One of the very first things that I learned to do when I began to change my life was to begin keeping a gratitude journal. This incredibly simple practice can have a profound effect on one’s happiness and well being.
In fact, for the time and effort invested, this may be the single highest leverage activity in which one can engage for happiness, spiritual development and good mental health.
The process is simple. Find the time each day to write down three things for which you are thankful. Lots of folks seem to find the most benefit in doing this practice in the evening or just before bedtime. You don’t need a fancy blank book or app. Just grab a notebook and pen, reflect for a few moments, and list three things from that day that make you feel grateful.
It is truly as simple as that, and it seems easy enough as well, but at first it may be more challenging that you anticipate. The first few days it may be pretty easy to come up with things to write, but then you may find yourself repeating items – which is alright, but the real power of the practice comes from finding new things each day for which you are grateful. This is because you will find yourself actively looking for things throughout the day that you can write down in your journal that evening. As we are on the lookout for positive things, we gradually train ourselves to expect positive things. This single shift in attention has dramatic effects.
Here are just a few of the most common benefits that have been documented in studies of this sort of journaling practice.
- Better Sleep
- Healthier Eating
- Lowered Risk of Heart Disease
- Lower Symptoms of Depression
- Lower Stress Levels
- Improved Interpersonal Relationships
- Less Focus on Materialism
- Increased Generosity
- Improved Self-Esteem
- Improved Sense of Agency Over One’s Life
Fairly dramatic measurable results are found in studies within the first month of beginning a gratitude practice.
I learned about this practice while watching a “self-help” documentary about the Law of Attraction. I cannot recall who made the suggestion, or which movie it was, but I remember thinking “this is simple to do, so why not try it?”
Along with another practice called the “mental diet” which I’ll describe in another post, this habit did more very early on in my spiritual journey to change my attitudes, perceptions and the quality of my life than any other activity I can name. For me, the most significant result has been an easing of episodes of depression that had plagued me for more than 50 years.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with gratitude, or your questions. Feel free to email or leave a comment on this post.