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12 Months to Better Health: Journaling to Create an Attitude of Gratitude

By Sara Butler

Gratitude and Attitude

Are you familiar with the old idiom that goes something like “it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees?” When your grandpa or dad says something like that to you, you may reflexively roll your eyes, but it’s an old saying that really does play out in everyday life.

It really can be difficult to see the big picture when you focus too much on the details. In everyday life, it’s easy to get bogged down with work and commitments, which can lead to overwhelming feelings and eventually burnout. Luckily, there’s a way to combat this frame of mind to help you see the forest -- journaling. More specifically, taking a few minutes each day to write down something that you’re grateful for or that is going well for you.

This exercise may seem simple, but as we inch our way to the finish of our “12 Months to a Healthier You” series, it’s a great exercise to help you put the power of gratitude to work in your life. Let’s do this!

What Can Gratitude Do For You?

It may seem silly but practicing gratitude in your life has a legitimate impact. When you have an appreciation for the things in your life that are going well, it helps you to connect to something more meaningful in your life.

Psychological research has revealed that gratitude is associated with increased feelings of happiness. It can help you to feel more positive about your life, be present for great experiences, effectively deal with the challenges life presents, build relationships that are stronger, and improve your health.

With all of those benefits, why wouldn’t you want to take a few minutes out of your day to write down three blessings in your life?

How to Keep a Gratitude Journal

First, it’s important to understand that when it comes to keeping a journal where you write down your blessings or gratitude each day, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. It is important to write these things down rather than keep a tally in your head, though.

What you list each day can be small things, like that amazing turkey sandwich you had for lunch, or it can be big things such as a professional accomplishment at work. The point of keeping a gratitude journal is to remember something good that happens in your life and let the positive emotions flow over you as you think about it.

When writing these things down each day, you may want to keep these tips in mind.

  • Be specific - One of the main ways to foster gratitude is to be very specific with what you write down. If you’re grateful your significant other made you toast for breakfast when you were running behind last Monday, write that down instead of simply saying that you’re grateful for your significant other.
  • Go deep - Be detail-oriented in the things you write down and elaborate about a thing or person you’re grateful for.
  • Get intimate - You may want to shift your focus more toward the people in your life rather than the things you have. Things have a way of being superficial, but personal relationships are more profound and often mean more.
  • Include negatives - You don’t have to focus just on positive things. You can also be grateful that you managed to avoid negative outcomes in your life or turned something that could be negative into something positive. Good fortune and good decision-making should be celebrated!
  • Relish surprises - Write down things that surprised you or were unexpected. These types of events will help you feel more grateful day to day.
  • Write every day - Commit to a regular time to journal what you’re grateful for each day and do it.

The key to writing down your daily blessings is to find what works for you. Think about what feels natural and intuitive. For some people, doing this exercise first thing in the morning helps to put them in a positive mindset for the day, but others may prefer to do it at night when they can take some time to reflect on the day. Again, there’s no right or wrong way to do it, you just have to do it.

Because of Thanksgiving, November is often a month when people reflect on things they are grateful for, but you don’t have to confine this mindset to November. Instead, make practicing gratitude a part of your everyday routine and see how it can change your life for the better.

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