By Lynnie Stein / November 9, 2018

Gratitude

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” — Melody Beattie

We learn the magical lesson that making the most of what we have turns it into more.

Say thank you, until you mean it

Thank God within, life, and the universe for everyone and everything sent your way.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.

It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.

It turns problems into gifts, failures into successes, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events.

It can turn an existence into a real life, and disconnected situations into important and beneficial lessons.

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

Gratitude makes things right

Gratitude turns negative energy into positive energy.

There is no situation or circumstance so small or large that it is not susceptible to gratitude’s power.

We can start with who we are and what we have today, apply gratitude, then let it work its magic.

Say thank you, until you mean it …

If you say it long enough, you will believe it.

Today, I will shine the transforming light of gratitude on all the circumstances of my life.

From the book: The Language of Letting Go: Hazelden Meditation Series. Melody reminds us, and the best thing we can do is take responsibility for our own pain and self-care.

Most of us (myself included) could benefit from adding more gratitude and thankfulness into our life.

I am so thankful; for the soil in my hands, salt air on my skin, free food from nature, a simpler life, family meals around the table, my son, Thierry and my friends and family.

Here are three ways we can benefit from adding gratitude into our lives.

1. Begin a gratitude journal / a happy book. A gratitude journal is, quite simply, a tool to keep track of  happy things in life.

No matter how difficult and defeating life can sometimes feel, there is always something to feel grateful for.

The rule … only happy, positive thoughts.

While it can be tough to find something to be grateful about in a rough patch, it’s not just another “easy to say, but hard to do” action – it can actually help pull you out of your funk.

It’s extremely simple to start: simply write down (or type) the things you are grateful for on a daily basis. You can use a journal, diary, notebook, or just a piece of paper. If you’re committed to being green or just find it easier to do things digitally, you can use one of the many gratitude apps or even a simple Word document.

Once you have your journal or app ready, simply start noting the things you are grateful for.

Mastered a new yoga move? Journal it!

Received good news about a potential health problem? You guessed it – journal it!

You can be creative and draw or print out photos to put into your journal, even one or two a month. You’ll have a visual reminder of what you are grateful for. Add in some notes, even a few words.

It really is that easy.

In case you’re wondering “What, exactly, will this practice do for me?” – read on to learn about the potential benefits of this simple practice.

Benefits of a Gratitude Journal

Gratitude journaling, like many gratitude practices, can lower your stress levels.

It can help you feel calmer, especially at night.

Journaling can give a new perspective on what is important and what you truly appreciate in your life.

By noting what you are grateful for, you can gain clarity on what you want to have more of in your life, and what you can do without.

Gratitude journaling can help find out and focus on what really matters.

Keeping a gratitude journal helps you learn more about yourself and become more self-aware.

Your gratitude journal is for your eyes only, so you can write anything you feel without worrying about judgment from others.

On days when you feel blue, you can read through your gratitude journal to readjust your attitude and remember all the good things in your life. (Jessen, 2015)

A yoga enthusiast at Yoganonymous.com shared the benefits he noticed when gratitude journaling:

  1. It can make you more mindful, helping you to become more grounded and also making it easier to notice even more things you are grateful for!

2. Gratitude journaling can help you feel more balanced and less thrown off by daily stress.

3. You may notice that a lot more small, good things are happening – or maybe you’ll notice the small, good things that were already happening!

4. Your gratitude might act as a beacon to good things and good people, drawing even more positive things to be grateful for to you.

5. It can make you feel accomplished, even if it’s a relatively small accomplishment. We all need a win, no matter how big or small, every now and then!

6. Beware – it might just make you more giving and generous to others! But don’t worry, it isn’t always about money; paradoxically, there are things that actually grow and increase when we give them away, like compassion, empathy, and laughter!

Gratitude journaling can remind us how things in life are connected to one another, and guide us to one of those rare moments of epiphany in which we truly recognize that the word is so much bigger than us, yet we are grateful just to be a small part of it. (Pope, 2016).

If you’re the kind of person who wants that cold, hard evidence in addition to accounts of personal experience, there are studies backing these observations:

A study showed Turkish freshmen who completed a three-week gratitude journal experienced greater gratitude, better adjustment to university life, higher life satisfaction, and enhanced positive affect, compared to a control group of freshmen (Işık & Ergüner-Tekinalp, 2017).

Gratitude journaling has even been shown to help divorced parents forgive their ex-spouse(s), an extremely important step towards positive co-parenting (Rye, Fleri, Moore, Worthington, Wade, Sandage, & Cook, 2012).

Finally, researchers found evidence gratitude journaling helped school leaders foster a balanced view of the good and bad things that happen at school, use more appreciative problem solving, find value in school-based relationships, and experience more positive emotion, ultimately making them better and happier leaders (Waters & Stokes, 2015).

