There is science behind the practice of gratitude. UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons has written extensively about this and shows us that when we take time to reflect on what we are thankful for, we experience more positivity, feel more compassion, express more kindness, and may even experience better sleep and immune response. One of his suggested practices is keeping a GRATITUDE JOURNAL to enhance wellbeing.
“As the day winds down, write about one thing that you feel thankful for and how it made you feel.”
Scientists even did an experiment in which one group of people wrote down what they were grateful for on a weekly basis, while the others wrote down life hassles or neutral events. Those who expressed gratitude felt better about their lives, as compared to those who focused on negativity.
I began to keep a gratitude journal many years ago during yoga teacher training at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in the Berkshires, where I later became visiting faculty. I wrote a lot in those days, too. Notes upon notes in class, but also journaling in the early morning hours, when my brain was fresh and clear. It offered perspective.
Today, I still prefer to write it all down in the morning, but you may find that just before bedtime works best for you. As the day winds down, write about one person, act of kindness, or sacred place that you feel grateful for and how it makes you feel. Use a dedicated journal and keep it handy. Daily, weekly or anywhere in between is fine. Just start. I have a feeling you’ll be grateful you did.
How does GRATITUDE JOURNALING work? It has the amazing ability to slowly but surely change our perceptions by adjusting what we are prone to focusing on. I may be thankful for my close family, but simply writing “I’m grateful for my family” day after day won’t keep me mindful of noticing new gratitude moments. The trick is to get specific. “Yesterday my sister gave me a facial in her new skincare studio… She has such a beautiful touch and relaxing voice that it made me feel loved and cared for during a stressful time.”
“It has the amazing ability to slowly but surely change our perceptions by adjusting what we are prone to focusing on.”
It is also important to express gratitude for things that are not smack in front of us—to pay closer attention to not only our communities, but the world around us gives us much needed perspective, which can certainly enhance the practice of gratitude and the effectiveness of your journaling. On that note…
I am so grateful you are here, now, reading THE WELL in Alembika Magazine, and I hope you feel inspired to give this wonderful journaling practice a try—feel free to connect with me and let me know how you feel after doing so. You can find me at email@example.com.