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As I’ve mentioned before, gratitude is an action that is best performed on a regular basis if you want to unlock the full benefits. One way that I cultivate my personal practice is by writing in a gratitude journal at least once a week.
If you aren’t already doing something similar, I definitely recommend starting this month. It forces you to focus on positive thoughts, even when your circumstances have you feeling anything but happy.
While I use a journal designed with gratitude prompts, you can capture your thoughts in a regular notebook, your planner, your Notes app, etc. This exercise is more about the action versus the tool used. I’ve found that writing or typing grateful thoughts really helps the words sink into my mind and, more importantly, my heart.
With that being said, here is how I use my gratitude journal.
I minimize any distractions before I get started.
This means no TV, phone, kids, etc. Even if I only need 10 minutes to reflect, I want to clearly be able to think about things.
I use a good mix of freehand reflection and guided prompts.
Sometimes, I write a couple of pages reflecting on something that recently happened. Other times, I use a specific prompt to get me going. My gratitude journal has prompts sprinkled throughout which I definitely use on the days that I get stuck. My favorite ones are “List three things that you are grateful for” and “Write three good things that happened today and why.” It’s such a simple idea that its power can be overlooked.
I aim for consistency but I don’t force the matter.
Even though my goal is a weekly check-in, there are days when I forget or when I just don’t feel like it. I don’t put pressure on myself (#grace) and resolve to catch up when I can. However, I try not to let weeks go by without jotting down thoughts because consistency is key. If I can only name one thing that I’m grateful for at the moment, that one thing deserves to be noted.
I refer to my gratitude journal often.
I flip back through my entries, especially on days when I am feeling anxious, overwhelmed or just a little “meh.” Seeing those words can shake me out of a funk or sometimes just serve as a reminder that good moments are present in my life.
Gratitude is a learned behavior and this practice will help it become more natural. Do you currently have a gratitude journal? If so, how are you using it?
Sign up for Intentionally Grateful emails every Wednesday in November.