Just five minutes daily is all it takes to rewire your brain and unleash everything great in your life – and it starts with Gratitude! By practicing awareness of the positive things in life, we fight off the brain’s natural tendency to scan for and spot the negatives. As a result, we train our brains to be more positive and thus happier. Here are some guidelines to start your own gratitude journal:
1. Choose Your Journal
What works best for you? Do you find that handwriting in a journal helps you slow down and connect with what you’re feeling? Or do you prefer using an app? Decide on a format that works best for you, and use it consistently.
2. Be Consistent
You should write in your gratitude journal every day, and preferably at the same time of day. If you’d like to start your day on a positive note, write in your gratitude journal after you eat breakfast. If you want to use your gratitude journal to reflect after a long and stressful day, write in your journal just before you go to bed. It is important to associate your writing with other key habits. Even if you don’t write at the same time, write in conjunction with the same activity. For example, you could write in your journal on the subway ride home, or after you’ve finished washing the dishes each night. Writing at the same time or in correlation with the same activity helps making it a part of your routine, which will help it more quickly become a habit.
Decide on a how many things you’d like to express gratitude for each day, but be sure that it is no less than three to five. You can write your entries in a list or in small paragraphs, explaining why it is you are grateful for each. The key is to get in the habit of becoming aware of all the things in your life for which you have to be grateful. It may be hard to come up with three items in the beginning, but once you get in the habit, it will be easy to see the positive in all the things you do.
4. Be as Specific as You Can
In the beginning, it may be hard to find things for which to be grateful, and you may be tempted to list things like “I’m grateful for my health.” Try to be more specific and focus on exactly why you are grateful. For example, instead of saying, “I’m grateful for my job,” you could write:
I’m lucky to have a job right now even though many of my friends are unemployed.
I really like the people I work with every day.
I’m grateful to have a job that lets me have a flexible schedule to work around child care.
Focus on specific, positive things, and the things you have to be grateful for will come more into focus for you.
5. Turn Negatives into Positives
Help really transform your thoughts by finding the positive side of negative situations. Instead of dwelling on things that are not working out – maybe a failed relationship, or financial hardships, or health problems – try to find a positive in those situations. For example:
I’m upset that relationship didn’t work out, but now I have time to focus on myself and figuring out what I really want and need in a partner.
This will help you learn to focus on the positive in even the most tough situations. Though it may seem difficult and unnatural at first, keeping a gratitude journal and learning to focus on the positive in every situation will help you cultivate a greater sense of happiness and optimism about your life.