On being thankful...or "How to Write a Gratitude Journal"
November is traditionally a time for being thankful, remembering your ancestors and reminding yourself what you have to be grateful for. But you can do this every day of the year to keep gratitude close to your heart.
One way is to keep a Gratitude Journal. It can take a little while to get into the habit of writing in it at the end (or beginning) of every day but, like any new habit, once you have trained those neural pathways then it becomes part of your daily pattern and a part of you.
Being thankful for the small things in life really does make you see the bigger picture. Earlier this year a member of my family passed away suddenly and it really brought home how precious our time here on earth is. It sounds like a cliché but I looked around me and all the “stresses” I perceived suddenly seemed so small in comparison. I decided then and there to start a Gratitude Journal to remind myself during those stressful times that there is more to life and to see the bigger picture. I also bought myself a pendant, which I now wear around my neck every day – a small silver heart with the word “Gratitude” engraved on the back.
Writing a gratitude journal doesn’t need to be hard work and can be a lot of fun – and it can bring out the creative side of you, depending on your artistic skills! You can write it online (there are a number of journaling apps available – complete with nice graphics and the ability to add photos) or you can choose the old fashioned route and pick out a special book, with a nice feel to it, good quality paper, something you will enjoy writing in. Personally I really enjoy the physicality of handwriting and so I use a leather-bound book - which has the feel of an old tome – it encourages me to pick up a pen and write neatly and mindfully!
Journaling increases our self-awareness and insight and promotes growth and change. It allows you to work through complex issues in your life and can also be a way of relieving stress. There is no wrong or right way to write in your journal – it is your creation and your expression of how you see the world and your experiences. Get your true feelings down on the page and don’t hold back – this is your personal time –let your emotions flow!
Using our 7Seeds as a guide, here is a template of what to write in your gratitude journal:
Try to concentrate on positive thoughts – and if you feel negative ones creeping in, that’s ok – just see if you can then make a suggestion to yourself on how you can improve in that particular area. Re-reading past entries provides clarity to determine whether you have succeeded in making any changes you were aiming for. Assessing your past thoughts and emotions objectively with the benefit of being separated from them by time can give you insights into how to proceed with your life in the future.
Keeping to a certain time of day to write can be really helpful in creating this new habit. You might want to write first thing in the morning, setting a goal for that day and then come back and re-read it in the evening to see what you achieved. Or it can be a great way to end the day – especially if it has been particularly stressful - as it encourages you to be positive and think of things you are happy about and grateful for. This can help to change your mood, elevating serotonin (the happy hormone) and lead to you enjoy a good night’s sleep J
Are you a traditionalist, preferring to handwrite in a book, or are you more of a Thoroughly Modern Millie, using the latest apps on your phone, tablet or laptop?
Whatever you decide – make it yours, make it personal, and enjoy the freedom to express who you are – who knows, there could be a novel in the making!