Keeping a gratitude journal is an excellent way to help you remember that your life isn't all dark clouds and crap fests. Recognizing that you do have so many things to be happy about and grateful for, fires good vibes responses in the brain. This trains your brain to look for the good instead of focusing on the negative.
One of the questions I've been asked is: "Who am I supposed to be grateful to?" The answer is, you don't have to be grateful to anyone. If you are religious, you might direct your gratitude to God. If not, just the act and feeling of being grateful really is enough. The point is to plant little seeds of happiness in your brain until it is blooming with happiness. (Yep, i went there. Cheese City).
You can keep your gratitude journal in an expensive, leather-bound notebook, or on a legal pad or even in a memo app on your phone. It really doesn't matter as it isn't about how fancy it is, but rather that it is easy for you to access and use it every day.
It also really doesn't matter what time of day you jot down your thoughts. For some people, it works best in the morning as part of their routine. For others, it's a great habit to enjoy just before bed where they can fall asleep with good thoughts and leave the stress of the day behind.
Lastly, you don't need to spend a great length of time on your daily journaling. Ten or fifteen minutes is more than enough. Just remember to FEEL the gratitude you are expressing, not just writing it down to get it over with. Also be sure to write down WHY you are grateful for each item. This reinforces the feeling and the good vibes, and trains your brain and ego to recognize more opportunities like what you are writing about.
I've been keeping a gratitude journal for a few years now, and I love it. It really does help me to focus on the positive and it keeps me mindful of things that may slip by unnoticed otherwise. Sometimes, though, it's difficult to find something new to write in my journal. Ordinarily, I jot things down that happened that day. Once in a while though, it's really tough to come up with something. This is when a journal prompt can come in handy. Try these when you are feeling a little stuck in the gratitude department.
1. FAVORITE PHOTOS
Scroll through the photos on your phone or your social media account and find one or more that brings a smile to your face. Write about all the things about that photo that you are grateful for.
The person/people in the photo
Where it was taken
The event you were experiencing
The cool shirt you're wearing
How much fun you had
The weather that day
Photos are an amazing way to pump up the good vibes in your brain. The visual clues in the photos and the memories they trigger are fantastic for pumping up the happiness juices in the brain.
2. ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND MISTAKES
Mull over some of your personal accomplishments and, yes, mistakes of the day. It's easy to be grateful for all we accomplish, so be sure to make note of these every day. However, why do I add "mistakes" to this prompt? Mistakes help us learn. They help us grow. Even when they are painful, mistakes teach us something, or make us stronger in some way. It's important to acknowledge the lessons learned so that they are reinforced in order to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
Unless you are the most humorless person on the planet, I bet there was something that happened today to make you laugh. Maybe not a barf inducing belly laugh, but even if it was just a chuckle or two, that is something to be grateful for.
List the moment that had you laughing and who was involved and express how grateful you are to that person/event for making you guffaw. Maybe you made yourself laugh! I do it all the time. I'm hilarious...to myself.
4. CHILDHOOD MEMORIES
Stop! Before you tell me that you had a crappy childhood, and you have no good memories of that time, may I remind you that you made it out? You can be grateful for your fortitude and stamina. You can be grateful for a best friend that made you laugh when things were really bad. Maybe you had a teacher who believed in you.
Now, if you had an amazing childhood, you should have no problem writing down fun memories and noting people that meant a lot to you. You have years and years of material here.
5. YOU GOT SKILLS
Everyone has a skill or talent. Everyone. Even you. Think about what skills you have that make you happy. Remember, even if you think it is a boring skill to have, not everyone has it, and some of us may be a bit jealous of that. You also don't have to be an expert to be skillful. Maybe you aren't a 5 star chef, but you can cook or bake without making anyone sick. Perhaps you are not making the big bucks as a highly sought after comedian, but you are funny and you make people laugh.
6. BODY PARTS
Our bodies are miracles. Plain and simple. It's easy to forget just how much goes into the makeup of a human body. It's also easy to forget how it keeps going without you even having to think about it. Give a shout out to your amazing parts that make up the fantastic whole that is you.
Heart - thank you for continuing to pump life sustaining blood throughout my body
Lungs - thank you for breath, without which I could not speak, sing, or live.
Kidney(s) - thank you for keeping my blood clean
Nose - despite you being a tad crooked and not a little bulbous, I thank you for the gift of smell and breath.
Skin - thanks for keeping everything inside!
You get the idea. There are thousands of parts to be thankful for. Even if you do not think you are attractive (that is society's standards you've been taught by the way), I bet there are things you can appreciate about your outer appearance as well. Be generous with yourself. You are amazing and you are beautiful regardless of what anyone has ever tried to tell you to the contrary.
Oh, this one is full of possibilities from the amazing to the mundane. For some reason, I get giddy when I see a butterfly or a hummingbird. I don't know why, and it doesn't matter, but I make sure to jot it down in my journal when I've seen one.
Maybe the moon was incredibly beautiful. Maybe you enjoyed a walk outdoors and saw an interesting tree. Maybe it's the first snow fall of the year OR maybe the snow is finally gone leaving a green wonderland to enjoy.
If you live in the desert like I do, that first day where the temperature doesn't get over 90 is your day to rejoice! Fall is here at last!
8. SIMPLE THINGS
it is very easy to take the little things for granted. For instance, how would you feel if you didn't have a pillow for your head at night, or a blanket....or a bed...or a place for that bed? What if you didn't have cooling or heating for your home? There are things, and even people, all around us that we rarely think about, until they are no longer there.
When was the last time you were grateful that the mail person brings your mail to you instead of you having to go pick it up somewhere? I know I'm grateful for the farmers and the truckers and the supermarket employees, and everyone else who is responsible for bringing fresh food to my local store so that i don't have to grow it myself. (I'm pretty sure I'd have starved a long tie ago).
Look around you and think about what life would be out without what your gaze lands on. Then write that down and be sure to describe WHY you are grateful for it.
You know stuff. You know a lot of stuff. Stuff that helps you in your work, in your life, in your parenting, in your talent. What's even more wonderful is that for most of us, more knowledge is at our fingertips. You can learn practically anything online! I am grateful that working with computers and software comes easily to me. It has helped me advance at every place of employment I've had. How has your knowledge helped you?
We interact with so many people every day. Some you see and talk to a LOT, some you see and/or interact with just once. People have an impact on us. Maybe someone did a small kindness for you today that made your day just a tiny bit better. Even something as seemingly small as someone holding a door for me gives me reason to be grateful. I revel in even the smallest acts of kindness. It gives me a lot of relief to know that people can still be polite and kind to each other.
I've listed some ideas for getting over a gratitude hump, and I hope they will be helpful. I'd love to hear yours! Please leave a comment down below to let us all know what you write about when you feel like you don't have a single thing left to be grateful for. I love hearing from you!
Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash