This year at the start of November, a friend started sharing one thing that they were grateful for every day on Facebook. Between that and the fact that gratitude is a theme of end-of-year holidays, I got to thinking about the idea of a gratitude journal. What’s a gratitude journal? Simply a place where you take the time to record things you’re thankful for. Seems easy enough, right? But did you know that there are real, tangible benefits to keeping a gratitude journal? Check them out!
It helps you sleep better: As parents, sleep is something we all treasure. Multiple studies have found that gratitude is positively related to better sleep. Consider making writing in a gratitude journal part of your evening routine to put you in a positive frame of mind before bed. Better sleep is something we can all be thankful for.
It lowers stress: Keeping a gratitude journal can help lower stress. Regardless of how much you love every member in yours, families are stressful. So are jobs, both inside and outside the home. Taking time to remember the things you’re thankful for can help reduce some of that stress. And did you know that less stress can lead to a physically healthier you with less illness, too?
It gives you a pick-me-up: Feeling sad or stressed? Flip back through your journal a remind yourself of the good things in it, or of funny, kind, or happy moments which you’ve experienced—which can be hard to remember when you’re in a funk.
It can show you patterns: One benefit of using a digital journaling app is the availability of hashtagging your entries. You can use the hashtags to sort through your journal to identify patterns of what you’re regularly grateful for or things that that consistently make you smile. Use that knowledge to add more of those experiences or moments to your life.
It might decrease materialism: Okay, this is based on one study done with teens, but it couldn’t hurt to try, right? For those of us who feel the pressure to keep up with Joneses (or with our favorite Instagram influencer), a reminder that we’re grateful for what we have couldn’t hurt. Another good reason to start keeping a gratitude journal during the holidays, eh?
It encourages you to find the good in every day: All the other benefits are real, but this is the basic goal of a gratitude journal. Kid having a full-on meltdown at bedtime? Writing in your journal, you’ll remember that earlier that day, they and their friends raked the whole back yard without being asked—for no reason. Dealing with a very sick pet? You’ll remember the kindness and empathy of the vet who is treating them. There’s likely going to be some small comfort or act of kindness, even on the worst of days.
How do you get started? Well, think about whether you prefer to physically write things down or to record them digitally. If you’re a writer get a notebook, or you can find a gratitude journal which comes with prompts to get you thinking about what you’re grateful for. If you’re a person who prefers a digital method, you can simply journal on the device of your choice or search your device’s store for gratitude journals. (I like Grateful, which is $4.99 for iOS—don’t be fooled; it’s only “free” for a trial period. It allows for hastagging, multiple prompts, and the inclusion of a photo with each entry.) Or just follow my friend’s lead and do the Facebook thing. Bonus: next year it’ll come up in your memories.
Consider prompts like: I’m grateful for… What made me smile today? What made me laugh today? I’m looking forward to… What was something kind someone did today? You don’t have stick with the same prompt every time you write, or even just a single prompt each time. I’ve found as I’ve been writing in my journal that I notice more things to write about each time I write (or at least most times—not every day is full of sunshine and rainbows). Also, you don’t have to choose from the same few prompts each time, there are hundreds of choices to get you thinking if you find a blank page intimidating.
Before I go, here are some tips from University of California Berkley to help you get the most of your gratitude journaling. They include things like:
- Quality over quantity. Don’t just make a list of stuff; really take the time to detail one story or one thing you’re grateful for.
- You don’t have to journal daily. Once a week is enough to reap the benefits of journaling.
- Surprising things actually make us feel more grateful, so try to focus on those.
There’s more great stuff in the link above, so be sure to check out those tips, too!
What do you think? Are you ready to join me in starting a gratitude journal this season? It takes 30 days to build a habit and there’s no time like the present to get started!