Psychological research has found that gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness, helping people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
But practicing gratitude is just that – an active experience, and for many it takes the form of a gratitude journal. And as a deeply personal exercise, you set the rules; there is no wrong way to keep track of your gratitude, but here are 10 tips – many drawn from Mindful Communications – to help get you started:
- Select a journal that feels right to you. You’ll find lots of suggested journals in bookstores and on Amazon. Select something, even a yellow notepad, you’ll want to share your thoughts on and be able to refer back to.
- Physically record the moments – don’t just do this exercise in your head. The record will help you remember and enjoy the good emotions of the special events, experiences, smells, tastes, and things that happen in your life.
- Be as specific as possible – specificity is key to fostering gratitude. “I’m grateful for the way the sun highlighted the brilliant yellows of the fall Maple leaves.”
- Focus on the details and depth of a particular event or person rather than making a superficial list.
- Focus on the people to whom you are grateful – this has a greater impact than focusing on things you are grateful for.
- Consider subtraction – meaning what would your life be like without certain people or things, rather than just noting all the good stuff. Be grateful for the negative outcomes you avoided or learned from.
- Viewing the good things in your life as “gifts” will help you prevent from taking them for granted.
- Capture the surprises – record unexpected or surprising events as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
- Change things up – if you write repeatedly about the same person, focus on different aspects of the details you are grateful for.
Be diligent. Commit to a regular time for reflection and writing, and then honor that commitment. Even if you start by writing down only one thing each day for one month, after 30 days you’ll be surprised by the change in perspective you may have. Keep in mind it takes, on average, about 66 days to form a new habit.