gratitude journaling

gratitude journaling
Photo by Daniel Andrade / Unsplash

One of the things that has significantly helped me in my life has been gratitude journaling.

What helped me

Take a few minutes each day, ideally at a set time or after a daily habit like brushing your teeth, to list one thing you are grateful for.

It can be pretty much anything you are thankful to have in your life. Write it down in a journal or a notes app or on a post-it note. I've found it helpful to write in a physical journal with a pen, but the where and how you write isn't very important.

What is important is that as you write down what you are grateful for, connect with the feeling of gratitude and any emotions that come up. Gratitude can be for anything as small as having a warm bed and clean water to anything as big as the support of a loved one or a kindness shown by a stranger.

Write whatever you are grateful for in that moment, connect with the feeling of gratitude, and continue about your day.

Do this habit with a genuine intention everyday, and I promise over time it will be more than worth it.

Some rambling thoughts

I can personally attest to the many positives to doing this practice, as well as the difficulty of sticking with this habit and genuinely connecting with the feeling of gratitude, especially on a rough day.

The positives of this small daily habit are very significant. It might not seem like much, especially initially, to find one thing to be grateful for and to write it down. It might even be trivial to find many things to be grateful for when things are generally going well. But as a wise person recently told me "Life is a humbling thing", and I've been humbled by life several times now. And gratitude journaling, or at least remembering what I am grateful for, has helped me see some light on my darkest of days.

I first remember hearing of gratitude journaling from my high school English teacher Mr. Brown. It has been years since then and I can't say I've kept the habit consistently, but looking back it was one of the more important lessons from my time in school. Each class started with a few silent minutes to reflect and write down something we were grateful for. It was pretty different from how my other classes started, and I think this at least partly accounted for why Mr. Brown's class stands out as a highlight from high school (the main other parts being an excellent teacher and great classmates).

Since then, I've sometimes done gratitude journaling, but often not consistently and more often not at all. Part of the reason I want to post my thoughts here is to share what I wish I had done more of in the past, and more specifically what advice I would give to a younger me. I know it's more than a bit silly to think I have everything figured out at age 24; I doubt a lifetime will be enough to feel like things are starting to make sense. But gratitude journaling is something that stands out as a very good habit to stick with, and I would suggest both my younger self and you reading this give it a try if you haven't already.

There are many other things I've found helpful in my life that I will try to share here. Many of them have come from my experiences with mental health support, especially my current therapist. Arguably much more have come from conversations with family and friends, but the ability to speak openly with a trained professional giving a compassionate outside perspective – it's been infinitely helpful in my life. The current person I have been working with for over a year now has shared far more wisdom, practical advice, and compassion than I can ever repay, but gratitude journaling has been one of his main suggestions. His perspective on gratitude journaling as spiritual pushups has particularly stuck with me. It might not be much day by day, and some days you might not want to do it at all, but over time you will get spiritually stronger and be more ready to face what life has in store for you.

I hope you give gratitude journaling a try, and I wish you all the best.

Take care,

– Greg