Developing an attitude of gratitude
toward the people, things and events in your life is a life-affirming and effective way to strengthen your emotional resilience
and reduce stress, among other things. Maintaining a gratitude journal makes it easy to get in the habit of focusing on the positive in your life, while also reaping the benefits of journaling
. The following are simple steps to maintaining a gratitude journal -- a useful tool for stress management.
Time Required: A Few Minutes A Day
- Decide on a Journal
You may want to maintain your journal online, or in paper form. When deciding which route to take in selecting a journal, think about whether you'd rather type or print, where you'd like to do the bulk of your writing, and whether privacy is an issue that may affect your decision.
More tips on selecting a journal
- Decide On A Framework
You can write long, descriptive paragraphs about what you appreciate in your daily life, or your gratitude journal can consist entirely of lists. You can write about a preset number of items per entry (10 per day, for example). Or, you can just resolve to write about whatever seems right for a particular day. The main idea is to get yourself into a place of reflection and gratitude. Do what works best for you.
- Commit To A Schedule
An important aspect of the long-term success of your gratitude journal is the frequency with which you use it. It's usually best to aim for once a day in the beginning, or several times per week, but allow yourself some wiggle room if things get busy. You want to make a commitment that will keep you inspired to write, even if you aren't always in the mood, because this exercise can help change your mood). Just don't allow that to be so rigid that you'll be tempted to give up the whole plan if you slip up once or twice.
- Just Keep Writing
Many people find that their whole attitude changes once they've been keeping a gratitude journal for a while; they tend to notice things throughout the day that they may want to include in the journal -- things they wouldn't have otherwise noticed. To maintain a more optimistic attitude, be sure to write regularly. If you find yourself skipping days with increasing frequency, gently remind yourself why you're maintaining the gratitude journal in the first place, and be grateful that you are able to get back into the habit of writing again anytime you want. Enjoy!
- Gratitude journals tend to be most effective when you write about three items at the end of each day. This is regular enough and simple enough to be do-able, and writing at the end of the day tends to bring the best benefits.
- Remember that you may want to read over your journal entries in the future. This can be a great pick-me-up when you're feeling stressed or depressed.
- Experiment with the types of things you write about. If you find yourself always mentioning the obvious things ("I'm grateful for my children") every day, challenge yourself to notice the subtle things ("Today I had caramel ice cream cone, and it was amazing!")
- Remember that all gratitude doesn't need to be saved for the journal. Tell the people in your life how much you appreciate them. From people in your family to sales clerks and postal employees you encounter in your day, everyone likes to know that they're appreciated. And their positive reactions can help put you in a positive mood, too.