You might have heard me talk about gratitude journaling a couple of times already, but what really is it and how do you do it?
Gratitude journaling is a form of mindfulness practice that centres on acknowledging the wonderful, positive things in your life. It can help retrain and reprogram any negative thoughts and emotions. Many of us experience daily stress from work, multiple responsibilities, and unexpected events, making it easy to get pulled into a cycle of negative thinking, more stress, and unhappiness. Keeping a daily gratitude journal can help deter negative thoughts and emotions, and instead being focus into channeling the positive thoughts and experiences present in your everyday life.
Starting a gratitude journal doesn’t have to be daunting at all. Simply set aside a small journal for which you will only write your positive thoughts and experiences- no negativity here. Begin by documenting anything you are grateful for, it can be a small list of things, or you can even create a story around a few specific positive occurrences. For instance, perhaps today you’re grateful for someone holding the door for you, a stranger saying hello, the warm sun, or even your pet. Think about a few things you are blessed to have in your life or an experience that made you smile today, and just write about it. There are no set rules or restrictions, you’re free to write as much or as little as you like. It also helps to have a set time of day to build consistency. Early morning when you first wake up, or in the evening before you go to sleep can be the perfect way to either start or end your day with gratitude.
So what are the benefits of regularly expressing gratitude?
- A study from Harvard University explains that when a group of individuals wrote in a gratitude journal for 10 weeks, they reported feeling more optimistic and satisfied with their lives, and even had fewer visits to the doctor’s office! (Compared to people who focused on their source of aggravation).
- Research on positive psychology suggests that gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness, helps people feel more positive emotions, appreciate good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build stronger relationships.
- Recent studies have also shown that the more often you practice gratitude, the more you stimulate neural pathways that increase serotonin and dopamine- the same pathways that antidepressants use in your brain! By regularly stimulating these pathways through gratitude, we make them stronger, and allow the brain to quickly shift into a positive mindset and search for positive ways of thinking when encountering a problem.
Every day we have the choice to practice gratitude and express appreciation for life and everything in it. This week, I challenge you to give gratitude journaling a try.
Let me know how it goes!