6 Lessons From Writing in a Gratitude Journal
I’ll admit, as a goal-oriented person (and also a life coach) I’m not always the best at living in the moment. I’m naturally a visionary, focused on the future and on “someday” results.
That can be a miserable way to live if you don’t check yourself.
The satisfaction of attaining a goal is often short-lived. We achieve that goal to receive a promotion but we’re quickly salivating over the next great job. Or, we buy our first home but almost instantly start pinning photos on Pinterest of the “next” or “dream” house.
While I’m all for goal-setting and a good vision board on Pinterest (I have several), it’s an obvious but little-appreciated fact that life is lived in the present. The only moment you can live in is the one that’s occurring at this very second, so you might as well embrace it, right?
One way to do that is through practicing gratitude. However, that’s not always so easy.
From what I’ve read in multiple personal growth books, humans aren’t necessarily wired for gratitude or positivity. It may be in fact a biological survival mechanism that we tend to notice the negative (which used to be for defense purposes, but now just makes us moody).
In an attempt to deepen my awareness of the gifts in the present moment, I decided to start a gratitude journal at the beginning of 2015. Motivated by about a million self-help magazine articles, blog posts, and books that promised huge benefits from writing down three things a day, I began on January 1st with a crisp new notebook.
I wrote the date, followed by a one on the next line. And so it began.
Over the course of the year, I’ve managed to keep up this practice, not every single day, but close. I now have an almost-full notebook with over 1,600 things I’m grateful for.
So am I happier? I think so. I’ve realized I’m better at noticing the good in a situation (although I have grown spiritually in the past year as well, which might be part of it). I think I’ve also grown in my ability to not be annoyed by many of the small things that people tend to get irritated about.
I also have kind of an unusual format of a “journal” now to show for my efforts, chronicling the events of the year, from witnessing my sister getting engaged, to visiting Mexico with my husband, to ramping up my coaching business and all the joys of that journey.
Here are some specific things I learned from the practice of keeping a gratitude journal:
- Gratitude doesn’t always come naturally.
- But, gratitude can be a learned behavior.
- Happiness and contentment aren’t about what you have and what happens to you as much as they’re about your perspective.
- We will never run out of things to be thankful for if we know how to look.
- Gratitude has the ability to completely reframe your attitude for the rest of the day.
- The truly satisfying moments in each day usually have very little to do with possessions and a lot to do with people and intangibles.
I’ve loved how I’ve grown through this experience. It’s the simple things that are truly the best. There’s a little saying I love that states a sweet, simple truth: Gratitude turns what we have into enough.
I definitely plan to keep up my practice of gratitude, and if this concept interests you, I encourage you to commit to it for a month and try it as well! You might also want to check out brightpeak’s Simple Living Challenge: 14 days of small, actionable steps to a simpler, better life.
Written by Diana Kerr