A gratitude journal is one of your easiest and yet most powerful tools for becoming calmer and happier every day. It relieves stress by helping you focus on the positive. It affirms that your dreams are already coming true right now. Many believe that it can even attract prosperity (and everything else you desire).
Many people start a gratitude journal but give it up, because they can’t find the time or (more likely) can’t maintain that ‘happy bubble’ when they hit a crisis. But a crisis is the best time to focus on the good things—and a gratitude journal is the best way to nurture that ‘spiritual muscle’ that will carry you through a tough time. Here are tips to keeping a gratitude journal (even when you’re not feeling particularly grateful!)
1. Pick a journal that inspires you.
You have so many journals to choose from! Get the one that brings a smile to your face. Is it the one with the distinguished-looking leather cover and thick, off-white paper that immediately makes you feel richer and more powerful? Or is the one covered with bright pink and purple fabric that helps you feel like a silly, happy, innocent child all over again?
You can also take a simple composition notebook and decorate it with photos of your family, or postcards of a place you hope to visit someday… It’s really up to you. The point is, the journal itself should represent whatever makes you happy.
2. Set a schedule.
Think of it as your appointment with joy: 15 to 20 minutes, the same time every day, open that gratitude journal and focus on the positive. Some like to do this first thing in the morning; others do it before they go to sleep. Do whatever works for you, but ideally this is a quiet time when you can be alone and left uninterrupted. This can be hard for stay-at-home moms with young kids, but it’s possible. Write when your baby naps, or while your toddler’s watching a video. Mommies need play time, too!
3. Make it a full-body experience.
When you’re stuck in the blues give your body the ‘happy cues.’ As your write in your journal, play your favorite music on your iPod, sip a rich cup of cocoa with marshmallows. You can light aromatherapy candles, sit outside in the garden, or even write in a tub filled with bubbles. In other words, fill those 15 to 20 minutes with as many simple pleasures as you can. (Those, in themselves, are something to be grateful for.)
4. Use journal triggers.
If you don’t know what to write, use journal prompts. These are words, phrases or sentences that can get your thought process going. For example: ‘happiest childhood memory’ or ‘sweetest thing a friend ever did’ can help you appreciate something you may have forgotten or taken for granted. You can also meditate on a Bible verse or an inspiring quotation.
5. Try different techniques.
There are different kinds of approaches to keeping a gratitude journal. You can make a list of all the little things that made you happy that day, paste photos that make you smile, copy inspiring quotes, or just focus on one event and reflect on it.
Some people recommend sticking to one approach but honestly, that’s unrealistic and boring! Be flexible. The only ‘rule’ in keeping a gratitude journal is that you do whatever it takes that day to be happy.
6. Reread your past entries.
If you’re feeling discouraged or just plain blah, go back to older entries and remember all the wonderful things that’s already happened to you! That’s the most powerful thing about keeping a gratitude journal. It reminds you that nothing and nobody can take away your happy memories and your ability to appreciate them. And—more happy memories are waiting to be made! Who knows what you’ll be able to write down next week, next month, next year? Keep the faith.
7. Look for the details.
You may find yourself writing the same things over and over again, like ‘I’m grateful for my kids’ or ‘I’m happy that I have a roof over my head.’ That’s true, but try to zero in on specific things. ‘I’m grateful for the fun my son and I had at the playground today. There was a nice breeze and I found a nice spot in the shade.’
One good way of doing this—even when you’re having a bad day—is to imagine how it could have been worse! If you’re frustrated about having to do overtime at work, think of how lucky you were to find a cab home so quickly, or that you had a warm dinner waiting for you at home.
8. Keep it fun.
It’s a gratitude journal, not a term paper. So feel free to inject a little childlike play into it. Add stickers and scrapbook embellishments. Date your entries with a rubber stamp with a happy face (the kind teachers use). Reward yourself with a piece of chocolate (or any small treat) each time you write. Use glitter pens or scented markers.