There are countless reasons for you to be grateful today. One of it is that you’ve had Internet access to read this article and that means you’re probably living in a pretty decent house, with an income that pays your bills and buys the essential things in life. You are probably physically comfortable and may have never had gone through a week with an empty stomach.
These thoughts are great, but they don’t mean anything if we don’t fully comprehend why we have what we have. There are days when we remember about these blessings but most days, we see them nothing short of ordinary.
That’s where a gratitude journal comes in.
One of the many benefits of journaling is that it will improve that state of your mental health and sustains memory. Even Oprah recommends a gratitude journal and that is coming from a billionaire who we’d think would have everything that the world has to offer.
“Since 1996 I had accumulated more wealth, more responsibility, more possessions; everything, it seemed, had grown exponentially—except my happiness. How had I, with all my options and opportunities, become one of those people who never have time to feel delight? I was stretched in so many directions, I wasn’t feeling much of anything. Too busy doing.” – Oprah Winfrey, What Oprah Knows for Sure About Gratitude
That’s right. We are too busy doing. It isn’t because we are lacking in something. but because we are used to the idea that we have everything – even more than we need.
As a voracious journal collector and a passionate diarist, I dare say that the only time that I would feel better and less anxious about the things that bothered me at any time was when I focused on the positive things. The rest of it was just background noises that never helped me in one way or the other; if anything, they would magnify the problems that I had.
Having a gratitude journal would specifically shift your mindset to focus on only the things that you are grateful about, rather than it is a mere record of your daily life. While venting out is good at times, rants mainly focus on the negative aspects and moments in life that you can’t change anymore. Along with gratitude, I’ve found it easier to practice mindfulness – a habit that had helped me get rid of my negative thoughts. It has also kept me grounded and reminded me to stay focused on what I have and can do, rather than the things that I want to do but can’t.
The only obstacle when starting a journal is to be consistent and maintaining it as a part of your daily habit. How to even start, you might ask? The only way to find out is to start doing one! Especially if you have been feeling the need to practice gratitude more frequently in your life. I urge you to try and you might find it rewarding in the long run.
Maintaining a journal does go a long way.
Now, the only question left is: how to maintain a gratitude journal?
1. Set an alarm as a reminder and dedicate a few minutes a day (or once a week) to do it.
If you would like to do it regularly and set a specific time, try setting an alarm on your phone just before you go to bed. Otherwise, you can do it every other day when you need it the most.
I personally do it at the end of the day before I go to sleep. I try to do it every night or sometimes, during the day whenever all those negative thoughts and doubts would come in again.
Whenever you choose to do so, just dedicate those few minutes wholeheartedly thanking God for the people and things that you’ve been blessed with.
2. Your journal doesn’t have to be too “deep” all the time; focus on the simple things.
Some thoughts just lead to another. Just like how I started off this article by assuming you have the Internet and then a decent house as well as income. But often, you don’t have to dig deeper about what you’ve learned about and feel grateful for. And the more you’d repeat the same thing in your journal, the more assured you should feel about how those things – no matter how trivial in existence they are to you and somebody else – still exist in your life.
Of course, it’s always something special to ponder upon on a deeper meaning of our existence, but always know when to return to simple things to avoid overthinking. The lessons that you’ve learnt will be something that you can look back on when you’d need it most in the future.
3. Don’t criticise what you are grateful for.
Except if you are grateful for someone else’s misery, then you are on the right path. Be it your family, your cats, your pen, your books, your laptop… Everything that you find around you that you couldn’t imagine your life without. The gratitude journal is a criticism-free zone. So, be adventurous.
4. Add some fun elements to your journal.
There are days when I would be extra diligent and motivated to doodle and decorate with inspiring quotes from books that I’ve read. But on the days when I am not at my best, I’d just list down everything that I am thankful for. I’ve also used a phone app to write down the moment I’d discover a blessing when I am on the go so I wouldn’t forget about it later in the day.
Of course, there are different ways to do it. If you’ve tried and loved bullet journals, you can incorporate this in your gratitude journal. If you prefer a simple and minimalist approach, a list a day in an unlined journal would keep bad thoughts away. It’s entirely up to you and your creativity!
5. When you’re at one of your lowest points in life, read your gratitude journal.
One of the main reasons to have a gratitude journal is to pick yourself up when you are on the brink of losing your hope or on the edge of giving up.
It is so that you can restart your thoughts with positivism and remind you of blessings that you just can’t get your head around when you’re at your lowest point. It will not only bring back all the good memories, but also remind you again why certain things are meant to happen. And it’s OK to have bad days because this is not Jannah.
So, let me ask you again: do you feel grateful now? Are you inspired to start?
Go on then! Go find an empty book, or download an app where you can start listing down the blessings that you have. You’ll be stress-free by the end of the day and you’ll realise how there’s more to this life than your thoughts and hardship.
Syaza is a freelance writer whose life revolves around coffee, cats and heartwarming stories.