positive thinking can help break this cycle, and rid you of negative energy.
Keeping a gratitude journal is one of my favorite recommendations I give to retrain and reprogram your thoughts and emotions. Sometimes, if things aren’t going according to plan, I replace negative energy with feelings of gratitude by going back through old entries in my gratitude journal. This reminds me of how thankful I am for my life and everything in it.
A gratitude journal is the perfect way to document your gratitude for anything; from big things like your new job opportunity or your new car you always wanted, to smaller things like someone holding the door for you or offering to help carry your groceries. Gratitude journals are a great source for inspiration and joy, and help you to truly recognize all the wonderful things in life.
If you want to begin a gratitude journal but just aren’t sure where to start, I recommend the following tips:
1. Set an intention. Before you begin your journey with your gratitude journal, it’s important to set an intention, rather than setting an expected outcome. Ask yourself questions like, “Why am I doing this?” and “What is the purpose?” Many of my students have come to me after starting their journal expressing sadness that they have not felt any different. But when I ask them why they started in the first place, many of them don’t have an answer. You must remember that a gratitude journal is a process, and that you shouldn’t set expectations, but instead set intentions. Don’t reluctantly journal because you feel like you have to in order to receive a desired outcome. Journal because you want to, and because you believe in your goal.
2. Pick a time each day and stick to it. Committing to write in a journal each day can be a difficult task. We all have busy schedules and sometimes the day just slips away from us. But to reap all the benefits a gratitude journal has to offer, it’s necessary you make time for it each and every day. That’s why I highly recommend you select a certain time each day dedicated to writing in your journal and stick to it. I try to integrate my writing into my bedtime routine so I can quietly and effectively reflect on my day that has passed and look forward to the day ahead.
3. Don’t set a minimum or maximum number of writings. What I appreciate most about my gratitude journal is that it is filled with authentic, raw emotions that I’m not ‘forcing’ myself to write down. Maybe one day you only have one thing to share in your journal, and maybe another day you have hundreds. Don’t limit yourself to a certain number, but instead embrace as many as you like. If you force yourself to write a certain number of things, it will feel less authentic and the exercise will seemingly be an empty one. As long as you are writing, quantity does not matter.
4. Keep things positive. As I’ve always said, it’s important to write down your feelings and emotions whether they be positive or negative. But for your gratitude journal, you must remember this is a positive exercise, where negativity isn’t going to get you anywhere. If you feel inclined to express any negative emotions, just use another journal to record them. Just try and remind yourself that this is strictly a positive exercise that is meant to show your daily gratitude and appreciation for all the wonderful people, experiences, and things that make you happy.
5. Give it a real chance. Have you ever heard that it takes up to 21 days to form a new habit? If you begin your journaling and don’t have any noticeable changes, do not give up. Learning to carve out time for this new exercise is going to be challenging but beyond rewarding. If you give it a real shot before making any judgments, you will likely see the positive power that gratitude journals can have on your life.
Do you have a gratitude journal? Do you have another method of expressing feelings of gratefulness? I would love to hear in the comments below!
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Natalie Ledwell is a best selling author, speaker and successful entrepreneur. She's passionate about helping others to achieve their greatest dreams and ambitions through her personal development programs and her online TV show, The Inspiration Show.