The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
I recently had a nice catch-up with Ben, a northern ‘bloke’ friend of many years, and was surprised when he said he wrote in a gratitude journal every night. He said he had become more self-aware in recent years, but I’d never had him pegged as the journaling type. I suppose that says more about me and my prejudices against journaling than it does about him. Still, it got me thinking…and asking him a few questions.
When do you journal? Every day, at the end of the day so it’s a retrospective.
Why? It elevates my mood and that sets me up for a good night’s sleep. Even if it’s been a tough, busy day, it reminds me I’ve got a lot done and so I’m grateful for that. Also, as a business owner, I’m grateful that work is busy.
On a higher level, being grateful in my journal reinforces the concept of good in the world. I’m very focused on seeing the positive. Even if a situation seems negative, I feel there’s always an opportunity to learn.
How? I write a single statement: “I am grateful for….” and then I write the next statement. I don’t write it once and make a list of things, I write it each time to stress the point of being grateful for one thing.
For me, with the life and career choices I’ve made, I’m living a life I love. Maybe my gratitude for that is around me or I’m living proof of it. I need to think about that some more, but what I do see and accept is that gratitude is not just about saying “thank you” as an action.
Gratitude is also an emotion and feeds an emotional state. In positive psychology, gratitude is “a positive emotion that serves a biological purpose.” When practised on a regular basis, gratitude produces longer lasting positivity, which in turn improves psychological well-being. With how and where I live my life, my psychological well-being is strong, I have a positive outlook and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley published research findings on gratitude and the link to mental health (not just well-being) that found “indications of how gratitude might actually work on our minds and bodies” and offered four insights:
· Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions
· Gratitude helps even if you don’t share it
· Gratitude’s benefits take time
· Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain
I agree with those. They all make a compelling case to practise gratitude, whether that’s daily in a journal or in a less tangible way in the life you lead.
Do you think gratitude journaling would work for you? Does it already? Or do you have another way to regularly express your gratitude?
If you’d like to explore your ideas for living a more positive life, why not get in touch and see where some sessions of career therapy could take you?