Cultivating an attitude of gratitude should be easier than starting a daily exercise routine. Taking 5-10 minutes to write down things to be thankful for sounds like a trivial and easy task. However, for some it may seem substantially more difficult than running or working out every day.
If you kept a diary as a teenager (big if), then starting and maintaining a gratitude journal should be easy-peasy. For others it's going to take some convincing oh how this incredible low-cost intervention can have numerous health and well-being benefits.
Tip: Once or twice a week may be better than daily. That goes for gratitude journaling not exercising :)
What is a Gratitude Journal?
A gratitude journal is just a notebook that helps you take time to recognize and even celebrate the good things in (your) life. Even on the bleakest news day or when seemingly nothing is going your way that day this gratitude journal nudges you back to a reality where there is always something to feel grateful for.
Is there Science-Based Evidence?
This randomised controlled experiment tested whether a brief subjective well-being intervention would have favourable effects on cardiovascular and neuroendocrine function and on sleep. We compared 2 weeks of a gratitude intervention with an active control (everyday events reporting) and no treatment conditions in 119 young women. The treatment elicited increases in hedonic well-being, optimism and sleep quality along with decreases in diastolic blood pressure. Improvements in subjective well-being were correlated with increased sleep quality and reductions in blood pressure, but there were no relationships with cortisol. This brief intervention suggests that subjective well-being may contribute towards lower morbidity and mortality through healthier biological function and restorative health behaviours. Source
It is important to note that not all gratitude journal interventions work. The daily ones where it becomes more of another task seems to have diminishing returns.
We need to actually think of each thing on our list as something that is a gift to our life or "sparks joy" as Marie would say.
Perhaps it is better to look at a gratitude journal more like a good tidy up. Not a clear out of our cluttered spaces, but our cluttered minds. We aren't going to do a clean out of our homes every day nor should we, but perhaps once a month is a good start or even twice a year.
Much like fasting, we'd die if we did it every day and it would be taxing on our bodies if we did it weekly but how about once a month or twice a year. We know fasting (especially 3-5 days) is a way to remove senescent "zombie" cells so we can look upon gratitude as a monthly or so task to remove zombie thoughts and as a way to reboot our levels of happiness.
How do you start a gratitude practice?
Just start. You don't need a fancy journal. A piece of paper, an old notebook will do just fine. You don't even need to write it down, but there is some findings that putting things in writing has other benefits and just helps us organize our thoughts more clearly.
Here are some tips and you can read more about gratitude journaling here.
- Be as specific as possible—specificity is key to fostering gratitude. “I’m grateful that my co-workers brought me soup when I was sick on Tuesday” will be more effective than “I’m grateful for my co-workers.”
- Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular person or thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
- Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
- Try subtraction, not just addition. Consider what your life would be like without certain people or things, rather than just tallying up all the good stuff. Be grateful for the negative outcomes you avoided, escaped, prevented, or turned into something positive—try not to take that good fortune for granted.
- See good things as “gifts.” Thinking of the good things in your life as gifts guards against taking them for granted. Try to relish and savor the gifts you’ve received.
- Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
- Revise if you repeat. Writing about some of the same people and things is OK, but zero in on a different aspect in detail.
- Write regularly. Whether you write daily or every other day, commit to a regular time to journal, then honor that commitment.
If you have any tips to share please leave a comment below. Gaia Guy is grateful for all the wonderful people who have supported our sustainable goods!