Gratitude journaling is the surprisingly simple element in wellness and mental health. First, medical studies show gratitude journaling helps lower stress and improved sleep. Behavioral psychologists report increased resilience, greater happiness, and even improved interpersonal relationships. (And yes, I am grateful my husband unloads the dishwasher — and I tell him so.) It can even combat materialism and improve empathy and generosity in adolescents!
But it isn’t a miracle cure for our problems. Research with some depressed patients find it’s not for everyone. Nor is there a “one-size-fits-all” method of gratitude journaling. There’s disagreement on whether it’s better to gratitude journal daily or weekly. Professor of psychology, Sonja Lyubomirsky, found in one of her studies that counting blessings once per week increased participants’ sense of happiness. Doing daily gratitude exercises backfired. Some study participants became resentful or desensitized to the benefits.
However, for most people, developing our gratitude is core to strengthening our resilience to setbacks, hard times, and pain. You need to find the technique and frequency that work best for you.
Basic Creative Gratitude Journaling Technique
First, write in your gratitude journal 3-10 things you are grateful for that day (or week).
Write? Yes, you need to write down each item in your journal. There are gratitude journaling apps for your phone or computer. And there are physical gratitude journals available.
3-10 things? Yes, write a minimum of three things you are grateful for and no more than ten. Three items tend to be the most common technique. There was little difference in studies between three and ten things listed. However, more than ten items seemed to reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.
Second, as you write each item, consider why that event happened.
By taking a moment to consider each item, you extend and reinforce your moment of gratitude. By thinking about why it happened, you develop a sense of control over your life. You create more positive events into your life. It isn’t an accident all these things happen to you. There are good things — and people — all around us. However, we have to notice — and acknowledge — them.
You may feel a little silly at first. You may even feel you need to cheat. For example, writing things like “I’m grateful I didn’t have bed-head this morning” or “I’m grateful the wind stopped blowing” to fill your requirements. But stick with it. Even trivial items helped folks in the research studies. And led to larger realizations about deeper gratitudes.
I’ll be adding a new post on journaling resources and apps very soon. Meanwhile, you can start by incorporating your gratitude journaling into your current planning or other journaling at least once a week. Or you can start recording things you are grateful for on a Post-It or any piece of paper at hand. The key is to begin.
If you would like gratitude journaling prompts or templates for making your own journal, let me know in the comments. Or use the contact form. If you are new to journaling and would like to explore it, you may want to check out these journaling resources.
Take care and stay safe!