How to practice gratitude – my experience keeping a daily gratitude journal

Let’s talk about gratitude for a moment, shall we? And, before you roll your eyes away from the screen let me tell you that I used to feel the same way about a gratitude practice. The sentence “keeping a daily gratitude journal changed my life” used to reek of privilege and the kinds of people who’d caption photos with #blessed. But, whilst I’d still never use that hashtag personally, the truth is we are blessed and there’s power in acknowledging that. In this post I’ll share some thoughts on how to begin practising gratitude based on my experience keeping a daily gratitude journal and going from grimacing at the word to appreciating the benefits of a daily gratitude practice.

How I started my daily gratitude journal

I’ll be honest I can’t remember when I started my daily gratitude journal practice. I do remember I went through many a phase of doing it daily, then dropping it and not doing it for weeks or months at a time. It probably began after I read about it somewhere doing research for my Happiness Project in 2017. I kept going back to it because I kept hearing about how damn good it is for us to practice gratitude.

Practice gratitude by keeping a gratitude journal. Red cushion, book and cup of tea on floor in dappled sunlight

Gradually, after a while of see-sawing in and out of the practice I did begin to notice how my mindset shifted on the days I did it. I think what swung it for me, though, was reading about how a gratitude practice right before bed can help us to sleep better. As someone who’s long battled with sleep issues that was a deal-maker for me.  So, I now write 3 things I’m grateful for every night before bed, I do it in my regular journal, not a special gratitude one. Some nights I’m super up for it, and others I have to force myself to put pen to page. I still wasn’t sure of the impact this was having on my daily life until the Coronavirus Pandemic came along. As I wrote in a post on Instagram, during the first few weeks of anxiety, fear, sadness, anger – gratitude was an emotion quietly present underneath it all. It seems my daily gratitude journaling had flexed my gratitude muscles enough to enable them to come into play and help me immensely during profoundly challenging times.

The benefits of gratitude

 I started out giving thanks for small things, and the more thankful I became, the more my bounty increased. That’s because — for sure — what you focus on expands.”

Oprah Winfrey

As law of attraction has it, what we focus on expands. And so, when we focus on gratitude and seeing the good in our lives we attract more of  – yep you guessed it – the good in our lives. It took me a long time to believe this, but now I do. Don’t worry if you’re not on board with this yet though, there are plenty of other benefits to gratitude. During her research for The Gifts of Imperfection shame researcher Brené Brown found that wholehearted people, who live life joyfully actively practice gratitude.

And, the results of several studies suggest that a gratitude practice can benefit our physical and mental health significantly.

How to practice gratitude

As with most things starting a gratitude practice is about finding what works for you. For some, like me, a gratitude journal works well but for others, like author Gretchen Rubin, a gratitude journal is annoying and not helpful. Some people like to give thanks around the table each evening, sharing with family members and loved ones things they’re grateful for that day. Others choose to keep a gratitude jar, writing little gratitudes on slips of paper and putting these in a jar to be returned to when in need at a later date. Meditations on gratitude can also be lovely, as can simply taking the time to state “I am grateful for …” at points during the day.

Like all things a gratitude practice is personal, but my own experience has taught me how incredibly useful it can be. There’s still privilege in having the headspace to even think about starting a gratitude practice. But, if practising gratitude makes us more loving, kind and empathetic people, then I believe those of us with the privilege to do it might as well give it a go.

Want to work on creating more helpful habits a gratitude practice in you daily life? My Patreon community is a great, supportive place to start. Each week I share vlogs/blogs on holistic living practices we can start incorporating into our lives to help us be healthier and happier. Check out the Being Change Patreon community and become a member at patreon.com/beingchange.

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