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I started practicing gratitude while in the middle of a burnout. My employer had offered me coaching, which I gratefully accepted. (See how I was on the right track from the beginning? 😉 ) Every two weeks we had a session together and one of the first homework assignments she gave me was to practice gratitude on a daily basis.
Why? Because keeping a gratitude journal is one of the fastest working, universally effective exercises you can do.
That is not to be confused with the notion that practicing gratitude is easy. Of course, on some days it is. The sun shines, the kids are great, there’s wine to accompany dinner and chocolate dessert… For those of us who are feeling out of balance, though, it doesn’t come so easily.
Which is why I want to explain why it’s so very important. And how to start a gratitude journal even when you don’t feel like it.
Grateful mom, happy mom
Studies show that practicing gratitude improves overall mood and has a positive effect on appreciation. Studies support the theory that gratitude is an important influence to subjective well-being.
In other words, practicing gratitude improves the way we look at our lives, and makes us feel better about it.
Ancient wisdom is now confirmed by modern science: gratitude improves “life satisfaction, vitality, happiness, self-esteem, optimism, hope, empathy and the willingness to provide emotional and tangible support to others.”
How does this help you: practicing gratitude is a quick, effective and powerful way to give yourself the emotional basis to create space and make balanced decisions throughout the day.
Reasons to start a gratitude journal
As stated above, practicing gratitude helps give you a solid emotional basis. In short, it improves mood, which in turn improves thinking, decision making and how you generally feel about your life. It helps create the space you need to be yourself and to make balanced decisions.
- life satisfaction
- empathy and the willingness to look after others
Which in turn helps to:
- make objective decisions
- shut up your internal voice (you know the one)
- stay patient
- be playful
Daily gratitude practice helps clear your head of negative emotions. This effectively shutts up the tedious voice inside your head with its endless fretting, complaints, accusations.Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the fastest working exercises you can do. Click To Tweet
From a place of gratitude, you can decide, honestly, objectively and fairly whether you need to discipline the children, play with them, or to let them have quiet time.
With a quiet, calm mind you can start seeing what you want the future to look like. Or have the discipline to look after your health. Perhaps you’ll even learn to enjoy whatever you are doing right now. All these things influence your happiness. The habit of daily gratitude practice is an extremely effective tool to start influencing your future, health and fun-time.
How to start a gratitude journal
You don’t need a gratitude pillow, or some space for an altar to practice gratitude on a daily basis. It is helpful, though, if you have some quiet space where you can comfortably sit, think and write.
In part, this is sheer practicality: you won’t be practicing much if you keep getting interrupted by your partner or kids. Sitting down supports being calm and comfortable, which in turn supports thinking through the day. I want you to be able to write while you practice, because I firmly believe that writing supports learning. And your brain is now learning to be grateful, let’s not take half measures where it concerns your happiness.
Additionally, your brain will find it easier to get into the gratitude mood if you’re practicing in the same place / time / etc each day.
When should you practice gratitude?
As long as you do it daily, it doesn’t really matter. The most important thing here is to do it at a time that is convenient to you. If you like to practice gratitude in the early morning, when everything is still quiet, do so. If practice just after the children have gone to bed is most convenient to you, then be my guest.
Also, don’t be afraid to change the time if you find out that your chosen time doesn’t work. I know I said regularity is a good thing, but it’s even more important that you actually do it on a daily basis. Tweak and adjust until you find something that works, then rinse and repeat.
How long should I practice?
There isn’t really a set time for it, but I would advice to take at least 10 – 15 minutes. I want you to really sit down and get into the mood of things. If you’re rushing through then it won’t work. This is not as another thing on your to-do list. This is about mindset, so let your mind soak for a bit.
How often should I write in my gratitude journal?
I mentioned daily a couple of times already. This is about adopting a new habit and a new mindset. Daily practice is best to set a new habit. If you practice less, your brain has way too much time to forget the practice. Practice daily and you’ll learn faster. Learn faster, then you’ll see the effects sooner.
I don’t know what to be grateful for!
Like I said, some days it’s just going to be difficult. Like having to go to the gym, you’re just not feeling it. This is normal. In fact, it’s the main reason why people stop practicing. Don’t let this happen! It’ll get easier over time, you just need to get used to it.
You’ve got this! I have faith in you!
If you are indeed not feeling it, stick to the simple things. Was the sun shining? Did you enjoy a cup of tea? Maybe the kids gave you the special smile that’s only for mommy. Be grateful for the fact that you have something to eat. That it’s peaceful where you live. That the kids are asleep if it’s been a trying day!
Look for the gems. If you think you’re not feeling grateful, then list the things you are glad to have. That you don’t want to do without. The feeling will come, truly. Keep practicing gratitude and the feeling will come.
So, let’s do this!
In summary, do the following:
- Test-drive keeping a gratitude journal for 14 days;
- Find a time and place that’s convenient for you on a daily basis;
- Schedule a daily reminder in your phone (no excuses here!);
- Get a notebook to use as your gratitude journal, doesn’t need to be fancy;
- EVERY DAY write down 3 things you are grateful for;
- Take your time;
- Make it 3 different things each day.
The last point, make it 3 different things each day, is to ensure that this doesn’t become some trick you perform. Like, yeah the kids are sleeping…happy to have a home…food was decent. Done!
No, you’re not going to let yourself off the hook that easily. You want to reach something here, so you’re going to work for it. Think of 3 new things each day, for two weeks. Watch the list of things grow each day. After 14 days, you are going to be amazed how much you have to be grateful for.
That is when you’re on the road to taking charge of your mindset.
Please let me know in the comments how you’re doing with this. It’s been a very powerful practice for me, and I’d love to hear what your experiences with it are!