What are you thankful for? It’s a great question to ponder throughout the year, whether it’s Thanksgiving or the heat of the summer. A gratitude journal will help you find happiness throughout the year.
How gratitude helps your life
Let’s face it – sometimes it’s tough to be grateful when dealing with the challenges of life. Unfortunately, there seem to be ever more frequent examples of pain and suffering of all types across the globe – weather disasters, economic inequality, social injustice, extreme poverty, and brutal inhumanity, to name a few.
In addition, the daily challenges we all face in this fast-paced world.
It can often be difficult to see the good in others and to keep the faith, whatever form “faith” may take for you. But the research is clear on the positive impact on our health and well-being of keeping the embers of gratitude alive. These are the benefits of gratitude:
- less stress and greater resilience
- better immune function
- better sleep
- healthier lifestyle
- more relationships
- more positivity in your life
Those who express their gratitude for and to others often seem to reap even greater benefit than the lucky recipients of their expressed thankfulness. A few simple gratitude exercises really can transform your life!
How to take a gratitude journey
“When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”
~ Gilbert Chesterton
Gratitude quotes are a great way to start your journey. Inspire your journey with these 51 sayings.
Next, take a moment to breathe and reflect! Especially if your life is moving at warp speed! This viral TEDx Talk, by filmmaker and photographer Louie Schwartzberg, is a perfect starting point for your gratitude journey. He’ll help you find the blessings around you.
For Schwartzberg, shooting time-lapse photography of flowers for over 30 years, helped him find the beauty around him. The movement of flowers is something we rarely see with the naked eye. Through his lens, we can find beauty in something we take for granted.
He says, “To see them move is a dance I’ll never get tired of. Their beauty immerses us with color, taste, touch….Beauty and seduction is nature’s tools for survival because we protect what we fall in love with.”
Schwartzberg’s Gratitude Revealed project takes you on a journey to bring gratitude back into your life, so you feel more connected to yourself and others.
He points out that our eyes are responsible for 80-percent of the information we consume. What’s happening right before your eyes every day that you’re missing or you’re taking for granted? Find time each day to be grateful for everyone and everything around you. These four powerful gratitude exercises will put you on the path to positivity and happiness!
If you’re going through a difficult or uncertain time in your life it may be harder to see gratitude right away. Even if you’re angry, stressed, or grieving the loss of a loved one — there are blessings in your life. You can turn these negative emotions into positive ones.
This likely isn’t the first time you’ve faced hardship in life. Celebrate your growth since the last struggle. Taking the time to find gratitude and kindness during difficult times will help you find happiness again. Try these gratitude ideas, specifically for moments like yours, so you can change your life today.
Exercise #1: Keep a gratitude journal
Back to the question at the top. What are you grateful for? Did it come to you quickly or did it take a long time to find something to celebrate? At the beginning of this exercise, it may take you awhile to find the positivity in each day. That’s ok. It takes at least 21 days before you begin to form a new habit.
Take a moment every day or at least once a week to reflect on what made that day great. Write it down every day in a notebook, notepad, binder, clip of paper or purchase an actual journal like this one by Catherine Price.
My friend and professionally certified coach and consultant, Linda Roszak Burton, created an empowering book, journal, and workbook to help you transform your life. “Gratitude Heals” will help you develop a gratitude practice that works for your life, whether you’re struggling with loneliness, anxiety, or depression or want to better your life.
If you’re a digital person, try an app like “New Gratitude Journal” to keep track of things that make you grateful. Wrap up your day on this app, rather than checking your email or social media channels.
Decide if you will start your day or end it with this exercise. You can even mix it up.
Reflect on one or two things. So what can you be thankful for? For example:
- Have a job – I am able to support myself and my family.
- Took a vacation – I was able to relax, spend time with my friends, and get more sleep.
- Healthy life – I am free of pain and disease. I am able to breathe/eat/walk/hear/see without difficulty.
- Be Less Stressed Toolkit – I am learning to take better care of myself, reduce my stress, and handle challenging situations more effectively.
Recent lessons learned from neuroscience indicate keeping a gratitude journal and communicating thankfulness in a particular way can actually result in a positive rewiring of pathways in the brain if practiced on a regular basis.
The key part is to write down why you are grateful. Science indicates it is the combination of what and why which leads to rewiring.
Don’t overthink this exercise. It should bring happiness and a sense of calm to your day.
Look for variety each day, either in the item listed itself or the reason for the gratitude tied to that item.
Exercise #2: Reflect
Once a week look over the previous 7 days of gratitude and reflect on the power of gratitude. Are there any patterns emerging, either in the items themselves, in the reasons for gratitude, or both.
Look for trends over periods of time. First, a week. Then, a month, Eventually, a year. Are there themes? Are there people or events in your life that you should appreciate more often? If so, refocus your efforts and find ways to make those people or events more prominent in your life.
Leading a life of gratitude really makes a difference. New York Times bestseller, The Gratitude Diaries, shows you how author Janice Kaplan’s family life, marriage, work, and health change after spending a year living gratefully.
Reflection forces you to find positivity in your life, which leads to less stress and greater happiness. Sometimes it’s easier to reflect on what went wrong rather than what went right. This rewiring of your brain will have a positive impact on your life.
You can also refer back to your journal when you’re feeling down or facing a life challenge. We know those will still happen! The journal is a personal resource to help you put life into perspective.
Exercise #3: Put your observations into practice
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
This gratitude quote from John F. Kennedy focuses on not only uttering or in this case writing down words in a journal but living by these words! In the previous exercise, did you find people or events in your life that you should appreciate more? Then, make changes to your life to make them play a more prominent life.
Perhaps you found while reflecting, that you’re not spending as much time with your family or showing your appreciation for your co-workers. Make positive changes in your life to show those people you care about them and appreciate all they do.
Exercise #4: Write a gratitude letter
It’s powerful to find gratitude in your own life, but it’s also important to share that. As you begin to write down positive moments each day, people may emerge who are making a difference in your life. You may also realize the impact of someone years ago who did something powerful for you. Perhaps it was a teacher or someone who gave you your first break in the professional word. Think back to people you’ve met along the way in your life journey, both present and past, and let them know the value they have in your life.
Kaplan suggests writing a “gratitude letter” to those who’ve made a difference in your life. She says it’s found to make you happier for weeks. Plus, it puts a smile on someone else’s face. After all, happiness is contagious.
According to a 2014 study published in Emotion, sharing your appreciation may also increase your friendships. That’s because there’s power in that note, email, or sign of thankfulness. It creates a bond of friendship and appreciation.
It doesn’t always have to be a letter. A simple thank you, holding the door open for someone, or the act of paying it forward all make a difference in your life and someone else’s.
These simple exercises will change the way you look at each day and help you find happiness!
What are you grateful for?
As a physician, healthcare executive at a Fortune 100 company, and integrative health practitioner, Z. Colette Edwards, MD, MBA knows the unique value of a holistic, whole-person approach to health and well-being. She also understands the challenges health inequities can present. Known as “The Insight Doctor,” she offers guidance and powerful tools that prepare your body, mind, and spirit for menopause, stress, and inflammatory bowel disease. Lastly, Dr. Edwards coaches individuals in the development of self-advocacy and health system navigation skills.
The foregoing information, resources, links and/or references (collectively, the “Materials”) are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as medical or other professional advice. No representation or warranty of any kind is made in connection with the content of the Materials. The Materials may not be current and no one should take any action based on the Materials without first consulting their healthcare professional.