You've probably heard it 100 times. “Gratitude is really important.” Why is a gratitude journal important? Maybe you've had one of those days where you just feel stuck in the muck, and you are not sure how to get out of that. I'll tell you about some almost magical ways to overcome the muck.
I do a lot of positivity coaching. Not just from this motivational speaker just-think-positive kind of an approach. I'm a psychologist and I get down to the science behind positivity and how it works.
Here's where we start, gratitude. The research is really clear about the positive effects of gratitude on our thinking on our mood and that branches out to affect every single aspect of our life.
What is it about journaling that has such a powerful effect? In those days where we are just feeling stuck, the thing that we don't notice is that our mind is playing tricks on us. The most likely thing for us to focus on is something that's causing us pain or discomfort or discontent of some kind. That's just a survival thing. Our brain will naturally lead us in that direction.
Journaling about gratitude forces us to focus on something else, at least for a moment. This is why gratitude is such a powerful part of establishing a more positive way of thinking in our life.
It's probably the fastest way I can think of to get you into that mode.
This changes the energy and it creates opportunities that weren't there before.
Let's talk about the journaling exercise specifically. I've got 5 specific tips for you to make this even more powerful.
For the first tip, I have to tell you about Matt and Becky who came to see me for some couples coaching. I gave them the assignment to do the gratitude journaling. When they came back, Becky had actually written down her gratitude list each day. Matt had thought about it. Now, both experienced some of the benefits, but Becky had a much more powerful experience with the exercise. Why is that? Because when you actually physically create a list, and it can be pen and paper or digitally, or think about it in your brain, there is something about the act of writing that engages more of our brain. It bypasses some of the old habits and neural pathways that we have and creates a more profound effect. Actually write it down your gratitude list. That's one of the benefits of journaling.
I would also include in this first tip that you get a specific manual for this. A document if digital, or a book. This isn't the typical journal where you are recording all of your thoughts and feelings and everything that's happening in your life, this is just for gratitude. Get a separate book for it. Get a pen or pencil and actually write it down.
Tip number 2, be really specific. Your brain will respond to this. It's a brain friendly practice to actually come up with very specific things that you are grateful for. Instead of saying, “Well, I'm really grateful for my family,” actually identify what or who or for what you are grateful. So, it might be, “I'm really grateful that my dad gave me a call this week. That just helped me to feel great.” So, being more specific helps your mind to focus on the things that are actually really abundant and awesome in your life.
Related to the specificity of tip number 2, in tip number 3 we are going to go deep. I would rather have you really dig into something and get depth than to spread it out and go broad. Here's an example of how that works.
I'm grateful that I have food in my home. Okay, let's go a little deeper. Take a loaf of bread for example, just think for a minute about everything and everyone that contributed to your having a loaf of bread in your home.
Think about the farmers who raised the grain that was harvested and was taken to a mill and ground into flour.
Think about the other ingredients and where they came from.
This practice of going into depth helps to increase your appreciation of even the most simple things in your world. That loaf of bread probably had hundreds of people contributing in one way or another to making sure that that was on your table in your home. Go deep.
Tip number 4 might sound a little strange coming from me because it's actually a negative practice. Now, by negative, I don't mean bad. I mean we are going to subtract something. In your mind, think about what your life would be like without certain things.
This is especially helpful if you've kind of come up with everything already that you are grateful for. I don't know that that's even possible. But if you hit a lull, if you hit a block of some kind, simply pick something in your world and ask yourself what would my life be like without this thing.
Indoor plumbing, for example. What would your life be like without indoor plumbing? Now, indoor plumbing may have made your list already. Look at some of the common things in your world, I can even look my office. What would my life be like without windows? I have a nice window here in my office where I get a great view of the mountain, and it lets natural light in.
What would my life be like without that? It would be darker. It would be duller.
What about my desk? What would my life be like without my desk? Where would I put my computer? Where would I sit? Do you see? Just subtract a few simple things in your mind and see what that does to enhance your gratitude journal.
Finally, tip number 5 is to be consistent. Commit to the practice. I often have my clients do what's called a gratitude Power-Up. For this Power-Up, they take five days where they journal and record what they are grateful for.
What if you could commit to this on a regular basis? Pick a time that works for you. It might be first thing in the morning, it might be just before you go to bed where you pull out that special book that you have created just for this purpose. Jot down three things for which you are grateful. Commit to that on an ongoing basis and it will give you a practice that you can carry into your life and really upgrade your positivity.
This is powerful stuff. Gratitude is a really powerful first step to creating and living a life that you love. I would love to put my book into your hands that will give you some other steps. Pick up your free copy of Pathological Positivity at drpauljenkins.com.