The practice of keeping a gratitude journal is one touted by physicians, psychologists and, as we recall, Oprah, as a means of increasing our health and happiness. As Thanksgiving approaches, we’re inclined to take stock of all we have to be grateful for. And while counting our blessings is certainly satisfying, the greatest benefits of gratitude come when we take concrete action and write those thoughts down—which leads us back to the gratitude journal.
Whether you’re already an active journal keeper or want to start (or restart) journaling, here are some tips that can help you stay on track and get the full value of this practice.
Be sure you believe. Go into this practice knowing that gratitude can be cultivated. And be willing to give it time—we’re told it takes 21 days for a new habit to form. Meanwhile, don’t sit back with a “wait-and-see” attitude. Research suggests that the benefits of journaling are more fully experienced if you decide in advance that you want more happiness and gratitude in your life.
Write infrequently. Plan to write in your journal just once, no more than twice a week rather than every day. The reason, says U.C. Davis professor and gratitude expert Robert Emmons is that we quickly adapt to positive events, and focusing on them speeds up the process. That explains why one study found people who wrote in their journals just once a week were happier than people who contributed notes of gratitude three times a week.
Don’t be tied to a timeline. You may have heard suggestions that you set aside a specific time of day to write in your journal. That’s fine, but don’t be too rigid about it. If something happens that inspires in you a feeling of gratitude, there’s no need to put the impulse to write it down on hold. Make a note in your journal then and there.
Make people the focus. Writing down your appreciation of things definitely has value, but pay attention to your feelings of gratitude toward people. When you note your gratitude for people, you strengthen your emotional bonds and relationships with those for whom you are grateful.
Choose the medium that works for you. There’s no one right place to keep your notes of gratitude, so consider what best suits your personality and lifestyle. A plain legal pad may be the perfect place for you to jot down your thoughts or you might prefer to use and decorate a hardcover journal. If you’re never without your laptop, creating a Google doc could be the most logical form for your journal to take. Need something that will accommodate your more mobile way of life? Explore the gratitude apps available for iOS and Android.
You can get plenty of practice expressing your appreciation this month on Yerdle. In case you missed it, we've invited you to write 25 thank you notes to all the great folks who have sent you Yerdle items. Complete this gratitude challenge by the end of November, and we'll gift you with one free shipping credit.