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6 Tips for Starting (And Sustaining) Your Own Gratitude Journal

I think having a gratitude journal works for me personally. As someone with a great tendency to be pessimistic, the first thing I’d always notice is something wrong with me and my life (either real or perceived). Especially when I’m depressed and anxious, my perspective is often dark-colored, making it hard to see anything good going on.

I’m not saying gratitude is the answer to anxiety and depression. It’s so far from that. But gratitude does help to lighten my gloomy thoughts from time to time. And to me, this little help is worth a try.

As opposed to a commonly held belief, gratitude is not about freeing you from all so-called negative emotions and thoughts, like you suddenly feel your life is great again. It is the act of cultivating a little bit of hope and joy inside of you for your self-care, even when sadness and despair may still persist.

Over time, with gratitude practice, I find myself being more open to the little good things around me. Besides the “bad” stuff I can spot in my life, I’ve been able to recognize positive experiences as well, however small they are. This recognition makes me feel calmer and grounded.

So, here are six tips I discovered that could hopefully help you start your own gratitude practice and make it sustainable:

1. Practice.

Frequency is key. Just like any other skill, the more you practice it, the more you’ll get used to it. There are days when it’s harder for you to “hunt the good stuff.” But if you can, try to jot down something in your journal on a daily basis. Many resources advise us to look for three things to be grateful for; however, if you manage to only find one thing, then that’s it. This practice is for you and your own being so you don’t have to meet any quota. After all, one is still better than none, right?

2. Time.

Pick a time at which you are able to reflect a little bit on your day. It could be daytime or bedtime, depending on what is more convenient for you. I choose bedtime because I often get up late and rush in the morning.

3. Think small but personal.

Cliches won’t do much. Things like “I’m grateful I have food because many children are starving” don’t click with me. Instead of generic statements, I write about specific experiences that feel true to me. For example, “I’m glad it didn’t rain today so I could go cycling,” “I’m happy Katie texted me to catch up,” or “it’s good I didn’t drop my phone at lunch.” You don’t need to have a great big thing to put in your journal. As long as it makes you feel good, it matters.

4.  Break it down.

An obstacle to gratitude practice is sometimes feeling like you can’t find anything, or having too few things to write about. This could be discouraging and breaking things down may help you see that you have more to put in your journal than you think. For instance, when my close friend took me to Starbucks, instead of listing it as one good event, I broke it into two separate events: “seeing my friend” and “her treating me a drink.”

5. It’s OK to skip.

Don’t give up because you have been skipping for a while. Just pick up where you have left off. Sometimes I stopped it for months and continued when I remembered. The value of the practice stays in the moment (like an Instagram story that lasts for 24 hours) rather than in the sum of the process. So if you are putting off, be gentle with yourself and resume once you’re ready.

6. KISS: Keep it short and simple.

There are already many complicated things in life and this practice shouldn’t be one of them. Don’t make writing a gratitude journal the next thing on your to-do list or a part of a self-improvement regime. Instead, just keep it simple and comfortable for you, based on your own interests and preferences. If you like long writing, that’s great; if you don’t, simply jot down a few words.

The Bottom Line

At first, gratitude practice may seem a bit mechanical or boring to you, yet gradually it will become more natural and easier. Take me as an example; I used to find this Robert Brault quote cheesy, but over time I think it’s actually true: “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Hey Mighties, let’s hunt the good stuff together!

Photo by Hou Ketu on Unsplash