A Gratitude Journal is a place to record and remember the little things you’re thankful for. It is simply a space to reflect on those simple things you often take for granted.
Research has shown those who actively give thanks for the good things in their lives reap all sorts of physical, social and psychological benefits. There are a few pointers psychologists have found enhance the positive effects of gratitude journaling. Some might seem a bit surprising to the experienced journalist.
Don’t write every day. It sounds counterintuitive, but there’s research to back it up! A study by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky found journaling once a week, rather than several times, has more impact. Happiness levels were higher for participants who wrote just once a week compared with the more frequent writers.
- Personally, I am a somewhat relieved by this. Writing something down every day seemed necessary yet like a chore. I’ve always enjoyed reflecting on the week --- and it’s usually after the weekend.
Elaborate. Jotting down a list of things you’re thankful won’t leave you feeling fulfilled. Digging below the surface and writing details about the source of your gratitude will.
- My own gratitude journal rarely mentions anything material and if it does, it is simply in relation to an experience. Experiences, emotional bonds, and lessons and realizations are mostly what I write about being thankful for.
Focus on surprises. Research shows positive, unexpected events leave us feeling particularly grateful.
Subtract. On days when you can’t find much to feel thankful for, try envisioning your life without certain things or people, and you’ll quickly find there’s plenty to be grateful for!
Slow down. It’s all a gift. UC Berkeley’s The Greater Good, gratitude expert and professor Robert Emmons suggests thinking of each item in your journal as a “gift.” In his studies he instructs participants to “Be aware of your feelings and how you “relish” and “savor” this gift in your imagination.” It’s important to think deeply about what it is you’re thankful for, and why.