We all know there are benefits to writing a simple thank you note. Now take that action and instead of sending a thank you out to someone, turn your gratitude inward and save the stamp. We know there are benefits to keeping a journal, but those benefits increase when you factor gratitude into the practice of journaling.
The benefits are two-fold. First from focusing and cultivating our own gratitude, that is being mindful more on what we have than what we don’t. Second, taking pen to paper, in this case a journal, and just writing it all down.
Let’s look at gratitude.
In Forbes, Psychotherapist Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, wrote that there are about 7 scientifically proven benefits to gratitude. Among them, improved self-esteem, mental health and physical health. According to Morin, “gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools that we all have access to every day. Cultivating gratitude doesn’t cost any money and it certainly doesn’t take much time, but the benefits are enormous.”
There are myriad ways to be grateful, and it does not just come down to receiving a gift or kind word. Were you the recipient of a moment, a feeling or an intangible experience? Write them down. Don’t think you have them? You would be surprised how gratitude can be found most anywhere.
Did a colleague call in sick, reminding you to be thankful for your good health? Perhaps work required you to get up super early but hey, it let you witness a beautiful sunrise. How did you feel when the car behind you slowed down to let you merge in traffic? Pretty good we bet. Silly or serious, gratitude is gratitude. Even if all you can think up was when you dropped your buttered toast this morning it landed butter side, up.
Then there is the simple act of writing that gratitude down.
According to Kathleen Adams of The Center for Journal Therapy, writing for How Life Unfolds, journaling has its own benefits. Putting pen to paper makes learning easier, can improve memory and can have similar health benefits to meditation.
Adams cited calligrapher and artist Barbara Bash, who in a 2016 essay in Mindful magazine, equated the act of journaling to the act of meditation. “It is something about the physical act—the holding of the hand and pen—that is meditative, bringing me into the present.” And what better way, through putting pen to paper and journaling, to focus on our gratitude.
How to go about it? It is quite simple.
Set aside a time: It could be one minute or one hour, once a day or once a week. Whatever works best for you.
Set a place: Find a place where you are comfortable or that is convenient. The beauty of journaling is that you can take paper with you anywhere.
Set a limit: While there are endless things you can be thankful for, start out small and list one thing you are grateful for each day of the month. Or perhaps write out three things you are grateful for this week or this month. Then as you become more comfortable with the practice, let your gratitude habit grow.
Just commit it to paper. And for those days when you are not feeling particularly grateful, page through your journal. It is a tangible example of all there is to be grateful for. Big and small.