25 Apr How to Reap the Benefits of Keeping a Gratitude Journal
“Gratitude works its magic by serving as an antidote to negative emotions. It’s like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger, and resignation.” – Arianna Huffington
Gratitude, along with Mindfulness, can often be seen as a buzz word and topical of the moment. We know that an Attitude of Gratitude can have positive benefits on us from actual psychological research. The results are clear – better sleep at night, less stress, improved immune system, taking more exercise and better care of their health, having higher levels of positive emotions and socially feel more outgoing, compassionate and less isolated.
Over the past fifteen years, Robert Emmons and the Berkeley Greater Good in Action team at the University of California have explored the benefits of actively showing gratitude in life. Keeping a Gratitude Journal regularly can be one of the most beneficial positive changes in your life, and research has enabled the psychologists to understand the best ways to maintain a Gratitude Journal for you to reap the positive benefits.
Robert Emmons says: “Writing helps to organize thoughts, facilitate integration, and helps you accept your own experiences and put them in context. In essence, it allows you to see the meaning of events going on around you and create meaning in your own life.”
Set your SMART goal to increase you gratitude. The psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky has found that journaling is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful. By setting your goal to maintain a regular Gratitude Journal, this enables you to focus on building a habit, and a sense of achievement which you can look back on as you will actively record specific reasons, events and even moments which gave you purpose on a particular day on week.
Maintain a regular journal but don’t overdo it. More recent research has found that maintaining regular gratitude entries once or twice a week has been more positive in studies than keeping a journal several times a week or daily. Less is more meaningful. Make time to journal during your week at a time that suits you and fits in your busy life. But don’t make this a chore. Choose the way to journal your Gratitude in the way that suits you – there are now apps to download to journal or you can use the http://www.thnx4.org/ site from the Berkeley, or buy a journal you can write and doodle in.
Focus on the meaningful and go into depth rather than writing a long list. Remember how we write our Affirmations on our courses with the Advance Performance team. We consider the vision and reflect all our senses so that the affirmation is structured and is meaningful to each individual. Making your gratitude entry should be the same – go into detail of why a certain moment, an act of kindness or something you observed, heard or tasted sparked your feeling of gratitude. By focusing on that moment and the reason it affected you, will enable you to build and strengthen your dendrites.
Focus on your “Why”. As you write or record your journal entries of gratitude, consider your values and why this moment makes you feel grateful. Considering your “why” in gratitude as you do in your values and goals, this enables you to be aware of what you want more of in your life, and you can set the goal and plan to achieve this.
Oprah Winfrey explained how focusing on the “why” enabled her to increase her attitude of gratitude in her life:
“Recently, in the process of building a television network, I got so focused on the difficulty of the climb that I lost sight of being grateful for simply having a mountain to climb. Only when I began feeling gratitude for the opportunity to serve a new audience in a new way did a shift happen. Viewers started saying the most amazing things—things that aligned exactly with my vision of what OWN can be.”
Focus on People. Recent research on gratitude from a team at the University of Limerick focused on the effect of positively outwardly expressing gratitude which appears to be particularly effective in enhancing emotional well-being. The lead author Brenda O’Connell says: “When you feel thankful for someone, actually thank them!” Robert Emmons from The Berkeley Greater Good in Action team recommends that you look through your Gratitude Journal each week, and actively thank at least one person who has given you a feeling of gratitude.
What are YOU grateful for today? Capture this moment of gratitude in a journal – written, typed, online – whatever is the way that suits you, and actively take on an Attitude of Gratitude. Remember the moment, write it down and reap the positive benefits of the affirmation of gratitude.