For some time now I have been keeping a grateful journal, maybe a couple years or so. In this journal I write down 4 or 5 things I am grateful for and then I read them again to myself. While I figured I was heading the in the right direction, this journaling didn’t seem to make me more grateful. In fact I was still the same pain in the ass that I was two years prior to adopting this practice, but then one day it happened. I actually started to feel grateful; I mean a full on sense of gratitude for everything in my life.
The funny thing is I don’t know exactly why, but what was different is I was feeling it, not rationally thinking about stuff I should be grateful for, but instead deeply feeling grateful. It was all about the feeling not some method of convincing myself that I need to be grateful. Maybe my previous attempts at writing down what I was grateful for were too mechanical and laden with some kind of expectation that I should be grateful. Once I started feeling grateful the journaling on gratitude become more specific and insightful. The previous journaling would be things like:
- I’m grateful for my family
- My home
- My work
- My investments……
This was like trying to brainwash myself, repeating the same old worn out shit day after day, and it didn’t work. Real felt gratitude results in deeper insights into what you are grateful for and seems to be self perpetuating, where as making up super high level stuff like I was results in nothing. You can’t brain wash yourself into being grateful, but it seems you need to feel grateful or the journaling becomes a waste of time.
So where does this leave us when it comes to journaling? These are a few insights I’ve had over the past couple of days:
- When you do feel grateful by all means write something in your journal and be specific.
- You don’t have to feel grateful for everything, so if you only have one or two things that you feel truly grateful for then write them down, but don’t feel compelled to write down 4 or 5. It seems like you kill the magic feeling when the whole thing becomes some kind of stupid writing exercise.
- Don’t time box yourself, if you get up in the morning to write in your grateful journal, take a few minutes to think about it and feel it. Forcing yourself to write something down doesn’t move the ball forward. It’s not about using up paper and filling a page. It is about discovering and feeling real gratitude.
- Accept that there may be days where you write nothing at all. Maybe you just don’t feel all that grateful today; that’s alright your not a gratitude machine.
I would love to hear about your gratitude journaling experiences and what works for you.