Keeping a gratitude journal can help you find peace and joy, even in times of uncertainty
Many of us search for peace, tranquility, and a feeling of being grounded in our daily lives. This is universal, and has been true for many years. Yet, it is never as true as it is in times of uncertainty and upheaval, which many of us experience from time to time in our lives and which, right now, much of the globe is experiencing collectively. As we navigate a global pandemic, some of us find ourselves seeking ways to dig our toes into metaphorical sand and feel the grounding energy of the earth beneath our feet. We are searching for some certainty, some quiet of mind, and some happiness, amid what feels like a great amount of tumult.
For years, experts and media personalities alike have touted gratitude journals as indispensable tools for manifesting happiness in one’s own life. It is possible that this practice has never been as important as it is today. While we have so much to focus on, question, and mourn, it is integral that we turn inward and find within ourselves the kernels of good that exist in our lives.
A gratitude journal is a simple, daily practice that involves making a brief list of things you are grateful for that day. The list need not be too in-depth or lengthy. Some keepers of gratitude journals limit themselves to three things a day, while others set a timer and allow themselves a specific amount of time — ten, maybe fifteen minutes — to focus on what was good in their day. The way their dog sat with them while they read a book. The way the sun shone through the window while they were working. A particularly good cup of coffee. A laugh from a family member. A phone call that went longer, and was more fulfilling, than expected.
Others keep a journal with them throughout the day and jot down moments of gratitude as they happen. This is a method that has been touted by gratitude enthusiast, Oprah, who has been quoted as saying:
“Whenever there’s a grateful moment, I note it. I know for sure that appreciating whatever shows up for you in life changes your personal vibration. You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you’re aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots.”
Whether you are adding to a gratitude journal throughout the day or reserving time at the end of the day to reflect back upon the day as a whole, it can be very helpful to use a journaling app on your iPhone, iPad, or computer, as let’s face it — most of us are near or using a device most of the time.
In 2018, journalist Moya Sarner set out to do an experiment to see if keeping a daily gratitude journal for one month would actually breed positive results. In the introduction to her experiment, she wrote:
“Simple exercises that people can do on their own – such as spending two weeks writing a daily list of three things for which they are grateful – have been found to increase life satisfaction, decrease worry and improve body image, with the beneficial effects lasting for up to six months. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and a world authority on gratitude, has advocated that interventions such as this be used by therapists to help their patients.”
After a month, Sarner concluded that indeed, she would keep up her gratitude journaling practice.
“I sometimes find that, before bed, my thoughts speed up into an anxious whirl; concentrating on what has brought me gratitude that day seems to quieten my mind,” she wrote. “I am also finding more things to be grateful for as they happen – it is a useful tool for reflection, for noticing things I might otherwise take for granted.”
If you are considering beginning a daily gratitude journal to reap the benefits of happiness it can bring, consider these tips:
- Set aside a particular time of day for yourself each day. Be realistic when choosing this. Some people prefer nighttime, while others are too tired at the end of the day to think about writing. It’s okay to pick a time that works for you. Journaling is an intimate practice — it only needs to work for you.
- Pick a medium that will promote your participation. If you write best on paper, do this on paper. If, like many of us, you find yourself more connected to practices involving your phone, iPad, or computer, use a diary app. The only way the gratitude journal can have a positive effect on you is if you really engage with it. Build yourself a path of least resistance.
- Don’t overdo it or intimidate yourself. Research has shown that the benefits of a gratitude journal can be achieved through a very simple reflection practice — i.e. a short list of things to be grateful for each day. You don’t need to write a tome or even justify why something is on your list. Just embrace that it has brought you joy or happiness throughout the day, and record it. Best wishes to you in this uncertain time, and may gratitude journaling help you find some smiles, either now or in the future!