Over the past years, we talked a lot about establishing a gratitude practice in many different forms. Keeping a gratitude journal, practicing gratitude as a couple, manifesting positive affirmations,writing a thank you letter, using a digital gratitude journal, and so on.
Knowing about gratitude practice is one thing, but establishing a new habit and staying consistent with it is another. Gratitude journaling is just like any other mindfulness and spiritual practice such as meditation, journaling, or breathing exercises. They all sound so simple, there are many proofs that they actually work, but, in the end, we tend to struggle with committing to them.
If you want to experience the true benefits of a gratitude practice, you need to stick to it. Create a schedule or set up the routine, simplify the process, apply the Do Something principle to keep up your motivation, and stay consistent. To help you accomplish this, we’ve created this list of very simple tips that can help you succeed at committing to your gratitude practice.
9 Tips to Successful Gratitude Journaling
1. Time Commitment
We’ve designed The Five Minute Journal and 5 Minute Journal app as the most simple, yet extremely efficient daily gratitude tools. You fill out the journal twice a day––in the morning and right before going to bed. Since they take only five minutes of your day, you can easily incorporate them into your morning and evening routines.
While this is a good way for many people––Intelligent Change founders included––it may not be for you. Some people get uninspired if they repeat the same activity every day. If you feel like writing down things you are grateful for is yet another activity that you have to do, without truly investing yourself in this process, then a longer interval between sessions may work better for you. You can start by committing to gratitude journaling for about 10 minutes at least three times a week.
To help yourself keep up with this habit, you can set up reminders to fill out your journal, a feature of the 5 Minute Journal app that comes extremely handy.
2. Use Different Mediums
Bumps and mistakes in the process of establishing a regular mindfulness practice happen occasionally. Lack of inspiration, boredom, tiredness, and a busy schedule are just some of the reasons why we struggle to stay committed.
If this rings a bell for you, think about diversifying the process. If the pen and paper as your writing media no longer inspire you, try instead typing your gratitude (you can use our app for free), taking a photo or filming a short video of moments you appreciate, or recording voice memos.
Additional ideas are to switch from regular daily entries to different formats of expressing gratitude such as writing a gratitude letter, or designing a gratitude poster. You can also initiate a 30-day gratitude challenge on your social media account and publicly express your thankfulness.
3. Spare No Detail
Getting into details and exploring the why behind your gratitude can be more beneficial, rewarding, and effective than creating a dozen general entries from the top of your mind. Getting specific and going deep with your entries helps you create a stronger bond with the things you express gratitude for.
4. Cover Different Areas
If you’re looking for ways to enrich your daily gratitude practice, make sure to focus on different areas of your life. Focusing on a single area can narrow down your self-perception and limit your gratitude experience from enhancing your overall satisfaction and quality of life.
For example, if you only write about how grateful you are for your relationship with a partner or for your career accomplishments, you can start perceiving yourself only through those lenses. On the other hand, as you broaden the topics you write about, you start noticing how rich, abundant, and versatile your life actually is.
Some of the topics to express your gratitude about:
- Social life, networking, mentorships, and friendships;
- Relationships and romance;
- Wellbeing and emotional health;
- Milestones, professional wins, and your personal progress;
- New healthy habits and lifestyle changes you’ve instilled;
- Valuable lessons you’ve learned;
- Challenges you’ve overcome and how those experiences shaped you;
- Knowledge you’ve gained.
Pick one category that’s important for you, or that you’ve been thinking about recently, and list the things you are thankful for.
5. Think About The People
Is there a person in your life who deserves your gratitude but has never received it? Everyone has someone in their life to thank for something––for small and big things that enhanced your life and boosted your happiness. Think about these people and mention them in your gratitude journal entries. Consider expressing your appreciation in person––it will have a beneficial outcome on both of you.
6. Appreciate The Little Things
When faced with a question What are you grateful for?, we often tend to search our memory alleys for extraordinary experiences, milestones, life-altering moments, and big gifts like having financial freedom, moving to another country, finding the love of our life, buying a house, or the day when our child was born. And while these extraordinary moments are valuable and important to remember, teach yourself to notice and identify the small, ordinary things you tend to take for granted.
The person who smiled at you today in the park, an amazing book that lifted your spirit, a meaningful conversation with a good friend, a cheerful puppy you got to pet, a beautiful ceramic cup you drink you tea from, or the inspiring stroll you took this morning––express appreciation for the things that bring you joy here and now.
7. Change The Angle
As your gratitude practice progresses and becomes an essential part of your life, you’ll probably want to repeat some things you expressed appreciation for before. Your partner, friend, or child will make you happy more than once, and you’ll want to write about that. It's absolutely fine. Next time you catch yourself repeating your gratitude, try approaching those moments from a different angle.
For example, if you’re grateful for a beautiful experience you had with your partner, you can reflect on several angles of that experience and vary the details about why it sparked your thankfulness:
- The experience itself and how it was valuable for you personally;
- Why it was so special;
- How did the experience affect your relationship and your self in a positive way;
- Valuable lessons and takeaways from that experience.
8. Appreciate Avoiding Negative Outcomes
If you've been through a challenging, tough situation, one of the most effective ways of showing your gratitude is to say thanks for all the things that didn’t happen and yet they could.
Although we’re commonly advised not to picture bad things and outcomes in order not to intoxicate ourselves with negative thoughts, sometimes it can fuel our appreciation. By being thankful for the possible negative outcomes that you avoided and escaped, you prevent yourself from going down a negativity spiral.
9. Think About The Unexpected Events
When you stop and think about it, each day holds a little unexpected blessing. Remind yourself to notice, document, and appreciate surprises, funny coincidences, happy little accidents, and good news out of the blue.
Expressing gratitude for all the unexpected events that changed the course of action towards a more positive one can shed light on how lucky we are.
Establishing a new behavior, habit, or practice is never easy. Morning rituals, evening routines, healthy habits, or productivity skills require lots of hard and intentional work, focus, and accountability.
Look at your gratitude practice as a self-development tool that helps you unleash your full potential and unlock the fullness of life. When you express gratitude for what you have, you attract even more abundance into your life. And, once you start communicating your appreciation to the people around you, you share your joy and love with them. This, ultimately, leads to creating a better world, because when people are appreciated, noticed, and loved, they do better.
Now that you’ve read about different ways you can make your gratitude practice stick, the next important, vital step is to actually do them. As the famous saying goes, knowledge is not enough; we must apply. Create time in your schedule to journal about gratitude, be committed to this mindful practice, and experience positive effects on your life.
Photo by Kiara King