15 Apr Using a Gratitude Diary to Keep Positive
Writing a Gratitude Diary to Keep Positive – Arjun from our Healthy Lifestyles team explains how he uses his gratitude diary to keep positive.
As a planet, as a society and as individuals we are truly treading in deep and unexplored waters; meeting challenges we could never have imagined 6 months ago. Perhaps you’re experiencing personal hardships which can make it feel like there is no light at the end of this tunnel.
Take some time to dive a little deeper, there is always something to be grateful for.
Gratitude is the act or the quality of being thankful, and acknowledging something good in life. Derived from the Latin word gratia or gratis meaning ‘free’ or ‘given’ like a given gift (‘grace’ or ‘graciousness’ also has its root in this word). Scientific expert on gratitude and Professor at UC Davis (California), Robert Emmons, describes two components of gratitude. Firstly, ‘an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits that we’ve received’ and secondly, that ‘the source of this lies outside of ourselves’ – the latter asserting that there is something we are part of that is larger than ourselves. It could be other people, nature or a higher power.
Gratitude can arise spontaneously, but it is not an automatic emotional response. Gratitude is a choice we make. Positive psychology research carried out at UC Berkeley found that gratitude is strongly connected with greater happiness, helps people feel more positive emotions, builds resilience and improves relationships with others.
Here are a few exercises I do to cultivate gratitude.
I have been daily journaling for over 5 years now. The process is certainly an important pillar in my life; an opportunity to unload and detach from anything and everything swirling around in my head at any stage of the day. Knowing full well that this is personal and for my eyes only, allows for a no holds barred approach to the writing – what made me happy or angry, positive and negative interactions, ideas, quotes and things that I am grateful for. Recalling what I’m grateful for has taken on more focus and meaning over the past few years. I update my gratitude journal daily in the mornings.
At first, the act of listing things such as air to breathe, a roof over my head, and the bus driver that stopped that extra 30 seconds for me to board may seem silly. However, I slowly found that the very process of being granular about what I am grateful for highlighted what I take for granted on a daily basis.
Taking the time to note down 3-5 things that I am grateful for each morning lays the foundation for a positive and energised day ahead. Even if the day that follows isn’t all smiles, especially in current unprecedented times, having done the exercise allows me to take a step back and remember those things that I am grateful for.
A study from University of California researched the impacts of writing about grateful experiences over 10 weeks. One group wrote about things that they were grateful for each day, another group focused on things that irritated them each day, and a final group to note down things remaining neutral to the experiences (not emphasising positive or negative). After the 10 weeks the group that noted the things that they were grateful for were found to be more optimistic and felt better about their lives.
Getting Started and Maintaining Your Practice
To begin, simply assign a notepad, a diary or even some paper, as your gratitude journal and set a time (with an alarm if necessary) to remind you to do the thing!
Start. Just start writing anything that comes to your mind and gives you a feeling of gratitude – this is less about what you write and more about the feeling and experience of what you recall. Visualise the things, the person or the act while you are writing about, feeling the physical sensations that may arise whilst doing so. It’s okay to take your time over this and allow things to arise from a deeper place. Remember this is for you only, there is no judgement, so be honest and let it flow…
As you begin practicing, the gratitude lists may become repetitive, instead of random things, try Tim Ferris (Author of 4-Hour Work Week & Tools of the Titans) framework for gratitude journaling:
- Relationships – current or old, that have helped or enriched your life in some way
- Opportunities that lie ahead today (to smile at a neighbour, to read a book etc.)
- Something that nice that happened or you saw yesterday (a purple flower, a comedy show)
- Something simple near you (the pen you’re holding or the chair you sit on)
Be creative and honest with yourself, and you may find that there are many more things to be grateful for than you once thought.