I felt really awkward when I started my Gratitude Journal. They’re kind of a big thing right now. You can use them in different ways, but they work on the essential idea that grateful people are happier, live longer, have less health problems, all that kind of thing. They’re basically great for your mental health and happiness. Studies have shown that thinking about what you’re grateful for is a great motivator too, and some people do a thing where they list 5 things they’re grateful for to themselves either on waking or at bedtime.
The act of actually writing it out cements it in your brain and your thoughts, and has even more benefits.
For me, I realised that living in London had made me a more cynical and less proactive person. There are very real reasons for this, which I’ll probably tell you about in other posts, but I don’t like being a negative person, and I realised that I was focusing on what was wrong all the time, and looking out for problems, rather than remembering how far I’d come too.
So, I picked out one of the many journals that I have stashed and waiting for me to fill them (I journal a lot, and I love buying new ones), and designated it my Gratitude journal. At the moment, I schedule time on two days a week to write in it, and I choose one page at random, rather than going front to back or anything. I feel like that makes it more fun for me. I said that I feel awkward about it before. And I kind of do. Because it’s a place to write happy thoughts, I sometimes get overwhelmed with cynical feelings about how twee and lame it is. I know that I can tell you about it, but I feel like I might be embarrassed if someone came across my journal and read it. Because it’s a private space, I have stuck stickers and pictures in mine of things that I like, sometimes as a kind of prompt, others because looking at those images makes me feel good. Stills from movies, unicorn stickers, fashion collages, quotes in bright pink pen, cities I’ve loved, places I’d like to go. Sometimes I write about the future I dream of as if I had it now, which is a really great exercise, visualising where you want to go and making goals… but sometimes just when I’m beginning to write, I feel really awkward about it all.
Honestly, though, I have to say that once I get going, I really do enjoy it. It’s nice to dream and to think about good things, to make them a focus, and put problems aside or in perspective. And I do definitely feel like it’s calming and has made me think in a more positive way, shifting my focus.
If you want to try it yourself, my tips are:
- do it regularly, if you can write a little everyday, do that. Do it twice a week if you feel like that’s more fun for you.
- But don’t make it a chore or make it something that you feel guilty about not doing often enough. Make it a treat rather than something that you know is good for you, but isn’t fun. It’s mental ice cream, not mental broccoli.
- you can just make a list of things that you’re grateful for if you like, but if you’re feeling stuck or find yourself repeating the same things, Google gratitude journal prompts, there are some great ones to get you started.
- I feel like gratitude is a light hearted thing, so as I said, I’ve added pictures and stickers to mine, and made some pages into collages, you might like to scrapbook pages or draw pictures. Keep it fun, I say. And ignore that voice that tells you it’s weird or childish
- remember that it’s OK to celebrate yourself and your achievements too. Sometimes we can feel like we’re arrogant to like ourselves, and we can feel bad writing about things about ourselves that we’re grateful for, and stick to outer things, like our jobs and our families. Make sure you value you too. Besides, no one is going to read it, it’s just for you.