The Therapeutic Benefits of Gratitude Journaling

The practice of ‘gratitude journaling’, is essentially the act of actively noting down aspects of our lives which we are grateful for. Passing moments, people, or things which usually pass unnoticed, are given recognition, space on a page, that serves as a reminder of all the wonderful things we have day to day. Personally, I introduced the habit of gratitude journaling into my life just over a year ago, and I have found that forcing myself to actively take notice of all the amazing things about life has ultimately led to a shift in my mindset. I complain less, I thank more. I appreciate even the smallest of blessings which I’ve taken for granted for so long. My worries and stresses seem less significant in comparison to all the stuff which I am so fortunate to have. As gratitude journaling grows in popularity, I hope that everyone gives the act of choosing gratitude a chance, in whatever way that resonates with you.

Gratitude, in itself, is one of the most powerful emotions. What I have found, and I’m sure others will also know to be true, is that it is very difficult to force happiness or joy in during a sad time. Someone telling you to ‘cheer up’ when you are hurting has never really been inspirational. However, through the act of gratitude journaling, I have learnt that gratitude is able to coexist with most, if not all, emotions. Recognizing what you have to be thankful for does not rid your mind of pain or sorrow, but it serves as a reminder of better times to come, inspires hope, and says ‘you may not be okay now, but you will be soon.’ Through difficult times in my life, sitting down to write a list of what I feel grateful for means I take notice of the beauty of the sunset, or remember a delicious meal I had today, or appreciate the way my favourite song makes me feel. Nothing is too small or frivolous. In fact, nine times out of ten the first thing on my list is ‘my morning coffee’. As stupid as that sounds, I love my morning coffee, and I would never have even noticed how important it was to my day was it not for the practice of gratitude journaling bringing it to my attention. So now, if I have a difficult day ahead, or I feel glued to my bed, I can at least get up and be thankful for my coffee, focusing my energy towards gratitude and away from stress and fear.

As I mentioned before, this practice has grown in popularity recently, and I’ve especially often seen it crop up on ‘self-improvement’ social media circles. It goes without saying that this is a positive habit and that awareness should be raised of its importance, however we mustn’t allow social media to skew what the ‘point’ of gratitude journaling really is. At its core, it is an accessible practice, with no pressure attached, that can be adjusted to suit and improve almost every lifestyle. Often, I’ve seen gratitude journaling sold as something that has to be ‘aesthetic’, it has to be ‘perfect’, it has to be done at the same time every day and written in a £15 journal from Urban Outfitters in beautiful handwriting. For obvious reasons, this is neither accessible nor productive. There is no benefit to gratitude journaling if you are going to beat yourself up about forgetting, or not having the time, to do it every single day. Or if you feel as though there is no point unless you can afford an overpriced notebook to write it in. Ultimately the only thing that holds weight is how it makes you feel, which should be relaxed and inspired. It is not a ‘one size fits all’ practice, and there are little to no ‘rules’.

My advice would be, if what works best for you personally is writing down three things you are grateful for twice a week in the notes app on your phone, then great! If you want to keep a special notebook with nice pens and write for ten minutes every morning, then go for it! There really is no ‘too much’ or ‘too little’. As I said before, the benefit of the practice, and what will ultimately change your way of life, is taking time to notice what you are thankful for. And that’s it. Starting to realise how you appreciate a warm shower, or fresh laundry, or your coffee in the morning. Even through times of sadness or struggle, when we may not be able to be happy necessarily, we can still choose to focus our energy towards gratitude over worry, thanks over complaints, the best bits over the worst. I would recommend gratitude journaling, or simply the practice of bringing more gratitude into your life, to everyone, in whatever form that takes.

Alana Patey

Featured Image Source: Pexels

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