I was recently listening to an interview with Joan Borysenko, PhD, a respected author, teacher and wellness expert. During this interview, she said…“Gratitude is a fundamental character strength that is most highly related to indexes of well-being including happiness, health, and functioning well in daily life.”
In short, this emphasizes that gratitude is key to our health and happiness.
You have likely heard that it can be positive to take a few minutes each day to write down some of the things that you are grateful for. Oprah revolutionized “gratitude journaling” when she spoke of the benefits of it for years on her show.
If you do nothing else in the pages of your journal, writing down your gratitude can be life and health enhancing.
I engage in a gratitude practice as part of how I begin and end each day. I take a few moments when I first wake up to call to mind (and in my heart, and in my body) things I am grateful for. I put my hands over my heart and really allow myself to feel gratitude in an embodied way. I always start with giving thanks for a new day, another day to be alive.
I often take this a step further and write down what I am grateful for. Like yesterday, here is what I wrote in my journal…
This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for…
– my health (minus the cold I have at the moment)
– my family (see photo)
– the love I share with Peter (my husband)
– being a mother
– our Sadie girl (our Golden Retriever)
– this time away in Sooke to relax and have fun together
– the IAJW, our members & my friendship with Ruth
– clarity on my path
– my clients
– my home office
– my Mom (grateful to be 50 years of age and to have both of my mother’s still in my life – I am an adoptee and have two mothers, my Mom and my birth mother)
– my girlfriends
– the wonderful memories from my special birthday trip to Switzerland
– our round house
– living next to the ocean
– my education
– the courage to say “yes” to my dreams and take action on them each day
– time spent in nature
– journal writing
– working on my memoir
– food in our fridge
– local farmers
– clean water
– the book I am reading
– walking in a local park
– running 6 kms in the hotel gym
– sitting in the sun for morning coffee
– breathing with awareness, mindfulness practice
Here are 4 ways to take your gratitude journaling to the next level…
1. Make a list of things you are grateful for (write down at least 20 things) – once you have written down 20 things, push yourself to notice and acknowledge 10 more things you are grateful for. Gratitude is like a muscle, the more you stretch it, the stronger this virtue and wellness practice can become in your life.
2. Read, watch and listen to things that help you feel grateful (inspired, awake, aware, etc.) – listen to a podcast, a song, look at photos, step into nature….read, watch or listen to anything at all that fills you with feelings of gratitude. Once you feel yourself touched by gratitude, take 5 minutes and write in your journal about what gratitude feels like.
3. Remember that nothing is too small to be grateful for – you can be grateful for what you give, what you receive, for your next breath, for a leaf falling from a tree (nature’s beauty in the moment), a cup of tea, a warm blanket, a conversation, a touch…allow yourself to notice the small, seemingly insignificant things to be grateful for in yourself, your experiences, in your environment, notice what you can be grateful for and appreciate in others (again, nothing is too small to be grateful for). For example, I am grateful my son put the cereal and milk away this morning after he finished his breakfast.
4. Linger with gratitude – imagine being with gratitude like being with someone you really love. Linger. Take time to savour your time being in and with gratitude. Don’t rush. Time spent aware of what you are grateful for is time well spent. Gratitude will create the circumstances you long for in your life.
Gratitude heals. Gratitude is a form of prayer, a form of devotion to the gentle goodness in your life. Gratitude journaling can help you not only think about what you are grateful for, but to express it in a meaningful way. It allows you to be led and comforted by gratitude, to be touched by joy.
“If ‘thank you’ was the only prayer you said, it would be enough.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
Author: Lynda Monk, MSW, RSW, CPCC, Director of the IAJW.org, Co-author of Writing Alone Together: Journaling in a Circle of Women for Creativity, Compassion and Connection. Check out our Finding Joy Within Journaling Tool.