Gratitude Journal: One Simple Tool to Change Your Perception

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s a time for food, family, travel, and of course “Giving Thanks.” It’s wonderful to be able to thank our loved ones for all they do for us, however there’s something more you can do to really anchor yourself into the present and experience all the positive things about this season. In light of managing stress and trying to bring more mindfulness into our lives, let’s make the shift from Giving Thanks, to Living with Gratitude.

We typically hear the term “gratitude” when something momentous has happened. Something huge, something that everyone would agree is worthy of thanks; “I’m so grateful for everyone’s support getting me to this great achievement!” Or when we’re relieved at something we didn’t expect; “I’m so grateful that person found my wallet.” With the exception of many who make a conscious effort to live in the moment, the concept of gratitude rarely makes its way into our daily lives.

Although our parents may have taught us it’s polite to say “thank you”, we live in a culture that constantly feeds us messages that go against gratitude and appreciating what we have. Think about it… weeks before Halloween, the stores were full of Christmas trees. Ads everywhere (really… everywhere) tell us what makeup to use to look younger, what foods to eat to feel better, what new technology will make us happier, blah blah more popular, blah blah stronger, blah blah… you get the idea. The result is that we’re left focusing primarily on what we don’t have, and what we’re told we “need.” This leaves us in a state of feeling that our life circumstances, work, relationships, and the things we have aren’t really good enough. And why be grateful for something mediocre. Right?

Now that you’ve brought your awareness to this chaotic and somewhat bleak pattern, know that there are things you can do change your perception of what you have and who you are. Think how peaceful it would be to live each moment consciously aware of your surroundings and your current emotions, experiencing what is instead of what should be. One technique we’ve found especially helpful has its roots in eastern philosophy and western psychology;  the Gratitude Journal.

This Gratitude Journal is an exercise in mindfulness that trains our minds to seek out things to be grateful for, and look at life through a different lens. It’s simple, it’s powerful, and anyone can do it.

Take a break from making your Black Friday shopping lists, minimize that Amazon.com window, and try this simple exercise:

  1. Locate a journal or some paper. It can be as elaborate or simple as you’d like… just make sure there are several pages.
     
  2. Start now, write down 3 to 5 things throughout your day today that you are grateful for. Try a range of items. For example:
    I am grateful for…
    • Having a family

    • A heated apartment

    • Super comfy socks I’m wearing

    • The scent of this warm cup of tea (clearly I’m not a fan of the cold…)

    • Eyesight
       

  3. Place the journal by your bed, and add 3 to 5 more before you go to sleep at night. Keep this journal by your bed and add 3 to 5 things tomorrow night.
     
  4. Make sure you keep all the items in the positive and re-work any negatives into positives. This piece is tricky… for example:
     
    • change “I am grateful for not being sick” to “I am grateful for being healthy.”
       
    • change “I am grateful for not being homeless” to “I am grateful for having shelter.”
       

Remember, no item is too small or trivial. Typically after the second day, we have to think outside of the box. After a few days you’ll find that you may start to be aware of and appreciate things you may have not previously thought about. You’ll start to be more present and aware throughout your day; looking at daily life through a lens of gratitude.

It’s recommended that you use this for at least three weeks. This conscious awareness and practice of gratitude throughout the day is a simple, wonderful tool to create more serenity and happiness in your daily life, and truly help you savor all the little and big things that make up this season.

We are so grateful to be part of your journey.

<3 Lauren & Rachel

Lauren Debiak