So, gratitude journaling seems like it has a lot of potential upsides and no noticeable downsides – but how does it differ from writing in any old diary or journal?

What is the Difference Between a Gratitude Journal, Planner, Diary, and Notebook?

The main difference between a gratitude journal and other similar items, like planners, diaries, and notebooks, is the focus of the action:

Gratitude Journal: finding things to be grateful for.
Planner: planning and organizing your schedule.
Diary: recording the events of your day (both good and bad), reflecting on the day.
Notebook: taking notes for work, class, or as a personal development tool.

As you can see, gratitude journaling focuses on what you are grateful for.

Filling out a planner focuses on what you need to do.

A diary’s focus is on what happened in your day.

Notebooks are for taking notes about present or future events to help you remember important points.

Each item has a place and a purpose, but for the most part, they are not interchangeable.

Organizing your week ahead with a planner may incidentally give you things to look forward to and be grateful for, but chances are there will be some events or responsibilities you are NOT so grateful for in your planner.

Likewise, you will probably write down both positive and negative events from your day in a diary, meaning that the focus is not solely on what is good, helpful or happy in your life. Finally, a notebook generally includes value-neutral notes and reminders, rather than lists of the good things in your life.

The gratitude journal is unique in this respect – it is the only item in the range of similar notebooks, planners, and journals that are solely dedicated to noticing and appreciating the positive things in your life. To get the maximum out of your gratitude journal practice, try to keep it this way.

It’s not inherently bad to write down the negative things that happened or the challenges you faced during your day, but unless you are grateful for it, don’t write it in your gratitude journal. Keeping your gratitude journal a place for only grateful thoughts will help you realize the benefits of a regular gratitude practice.

However, “there is no one right way to do it.” There’s no evidence that journaling at the start of the day is any more effective than before you go to bed, for instance. And aesthetics really don’t matter.

“You don’t need to buy a fancy personal journal to record your entries in, or worry about spelling or grammar,” says Emmons. “The important thing is to establish the habit of paying attention to gratitude-inspiring events.”

Brianna Steinhilber of everup.com drafted a list of gratitude prompts that can get you writing about all the things you have to be grateful for.

If you feel like you are stuck in mud to start with, at least a few of these prompts should be able to kickstart your gratitude creativity!

  1. List five small ways that you can share your gratitude today.

  2. Write about a person in your life that you’re especially grateful for and why.

  3. What skills or abilities are you thankful to have? (You communicate well, you’re a good cook, you have an uncanny ability to dominate in Fantasy Football. Hey, it’s your journal).

  4. What is there about a challenge you’re experiencing right now that you can be thankful for? (This is a tough one, but you have learned something or grown from the hardship—how?).

  5. How is where you are in life today different than a year ago–and what positive changes are you thankful for?

  6. What activities and hobbies would you miss if you were unable to do them?

  7. List five body parts that you’re grateful for and why. (Those long legs help you reach items on the top shelf … don’t forget the little things).

  8. What about the city you live in are you grateful for?

  9. What are you taking for granted about your day to day that you can be thankful for? (Can’t think of any? Your alarm clock, your coffee machine, the paperboy who delivered your newspaper, your friendly neighbor who always says good morning … and that’s before you even leave the house).

  10. List 5 people in your life who are hard to get along with—and write down at least one quality for each that you are grateful for.

  11. What materialistic items are you most grateful for?

  12. Write about the music you’re thankful to be able to listen to and why. (We couldn’t make it five minutes on the treadmill without our beats).

  13. Who has done something this week to help you or make your life easier and how can you thank them?

  14. What foods or meals are you most thankful for?

  15. What elements of nature are you grateful for and why? (The beach, a starry sky or one speckled with fluffy clouds, the sunset…).

  16. What part of your morning routine are you most thankful for? (A big stretch before you get out of bed, that warm cup of coffee, a cuddle session with your pet…).

  17. Write a letter to someone who has positively impacted your life, however big or small.

  18. What is something you’re grateful to have learned this week?

  19. When was the last time you laughed uncontrollably—relive the memory.

  20. What aspects of your work environment are you thankful for? (Supportive co-workers, flexible hours, great snacks in the kitchen…) (Steinhilber, 2015)

If you’re looking for more examples of the items others list in their gratitude journals, check out Oprah’s five items from her personal gratitude journal on October 12, 1996:

  1. A run around Florida’s Fisher Island with a slight breeze that kept me cool.

  2. Eating cold melon on a bench in the sun.

  3. A long and hilarious chat with Gayle about her blind date with Mr. Potato Head.

  4. Sorbet in a cone, so sweet that I literally licked my finger.

  5. Maya Angelou calling to read me a new poem (Winfrey, “What Oprah Knows for Sure About Gratitude”).

Since we can’t all be friends with fabulous and inspiring celebrities, here are a few other example items for a gratitude journal:

  1. The sunrise this morning during your early run or while getting ready for the day.
  2. A quick text from a loved one simply checking in on you.
  3. The feeling of slipping into bed with freshly washed sheets.
  4. Having enough to feed yourself and put a roof over your head.
  5. Your stress ball, which is so good at calming you down during tense or important phone calls.
  6. The strawberries you had for lunch today, in the sweet spot between soft and firm.

