Gratitude is essential to a balanced, fulfilling, and spiritually positive life. In this article, I talk about three common misconceptions that might be preventing you from practising gratitude. Specifically, I talk about why you should keep a gratitude journal and how to maintain this journal throughout the year.
The Greek philosopher Epictetus once said, “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” Gratitude, or rejoicing over all the good in your life, is essential for your spirituality and physical and mental wellbeing.
Because gratitude has been extensively discussed on this blog, my focus today is on how to keep a gratitude journal. Countless studies have proven the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal. For example, in the book The Positive Shift, Dr Catherine A. Sanderson, a psychologist, talks about why you should maintain a gratitude journal.
She cites a research study conducted by a group of scientists on three groups of people:
- one group wrote down three problems that occurred during their week,
- another wrote down three events that happened that week,
- and the final group wrote that three things that they were grateful for.
Researchers found that those who wrote down three things that they were grateful for every day “were […] 25 per cent happier—they were more optimistic about the future and they felt better about their lives.”
So, maintaining a gratitude journal is a solid and well-researched method of practising gratitude in your life. In order to help you start and keep a gratitude journal, let’s talk about three common misconceptions.
#1 Misconception: “I Don’t Have Time for It.”
You don’t want a gratitude journal because you claim that you just don’t have time for it. But, I’m here to tell you that jotting down a few notes every day won’t take up much of your time. To combat this negative assumption, you can…
- Set a reminder on your phone for a 3-5 minute part of your day when you’ll write on your journal. This reminder is just to help you to remember to write in your journal, but the journal can be written at any time and anywhere.
- It’s better to have a physical journal where you record what you’re grateful for. Research finds that things that we write down with a paper and pen tend to stick in our minds and are easy to remember. But if it’s inconvenient to write down things in an actual journal, you can do this digitally through an app on your phone or other handheld devices. For example, Coach Rushdhi likes to write down his acts of gratitude in a journal that he calls his “Alhamdulillah Journal,” whereas I like to write mine on the “Notes” section of my iPhone.
- Jot down quick notes. Writing things like “Grateful for a sunny day” or “Grateful for lifting 25 pounds today.” This shouldn’t take a lot of time.
- Limit the number of things that you write down to 5 things three times a week. Of course, you can do less or more, but research has found that a minimum of three times a week is required for fostering gratitude and a more positive outlook on life.
#2 Misconception: “It’s Tacky and Unnecessary.”
A lot of things may seem tacky and unnecessary, but they’re still necessary for a healthy life. For example, you might not want to eat healthy or exercise, but that doesn’t mean that your emotions or preferences should dictate your choices.
You also might think that you’re already grateful and don’t need to write down what you’re grateful for. But as I mentioned previously just the act of writing something down solidifies it in our brain and research has found that writing things down makes us remember what we’ve written.
So, while having a gratitude journal might not be the only way to be grateful, it is a great way to remember to be grateful.
#3 Misconception: “I Don’t Think I’ll Have Things to Be Grateful For” or ” I Might End Up Repeating Things”
Sometimes, we might be so consumed by the negatives that we can’t think of the positives in our lives. For example, we might take the air that we breathe, the home that you live in, or the experiences that we’ve had for granted. But, this is when it’s the most crucial to remember all the things that we have going on for us–the things and people who are essential but overlooked.
Also, here are some ways that you can avoid repeating the same things every day:
- Keep track of things that might seem insignificant. Examples of this are, “I’m grateful for coffee” or “I’m grateful for getting a good night of sleep last night.”
Dr Brene Brown, one of the top researchers studying vulnerability, writes in her book Daring Greatly.
“Joy comes to us in moments—ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.”
- Make sure your writing is specific and concrete. Don’t simply generalize. Examples: “I’m grateful for cleaning the house today” instead of “I’m grateful for doing things that I didn’t want to do.” This makes it easier to list all the other things that you might not have wanted to do, such as washing the dishes.
- Realize that it’s OK to repeat the same things each day. Some of the things that we value are priceless and can never be accounted for even if we tried. Things and people like family and friends or a place to live might be examples of this.
Still Unsure About Keeping a Journal?
Try keeping a journal for a week. You have nothing to lose!
Please also remember to leave a comment on Lean and Healthy’s social media about your experience with keeping a gratitude journal.
About the Author: Takwa Sharif is a freelance writer and editor from Salt Lake City, Utah. She holds a Master of Arts in English and also has minors in comparative literature and literacy. She’s a runner and loves cooking.