“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
– Thornton Wilder
Two weeks ago, I wrote about a study showing that Grateful Hearts Are Healthier. The researchers studied people with Stage B heart failure and found that those who regularly wrote in gratitude journals had healthier hearts than those who didn’t.
Not only does practicing gratitude improve our health, but many other studies show grateful people are happy people. They also sleep better, have stronger relationships and are kinder.
Like many things that are good for us, though, practicing gratitude is easier said than done, especially if you aren’t lucky enough to have a naturally sunny disposition.
“Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours.”
– Marcus Aurelius
Studies conflict on whether it’s better for us to write in our gratitude journals every day or only once or twice a week. I suggest you do whichever feels right for you.
The same is true for how many things to list in gratitude journals. You can write down a specific number of things each day, perhaps three or five. Or you can use a more flexible approach, writing down whatever easily comes to mind, whether that’s one thing or twenty.
You should write a detailed explanation of what you’re grateful for. Jotting down a simple list like “my spouse, my dog and coffee” doesn’t take much thought.
Instead, give specific reasons why you’re grateful for them. For example, you might write:
- My spouse for giving me a hug when I was feeling stressed.
- My dog for cheering me up by being so happy to see me when I got home.
- Coffee, for making me more alert and productive at work this morning.
If you’re having trouble getting started, you may want to start with a list of prompts. Remember, keeping a gratitude journal isn’t a chore to check off your to-do list. It’s a way of encouraging yourself to feel appreciative for all the good things in your life, so keep it enjoyable.
Options for Gratitude Journals
You can buy beautiful blank books or make your own inexpensive gratitude journals out of a notebook. If you’re even slightly crafty, you can decorate a planner from the $1 store.
Need more structure? Consider buying a specially designed gratitude journal, like The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal: A Five-Year Record or Gratitude: A Journal.
If you’re already a journaler, there’s no need to have a separate gratitude journal. You can easily combine this with your diary or prayer journal.
Gratitude journals can be purely private, or you can make them a family affair. For instance, you might ask each person at the dinner table to write an entry.