I've spoken a little bit about Gratitute Journalling on Instagram recently, about how it has become a part of my daily self care practice and how it helps me stay calm and focused when life gets busy and overwhelming. I've done it on and off over the last ten years, but more consistently this past summer as I knew I was heading into a busy and stressful time whilst trying to sell our home. I was lucky enough to win this beautiful journal from The Gratitude Attitude on Instagram, timed perfectly with me starting up my practice again. It's full of beautiful quotes and artwork, with a nice heavy hard backed cover. Having such a lovely book really makes it feel like a treat when I give myself the time to sit down with a cup of coffee and write in it.
What is gratitude journalling, why should you do it and how can it help you?
Gratitude journalling is the practice of writing down a list of positive things that you are grateful for. Typically it's a daily practice, taking around fifteen minutes to think of at least three people, places, items, experiences, services, memories or feelings that make you feel grateful about yourself and your life. It has been proven to lower stress levels, make you feel calmer when you wake up and go to sleep (depending on the time of day you choose to journal) and overall give you a tool to overcome negative feelings, emotions and experiences. The simple art of writing down what you are grateful for can also have far reaching affects on your life beyond your wellbeing. It can bring you clarity, focus and perspective on what you truly want from your life and who you want in it. The things you do write are important, but the things you don't are also notable in their absence.
It can be hard to make time for journalling, I know. We're all busy, and certainly don't need another thing on our to do list. But, I have experienced myself that if you make it a priority to give yourself time in your day to slow down and mull over your day or week to pull out the positive experiences and lessons, it pays back to you far more than you've put in.
Some tips for keeping up with your journal
1. Keep it next to your bed, or on your coffee table - somewhere you will see it first thing in the morning or last thing at night and are most likely to take your fifteen minutes to write. Have a pen handy too, so it feels like no effort.
2. Use a specific Gratitude Journal or a nice notebook, so it feels special when you use it. It also turns it into a keepsake once you've finished it, and something to look over when you have a tough day to remind yourself of all the good things in your life.
3. Experiment with journalling at different times of the day, and notice when you feel it benefits you the most. Perhaps first thing helps set your mood for the day, or last thing at night helps you feel calm before you go to sleep.
4. Give yourself enough time to really think about what you are grateful for, don't just go through the motions and jot down the first things that come to mind. It doesn't need to take more than ten minutes, but allow yourself at least that.
5. Don't worry if you forget to write in it for a day or two, or if you don't want to journal sometimes. It's beneficial whenever you do it, and shouldn't become a chore or another thing on your to do list. I don't manage daily journalling, but I aim for at least three or four times a week.
The magic of journalling, is that after the first few days of listing the obvious things in your life that you are grateful for: your partner, your children, your house, your dog etc it starts to get a little more difficult. You have to think harder and harder, and that's when you start to pick up on how much in your life you take for granted. You start to feel positive about things you overlook every day, and it begins to change your mindset even from the moment you wake up. I've come up with a few prompts that might help you if you feel a little stuck with what to write, these are all things I use myself when journalling.
Ten prompts to help you with your gratitude journal
1. How are you fortunate in your life, in a way that others aren't in theirs (i.e access to food, water, heat, electricity)
2. Look around you, what can you see that brings you joy but that perhaps you overlook because it's always there?
3. What abilitites do you have that you are grateful for? It could be something as simple as 'being able to read' or a skill such as photography or playing an instrument.
4. What did you do today that you are grateful for, perhaps something that you do often that you don't think to be grateful for? A walk in the park, coffee with a friend, catching up on a favourite TV show.
5. What have you learnt from a recent experience that you are grateful for? It might be a good or a bad one, but something where you experienced growth.
6. Who in your life are you grateful for, and why?
7. Use your senses...what can you see, smell, hear, taste and touch that you are grateful for? The way the light comes in through your windows, the smell of the basil plant in your kitchen, the feel of your favourite jumper on your skin.
8. What do you use every day that you take for granted? It could be a material possession, a service, a consumable etc.
9. What opportunites do you have, or have you had in the past that you are grateful for?
10. What are you looking forward to? An event, a trip, a meal, a day off, an early night...it can be big or small, just something in your future you feel grateful to have.
Whether you feel like you want to keep a gratitude journal or not, simply the act of thinking about the things in your life you are grateful for changes your perspective from a negative one into a positive one. There are so many things we take for granted that we have, but because we are human we can so easily forget them and let our mind wander to a place of worry and sadness. We feel like we aren't grateful because we don't have the job we want, look the way we want or have the these we want. The reality is, that unless we shift our mindset, we can have all the things we desire and we'll still feel like we don't have enough. Be grateful for what you have, and then you will always have enough.