How to Get the Most Out of a Gratitude Diary? How to Get the Most Out of a Gratitude Diary?
In life, there are times when we feel like we have nothing to be grateful for. We feel... How to Get the Most Out of a Gratitude Diary?

In life, there are times when we feel like we have nothing to be grateful for. We feel a sense of void as we go through our daily routines. However, we need to continuously focus on positive things that we have experienced. One such way of doing this is to keep a gratitude diary.

A gratitude diary is a simple way of reminiscing the positive moments in your life. It is a tool that can be used when you are feeling down as it helps to uplift you at a time when you need it the most. Through experimental research, Emmons and McCullough discovered that “counting one’s blessings” using a tool, such as a journal, leads to improvements in how individuals function psychologically and physically. Participants who utilized this approach were more likely to exercise and had less symptoms of physical illness than those who did not. Furthermore, they found that frequency is also paramount in this process. Participants who recorded their “blessings” once per week were more optimistic than those who did not. In fact, those who recorded their “blessings” daily experienced an adverse impact referred to as a “gratitude burn-out” which resulted in feelings of less appreciation. Based on these observations, they therefore concluded that it is best to record once per week.

The process

The gratitude diary involves a simple process of reserving time for yourself once per week on the same day and at the same time to sit down and record five key moments that made you feel happy during that week. Reflect on something good that happened such as being grateful for a new job; or meditate on something beautiful you remembered such as the joy of listening to a meadowlark sing in your garden. It does not matter whether these moments are big or small but rather, it is about recording what is important to you and what made you feel good. Disregard what others might think as this is your diary for only you to reflect on.

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If you are uncertain what to write about, start with a basic guideline of expressing gratitude for things such as being able to wake up every day, securing a new job, appreciating nature, the comfort of your pet, enjoying recreational activities with friends and so forth. From there, you can then express and personally analyze why these moments are important to you, especially when you highlight the pleasant surprises you encountered. You experience true happiness when you perceive these items as gifts presented to your life, rather than mere entitlements (Robert Emmons). This supports the findings of Emmons and McCullough which highlighted the benefits of recording once per week rather than daily because gifts received once per week are far more appreciated than gifts received daily. Meditate on these moments by reliving the feelings of happiness in your mind while you record your experiences. By so doing, you realize that positive experiences occur both in your past as well as your present.

Begin your list

If you are still uncertain about how to begin your list, several templates and ideas are available on the Internet. This list is an important tool for reflection which can lead to a continued happiness in your life. As stated by Emmons, “writing helps to organize your thoughts, to facilitate integration and further helps you to accept your own experiences by putting them into context. Not only does writing allow you to see the events going on around you, but to create meaning of them in your own life.”

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Dannii Cohen

Dannii Cohen

Dannii Cohen is a psychologist, counsellor and author specialised in LGBT issues.