Do I really need to have a gratitude log?
When I was compiling the 10 essential habits for better mental health, I admit that I wasn’t too excited that “expressing gratitude” was on the list. I don’t think of myself as a touchy-feely person. I can sometimes be skeptical of someone that appears “too” nice or happy. So, having to make a gratitude log, or journal about my blessings, didn’t seem like something I could sincerely get into.
I grumbled about it to my sister and told her that I was thinking of leaving it off the list. She recommended I give it a try. And you know what? I’m glad I did.
But what’s the point?
Robert Emmons, a Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley, has been described as being the “world’s leading expert on gratitude.” In a November 2010 article in the Greater Good Magazine (published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley), he explains gratitude and the many benefits of acknowledging and expressing it.
In studies with more than 1,000 people between the ages of 8-80, he found physical, psychological, and social benefits for those who maintained a simple gratitude log. Benefits included:
- lower blood pressure, and stronger immune system
- More joy and optimism
- Increased compassion, and decreased feelings of loneliness and isolation.
I guess it was worth a try.
Ways to express gratitude:
A gratitude log is only one of many ways to express gratitude. You could also:
- write a letter to someone that you care about
- compliment someone in person
- incorporate grace at dinner
- focus on gratitude during meditation or prayer
- donate to, or volunteer with, an organization you support
- do random acts of kindness
- place meaningful images or quotes around your house to remind you of things you’re grateful for
- send an email or text to thank someone
What I tried:
I realized that I already do some of these things already, but not on a consistent daily basis.
So, I decided to start with a “stupid simple” gratitude habit. In my bullet journal, I have a page with a line for each day of the month. At night before going to bed, I am (creating a habit of) writing down one thing that I was grateful for that day. Some things I have written down so far include “page turners,” “clip on ties,” and “texts from my tween.” It’s quick, painless, and easy.
Has it made a difference?
So far, I would say yes. It’s only been 17 days, but I notice little changes.
I remember when I first joined Facebook. During the day, when I heard or saw something interesting or funny, I would think to myself, “Hey, I should post that on Facebook!” I am now doing that same thing with things I am grateful for. Just this morning, my husband and I were mulching our front flower bed. He had rubbed up against the rosemary and the scent filled the air. Immediately, I thought “Rosemary. I’ll write that I’m grateful for rosemary!”
By creating a habit around gratitude, I am becoming more aware of the positive things in my life and in the world.
Also, by writing them down, I can look back at past items and remember the good in them: the thrill of a good book, my son dressed up for his band concert, the connections I have with my kids.
Will I start singing with the birds every morning and dot my i’s with hearts? No. Will some days be almost impossible to think of one thing I’m grateful for. Yes. I’ve already had a day that I wrote “bedtime.” But, I am enjoying my gratitude log much more than I thought I would. I’m noticing and paying attention to good things.
And that is something I am definitely grateful for.
Update: It has now been 59 days since I started my gratitude log. I might not get as excited about each experience, but I still notice them. This shows me that gratitude is truly becoming a habit rather than a novelty.