By Kacey Bradley
I never thought practicing gratitude could do all that much for me. It sounded abstract and tedious. Just another thing to add to my to-do list. But I began anyway, and while now I often pour over the pages, it didn’t start that way. Some days, I struggled with what to write about. I sometimes wrote a list of three things I was grateful for that day—even basic elements of life like food and shelter. Some days I still do that. As my practice of gratitude has developed, it’s become easier and more fulfilling.
I also discovered that there’s something special about writing what I’m grateful for. It’s a part of my gratitude that’s personal. With it, I’m a more uplifted, complete person. It’s amazing how even a few sentences a few times a week can make all the difference in my attitude towards life.
Here are three specific ways I have benefitted by keeping a gratitude journal:
1. Increased My Positive Outlook
People often say to focus on the positive, and really, gratitude journaling is exactly that. The more attention I pay to the things I love about my life, the more present they feel. I’m giving them more mental real estate. Positive changes come when I feel good about life, and I can appreciate them that much more. Bringing gratitude in aids that cycle.
Research shows that paying active attention to gratitude can make you more optimistic and feel better about your life, and that’s exactly what happened to me. I spend so much more time now thinking about positive things, and gratitude journaling keeps me in that loop.
2. Relieved Stress
Gratitude journaling can be a great way to relieve stress and practice self-care. I have two journals—one for processing and venting while the other is for gratitude. It’s helpful to write about my feelings when I’m stressed out or going through something. Even positive life events can cause stress, from planning a dream wedding to guiding a child through life challenges to starting a new job.
What I find important is to make sure I don’t get lost in venting about the stress. While it can be a great outlet, I need something to anchor me back to the positive. I need to remind myself why I’m going through what I am and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Stress writing can become unproductive after a while. So after I release the negative, I need to refill with the positive. Writing in my gratitude journal helps with not feeling drained.
3. Improved My Self-Esteem
When I feel good about my life, I feel better about myself. Even when my gratitude journaling isn’t directly about how I see myself, everything I write about inevitably surrounds me. This is because I’m writing about my life. When I’m looking for things that make me happy, that’s how I’ll see myself, happier. When I’m gratitude journaling, I’m kinder to myself.
I also find that processing my thoughts and coming back to them later ingrains the positive aspects of my life into my mind. So now I can revisit them whenever I need to. I’ve realized that there will be days I don’t feel my best, but going back into my journal and reading what I am grateful for helped grow my self-esteem!
Turning Gratitude Into a Habit
Journaling regularly is one of the best ways I’ve found to turn gratitude into a habit. We’re not always conditioned to see the positive right away. It took a little while, not only to practice gratitude regularly but also to make feeling grateful more natural.
While journaling is one of many things that can make gratitude a solid, reoccurring habit, it’s one of the most concrete parts of a wider gratitude mindset. When I journal, the positive self-talk and reactions to situations come much more naturally to me.
Gratitude journaling isn’t about being perfect, nor is it about fixing everything. However, I’ve found that spending even a few minutes a week journaling about the positives of life has changed how I see things for the better.
Kacey Bradley is the blogger behind The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Along with writing for her blog, she has written for sites like U.S. News, SUCCESS, Guides for Brides, Hotel Online, and more!