Keeping a gratitude journal is often recommended to help you develop more happiness. By being grateful for even the little things in life, we gain a much greater inner appreciation for what we actually have. It helps stem the tide of negative or comparative thinking which, through self-talk, brings our emotional state down.
Gratitude journaling is beneficial and easy to start. Simply jot down the good things that happened to you like a promotion, hitting a goal in your fitness program, or getting some good news. You can use a piece of paper, a digital notepad or any of the myriad journaling apps or ready-made journals that exist. I prefer Day One and I have created morning and evening journaling templates to help me do this. More on that here.
Your gratitude journal can be as simple as listing 3 things you are grateful for. Do this morning and evening and your sense of gratitude, joy and happiness will increase.
Or so they say.
But does it really work like that?
Yes and No.
Gratitude is not a Checklist
I have found I don’t always check-in for my morning journal, but my evening journal session has taken on some of the tasks (like planning the big five things I need to address and working out my other to-dos). But I always include gratitude journal time as part of the process.
The problem with repetitive tasks is that they become, well, repetitive and boring and easily lose their edge. It’s too easy when we’re busy or not feeling motivated to just treat the activity as something to tick off the list. We forget why we started it. We might technically be keeping a gratitude journal but it doesn’t generate a lasting sense of gratitude in our lives. This is because we are getting it wrong.
You want to know why?
Why Your Gratitude Sucks
Gratitude is a feeling. Writing words on a page is a list. We often focus on the latter and forget the feeling of why we were grateful for the things we write down.
Sure, we’re grateful for breathing but it’s a lazy entry as it does not capture any of what you feel about breathing. It’s more beneficial to say something like “I am grateful for the invigorating feeling of the cold air of a winter’s day on the back of my throat when I breathe. It makes me feel great to be alive!”
Or you’re grateful for your dog. But, in reality, “I am grateful for my crazy dog who is so excited to see me when I get home from work that I forget all my troubles and just spend some quality time.”
The Secret Ingredient
The great thing is that it doesn’t take much longer to journal the emotions and you really capture the feeling of why you are grateful for something. It’s more specific, more personal to you. And it generates the warmth and happy glow we are trying to achieve by journaling gratitude.
This is scientifically known as savouring: the use of thoughts and actions to increase the intensity, duration, and appreciation of positive experiences and emotions. And savouring has lots of other benefits – in fact, here are 28 benefits of gratitude journaling courtesy of Positive Psychology sub-divided into emotional, social, personality, career and health benefits.
When you savour the moment, you relive the positive feelings. So, when you journal tonight, savour the little moments and not just the wins. Write down how they made you feel and why, breathe in the moment and be there once more. Feel the positive joy of the moment you just wrote your gratitude for, and any time you re-read your entry you can feel it all over again. When you make this a habit every day, noting down key things you were grateful for today and savouring the moment, you will carry this feeling into your dreams and into your waking life.
Now that’s the gratitude we are talking about.
If you want to go further and adopt other gratitude exercises beyond savouring, check out A Collection of 67 Templates, Ideas, and Apps for Your Diary. And maybe I’ll be an entry in your gratitude journal someday 😇