The Easiest Way to Stay Grounded: Gratitude Lists

Do you keep a gratitude journal, or write the occasional gratitude list?

If you don’t have a gratitude journal maybe you’ve heard Oprah talk about them — they seem to be one of her biggies.

If you aren’t familiar with the concept, a gratitude journal is simply a place where you record a few things you are grateful for or appreciative of at the end of every day. A gratitude list is the same thing without the daily schedule.

The Power of Gratitude Journals

Research has shown that people who keep gratitude journals are happier with their lives than average.

One study divided people into 3 groups and one group wrote 5 things they were grateful for every day, the second group wrote down 5 hassles from the day, and the last group wrote 5 things that affected them in some way that day. The group that kept the gratitude journals. . . (wait for it) . . .

. . . was the happiest, the most optimistic, and had the fewest reported health issues.

Studies have also found that people who keep gratitude journals sleep better and worry less.

My Gratitude List Secrets

I’ve never kept a gratitude journal for very long.  I’ve tried a few times and dropped it after a few days (because I have a habit of starting 17 new things at once and end up not being able to keep up with many — if any — of them). I do however write gratitude lists fairly often.

I started writing gratitude lists for milestone events – New Years, birthdays etc. It seemed like a good way to sum up one chapter and get ready for the next one. As I wrote them I found that they made me feel good. So I started writing them more often.

Sometimes I write these lists in a journal, sometimes on a scrap of paper and sometimes I just list things in my head.  And the more I create them, the more I’ve learned that:

  • Writing the list down is more powerful than thinking it: It only takes a minute to find a pencil and a scrap of paper. Seeing the words makes them more real somehow and starting to write can open a floodgate of things you hadn’t consciously thought about being grateful for.
  • If you’re in a funk, sad, or just scattered they help put your mood in perspective: When you’re focusing on the negative there is nothing like a reminder of the positive, and how good things really are, to turn the mood around and show you how petty your funk often is.
  • It’s the little things that matter: I’ve started a lot of lists with the big things I am grateful for: my health, my family, enough to eat.  But I feel like it’s a given that I’d be grateful for these things – so writing them down doesn’t move me.
    It’s when my list include the small things that I often overlook that I really start to feel good.  When my list includes things like an impromptu hug from my kids, my pillow, the feel and smell of clean sheets, the chirping of the toads in the pond across the road, the summer smell of a vase full of flowers in January – that’s when I begin to feel more centered.
  • A short list can re-center you for quite a while: Noticing all the little things around is a great way to bring yourself back to the moment – to re-center. And it’s surprising how often taking 5 minutes to write down things you appreciate can change your mood for a long time.
  • Gratitude lists pay it forward: Noticing once how great my pillow is and how much I appreciate it makes it more likely that I will notice and take a moment to appreciate it again the next day and the next.’
    As you write more lists you will begin to notice things you want to include on the next list – giving you the opportunity to be grateful in the moment.

Gratitude is a Powerful Tool

It’s amazing how taking a few minutes to be grateful for the people, things and world around you strengthens you. Recognizing the goodness you are surrounded with takes you out of your head and into the moment. It puts things in perspective. It’s powerful.

If you’ve never tried writing a gratitude list or creating a journal – I highly recommend it.  It only takes a couple minutes and you may be surprised by how rewarding they are.

Writing a gratitude list is easy – grab whatever is at hand or, if you want to keep them, put them in your journal, write notes on your computer or phone – whatever works for you.

If you want to keep a journal the common advice is:

  • Find a notebook that you love and make it a dedicated gratitude journal
  • Find a great pen that feels awesome to write with (one more thing to appreciate)
  • Write down 3, 5, 7 (or however many things you want to) ever day before you go to sleep
    You can just jot a note or add comments about why you are grateful

If you are more of a techno-geek there are even gratitude journal apps for your smart phone.

What about you?

Do you keep a gratitude journal? What benefits do you see from it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Other people’s thoughts on gratitude journals

Photo by: Tarboxje


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