7. Your child’s or fur babies smile as you tuck them into bed.

8. The sound of rain falling on your window at night, calming and relaxing you.

While jumping right in and thinking about what you can write in your gratitude journal is an exciting part of the journey, it can get somewhat less exciting as time goes on. On those days when you no longer feel pumped to write down what you are grateful for, it’s good to be prepared.

These helpful tips for maintaining a gratitude journal from Lauren Jessen of the Huffington Post blog

  1. Plan to write in your gratitude journal every night for 15 minutes before bed. Set an alarm reminder on your phone or schedule it in your calendar. I’ve found that it is easier to write at night so that I can include things that I am grateful for from that day.

    2.

    Keep your gratitude journal by your nightstand so you will see it before going to sleep and remember to jot down what you are thankful for. Your journal may even become a symbol of gratitude so that when you just look at it, you will feel a sense of appreciation.3.Write as many things as you want in your gratitude journal. Writing down 5-10 things that you are grateful for each day is a good number to aim for.4.Your gratitude journal doesn’t have to be deep. What you are thankful for can be as simple as “family” or “the new book or movie I recently enjoyed” or “this morning’s breakfast.” What you are grateful for will differ from everyone else. The timing of when you want to write is up to you. While I try to write in my gratitude journal every night, sometimes it becomes every other night. That’s okay. Journal when it feels right for you — the benefits really are worth it. (Jessen, 2015)

The common wisdom is it takes three weeks to establish a new habit, so aim for at least three weeks of daily journaling before making any judgements. The only thing you stand to lose if you don’t take to gratitude journaling is a few minutes a day – hardly a huge loss! (Jensen, “Turn Pain to Joy”)

Starting up a new hobby or practice can be difficult, especially when it’s a practice that can dig up some pretty intense feelings. Don’t be alarmed if you find it to be a difficult, overwhelming, or highly emotional experience at first. Try to push through the discomfort and keep your commitment to daily gratitude, because greater peace and contentment lie on the other side!

Armed with these tips, examples, and guidelines, hopefully, you will find it easy to begin and maintain a gratitude journal!

“Some years ago, I asked people with debilitating physical illnesses to compose a narrative concerning a time when they felt a deep sense of gratitude to someone or for something. I asked them to let themselves re-create that experience in their minds so that they could feel the emotions as if they had transported themselves back in time to the event itself. I also had them reflect on what they felt in that situation and how they expressed those feelings.” (Emmons, 2013)

Have fun with your gratitude journal, and remember to make it uniquely “you!”

Have you ever practiced regular gratitude journaling? Are you currently keeping a gratitude journal? Do you have any tips or tricks to avoid some common distractions or difficulties? Let us know in the comments!

# 2. End your day with gratitude

# 3. Say “thank you” to others as often as possible

From the book: The Power Paradox by Dacher Keltner

Being grateful is one of the best ways to hold on to power that otherwise might slip away.

Lord Acton’s observation that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” however, is confirmed time and time again. As we enjoy elevated power, we are more likely to eat impulsively, have sexual affairs, violate the rules of the road, lie, cheat and communicate in disrespectful ways.

Just like “I love you,” those two words can make a difference in others lives. Let the people who you appreciate know they are appreciated.

Say “thank you” to the person who holds the door open for you. Say “thank you” to the person who waits inline whilst you are finding your card to pay. Say “thank you” to your children when they complete a chore. Say “thank you” to a friend when they do something nice for you.

We can choose to express gratitude in many ways – public recognition, expressing appreciation by email, by knowing eye contact and acknowledging what another person believes.

Expressions of gratitude create strong, collaborative ties and pave the way for greater influence. Studies find individuals who express gratitude to others as groups are forming have stronger ties within the group months later. Romantic partners who express gratitude to their partners in casual conversations were more than three times less likely to break up six months later. When experimenters touch participants on the arm in a friendly fashion, those individuals are more likely to sign petitions and co-operate with a stranger. When teachers encourage students with a pat on the shoulder, those students are three to five times more likely to try solving hard problems. Simply being thanked for completed work led participants to be twice as likely to volunteer for more.

Succumbing to the power paradox is the source of so many ills in our social life: anxiety, unethical behavior and arrogance. But solutions can be found in quotidian practices focused on others, such as the simple “thank you” that punctuates our daily lives.

Gratitude makes others happy and gratitude makes us happy—everybody wins.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. – John F. Kennedy

Peace, Love and happiness to all. xo Lynnie

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