The Power Of Gratitude: Starting A Gratitude Journal
We have strong evidence for the power of gratitude to boost mood. Research indicates that regularly practicing grateful thinking can move your emotional “set point” for happiness by as much as 25 percent in the right direction. A gratitude journal may help.
Like forgiveness, gratitude can be cultivated, and there are many resources to help you do that if you find you need help. From the research data he has reviewed, Dr. Weil considers expressing gratitude to be one of the very best strategies to enhance emotional well-being, right up there with fish oil, physical activity, and managing negative thoughts.
He would add that feeling grateful and expressing gratitude are distinct. To get maximum emotional reward you will want to do both. You can remind yourself to feel grateful; you may have to learn and try out different ways of expressing it.
What do you have to be grateful for? How about being alive for starters? Or enjoying good health? Or being able to put food on your table, food of better quality and greater variety than people have ever had. It is a time of relative peace. You have shelter, warmth in winter, material comforts beyond the imaginings of our ancestors. The sun freely gives you light, warmth, and the energy that makes your food. If you happen to watch the sun rise, that might be a good occasion to feel grateful for its gifts. Dr. Weil finds that if he doesn’t create such occasions, he forgets to feel grateful. It’s just so easy to take it all for granted.
The method used most frequently in research on the effects of practicing gratitude is recording thoughts in a gratitude journal. Subjects are asked to dedicate a notebook to this, to make mental notes throughout the day about things to be grateful for, and to enter them in the book at some regular time, such as bedtime. Doing this four times a week for as few as three weeks can bring greater happiness, at least in the short term.
As a result of doing a gratitude journal for a number of years, Dr. Weil finds himself more often making mental notes of things to be grateful for throughout the day:
Flowers that have opened in or around his home
- A glorious sunset
- Rain in the desert
- The gift of friendship
- The resilience of his body.
Of course, he remembers to thank his dogs for being in his life and loving him unconditionally, giving them treats and hugs in case they do not understand his words.
The point of practicing both feeling and expressing gratitude in a gratitude journal is to change your perspective. “Gratitude is an attitude” may be a platitude, but it happens to be true: by becoming aware of what you have to be grateful for, you will find more and more to be grateful for.
So in 2018, start to keep a gratitude journal. Dedicate a notebook to this assignment and keep it by your bed. Make mental notes throughout the day of things you have to be grateful for, then enter them briefly in your journal at bedtime. Take a moment to feel grateful as you write. You’ll find this simple exercise has extraordinary power, and you should do it diligently. Note that some people find it even more effective if done weekly rather than daily; experiment with what works best for you.