A couple of weeks ago I posted about my anxiety journey and how the act of reciting mantras has been an enormous help relieving anxiety (read here). Another practice that has helped has been the act of gratitude. Even if you don’t have anxiety, I believe the act of gratitude can be beneficial and lead to a happier life. It helps you to stay present and realize all the good around you. Having a consistent practice of gratitude helps you realize that even if life isn’t perfect right now, you have so many things to be grateful for.
Writing in a gratitude journal has helped me be more mindful of what I am thankful for. It forces me to set aside time where I am fully focused on gratitude. I alternate between two different templates for my gratitude journal and have described them below.
Gratitude Journal Template One
For the first template I use a series of 4 questions:
What is going well right now? It can be easy to focus on the negative, but once you start focusing on everything that is going well, those positive thoughts replace the negative. This helps you realize just how much is going well. I like how broad this question is. It can really cover any aspect of your life.
What are positive things about myself? It is important to not forget about ourselves when it comes to being grateful. Self-doubt and lack of confidence are two things I really struggle with. The act of listing out positive things about myself helps me to tackle the self-doubt and build the self-confidence.
What do I have that others would love to have? This question helps me realize how fortunate I truly am. Even when I am stressed out about money, or car problems, thinking about the less-fortunate puts a little perspective on my problems and complaints.
What are small positives that have made me happy lately? This is my favorite question of the list. I love reflecting on the previous day(s) and all of those little moments that made me smile that I might have found insignificant at the time. Even when you’re having a bad day, you can always think of something small that made you happy. Once you start thinking about that, you begin to realize there actually might have been more happy moments than you thought.
Gratitude Journal Template Two:
The second Gratitude Journal Template is simply a list of things I am grateful for, or my “Good Vibes” list as I call it. This template is more fast-paced, and I typically list more items on it than the first template which makes me dig deeper and get a little more creative about what I’m grateful for. You can get as broad or as specific for this list as you want. My list is usually a mixture of the two. Once you start writing words down, it’s crazy how many other things it makes you think of that you’re grateful for. Sometimes I can’t write down quickly enough all the thankful thoughts coming to my mind.
I go through waves of writing in my gratitude journal consistently and then times where I don’t journal for a while. I find I am overall happier and less anxious when I practice the act of gratitude and write it down. I have had a gratitude journal since 2012, which is when I was still experiencing intense anxiety and panic attacks. I love looking back at old entries and reflecting on how far I have come with my anxiety journey. Below are some things that have helped me get the most out of this practice.
Don’t do it every day
I find when I complete my gratitude journal every day I am just going through the routine than really thinking about what I am grateful for. This is when I write the same things, over and over again. This doesn’t mean that I am not grateful for them anymore, but I don’t believe I am genuinely practicing the act of gratitude, but rather just writing words down.
Changing up the templates
Changing up the templates goes in line with not doing it every day. Changing up the templates changes how you think about your gratitude. It also keeps things more interesting, which helps me want to practice more often. And some days I am just more inspired by one template than the other.
Get a fun notebook
I am slightly addicted to buying notebooks and journals – I might have a problem. As I look around my room, I see at least 10 notebooks that all have different purposes, but looking at them brings me so much joy. It helps me to have a separate notebook for my gratitude journal because I love looking back at older entries to see what my mindset was then. It is also lovely to read about past things I was grateful for, which makes me grateful for those items all over again.
Taking notes along the way
I don’t typically carry my gratitude journal with me, and when I write in it, I write the full days entry at once. This means I can’t always remember everything I would have wanted to write about. It also acts as an inspiration and a starting point when I cannot remember much of my day. I use the notes app on my phone to take quick notes throughout the day for reminders about what to put in my journal later on. This is especially helpful for thinking about the small positives that have made me happy. Doing this also helps me stay mindful of my gratefulness all day long.
Don’t judge your own thoughts
Sometimes I feel shallow when I think about what I am grateful for. Or I think, is this “good enough” to put in my journal. I have to remind myself that there are no restrictions or guidelines about what I can be grateful for. I can have days where everything I am thankful for is materialistic. I can also have days where I am thankful for less-than-grand things.
Gratitude Journal Entry from Sunday, April 2nd, 2017
What is going well right now? Well, first off, I am now officially engaged and my relationship with Marc is going really well! I am sitting on the beach in the town I live in California. I have everything I need.
Positive things about me? I am a positive person that sees the good in people and situations. I am young and healthy. I have a passion and desire to learn new things. I am kind and loving.
What I have that others would love to? A job and a place to live in California. A supporting partner. A well-paying job. A working, reliable car. Money in savings. Free time to sit, read and write at the beach.
Small positives that have made me happy? Finding this journal and a new book and hat. All of yesterday – banana pancakes & smoothie for breakfast, flower fields, flower crown, acro-yoga, sunset, wine, cheese & love