One Small Habit: Gratitude Journal

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As far as I'm concerned, when it comes to life-changing habits, gratitude is the best practice I've ever started. I read a book a few years ago that sparked my interest in the practice of gratitude, and haven't been the same since. It's so vital to my overall well-being that when I feel out of balance in life, it's usually because I've let this habit slip. I've written about it before from a more scientific perspective (Practicing Gratitude) explaining just how gratitude can help re-wire your brain, but this post is purely anecdotal. Here, I just want to write about what practicing gratitude has done for me in hopes that you will give it a try.
Gratitude cheers me up, helps me recognize amazing things in my life (big and small), and gives me a healthier perspective on tough days. It helps me look up and around and not be so self-absorbed.  It reminds me that I see only a small glimpse of the universe, and my circumstances are usually transient and much more insignificant that I make them out to be. It gives me gratitude "muscles"— like any other habit, the more I do it, the stronger I get at it. It helps me, an emotional person, keep a level head... at least most of the time. It puts the difficult stuff life throws at me in perspective and helps me not to get too wrapped up in those circumstances. Gratitude gives me JOY. It connects me to God. It brings an element of peace and happiness to my life that nothing else does.Interested in any of that? Here's one small habit I think you'll really enjoy: start a gratitude journal.

First, choose a time in your day and make it your gratitude time. Set yourself up for success by thoughtfully choosing that time so that the habit fits into your day as easily as possible. Perhaps it's at the end of your day, to give you a feeling of closure and peace. For example, 5:00pm at your work desk before you leave to go home. Or right when you walk into your house at the end of the day. Or just before you go to sleep to help you relax and have some happy thoughts. There are no rules to this; make it your own. If you'd rather begin your day with gratitude, practice this habit in the morning instead. Perhaps you'll find that it starts your day off a little brighter and sets the tone for your entire day. Experiment with the timing of it until you find a time that works well for you.

Once you've nailed down your time of day, stick with it. Guard that particular time in your day, and stick with the habit especially on the tough days. Pick 3-5 thoughts of gratitude from your day. Think about big and small things. Try and think of new and different things every single day. Search actively for little gratitudes scattered across the world, your day and your life.

Here's some inspiration: A conference call that went well. A friend you unexpectedly ran in to. A really good lunch. A joke that made you laugh. A compliment you gave someone and how they reacted. A sunrise that make you smile. A future adventure on your planner to look forward to. A nice quote you heard that improved your day. Hearing your favorite song right when you needed to. A good doctor's appointment. Meaningful relationships in your life. Squeezing in some exercise that day. Snuggling with your dog. Seeing your child's artwork. Try to look for big and little things that you may have accidentally passed over during your busy day. That's the whole point... to start noticing happy things in your life that you may have overlooked otherwise.

However and whenever you decide to practice this habit, I hiiiiiiighly recommend buying a journal solely for this purpose and write in it every day. I use a a thin hardback one that I can travel with and doesn't show wear and tear, like this one. Writing down your thoughts will help keep you accountable. The habit doesn't need to be a big production or take up any time. You don't need to use eloquent words. Just write the date and bullet point 3-5 things you are grateful for that day. I did this for years and it was so meaningful to flip back over my journal on a day when I was down in the dumps and recognize all that I had (and have) to be thankful for, and remind me that God has me in the palm of His hand.

As with anything worth doing, you'll have good days and bad days with it. It's ok if you forget every now and then. Remember, that is exactly the reason it's called a practice. You have to approach it over and over and it's not always effortless. Keep showing up for this habit and it will start to become second nature, revealing wonderful things to give thanks for daily. If something so simple and healthy can give you more JOY in your life, why would you not try it?

Love & Light.

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