How to Be Happier in 2019: Start a Gratitude Log
Written By: Matt Mignona
Gratitude is more than an action or a fleeting feeling: it's a way of life. Study after study has shown the power of gratitude to transform our lives; it helps us become happier and more productive. In fact, it's actually one of the easiest ways to hack happiness; with practice, it simply becomes a part of your day.
The Power of Gratitude
Harvard Medical School writes that regularly acknowledging the good things in your life is "...strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships." This article from Psychology Today highlights these scientifically-backed benefits of gratitude:
- Better Relationships: This goes for personal and professional connections. Showing your appreciation can lead to ongoing friendships, improved romantic relationships, and new professional opportunities.
- Improved Mental and Physical Health: Being grateful for what you have frees you from envy and frustration, which can help relieve depression. It may also improve physical health and our commitment to caring for our bodies.
- Enhanced Empathy and Reduced Aggression: An attitude of gratitude makes you kinder and less likely to retaliate for perceived slights.
- Improved Sleep: "Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer."
- Improved Self-Esteem: When we're grateful for what we have, we're less likely to compare ourselves to others. That comparison is often what causes us to doubt ourselves and our abilities; removing it helps us focus on our own journeys and accomplishments.
- Enhanced Resilience: Being grateful improves our mental strength and determination to forge on in the face of challenge.
Life is good, and gratitude amplifies that. By acknowledging what you have, you're inviting more of the same into your life. Whether you're focusing on your relationships, hobbies, spirituality, or professional goals, gratitude optimizes the action plan you've put in place.
There are dozens or maybe hundreds of ways to practice gratitude. These are just a few:
- Make a Gratitude Jar: This technique was made popular by Pinterest; it's basically a journal in a jar. Every day, you write down the best things that happened that day and put the little slips of paper into a jar. At the end of the month or the year, you can read them and reflect. This is an especially easy way to get the entire family involved; if you have children, it's a wonderful opportunity to start teaching them the power of gratitude.
- Do a Rampage of Appreciation: This is an idea from Jerry and Esther Hicks. You spend a few minutes noticing everything around you that is pleasing or useful to you. It could be the color of the wall, the cup that holds your coffee, the device on which you're reading this post or anything else that makes you happy and evokes appreciation in some small way. The idea is to enhance your positive feelings about one particular item or aspect, then move on to another.
- Say "Thank You": Words are powerful, and we can use these two more often. Be genuine. When you say "thank you", feel the sense of appreciation welling up for whatever it is you're grateful for; outstanding customer service, a thoughtful gift, or a kind action (someone holds the door or leaves space for you in traffic).
- Write Notes: When someone gives you a gift, write a note to thank them. It's not even necessary to deliver the notes (although that is nice when it's possible). Perhaps you're newly recognizing the benefits of a lesson your grandmother taught you when you were a child. Even if she's no longer here for you to thank in person, writing a note to her is a powerful practice for you.
- Pay It Forward: What simple things can you do to inspire gratitude in others? It's not about extravagant gifts: it's about your patience, kindness, understanding, and small considerations as you go about your daily life with others. You know how appreciation serves your health, self-esteem, sleep, and relationships; it will help others, too. When people are healthier and happier, they are kinder and gentler in the world. Giving others something to be grateful for creates an ongoing positive cycle—which is just another thing for you to be grateful for.
- Start a Gratitude Log: This is so simple and so powerful, it deserves its own section.
Start a Gratitude Log
You already know how important it is to write down your goals. It helps you clarify what you want, and it keeps your eye on the prize even when challenges arise.
Writing down what you're grateful for is equally powerful. By doing this morning and night, you start and end your day with massive positivity. It sets the tone for your day—and eases your mind as you prepare for sleep. Keeping a log gives you something to look back on: if you have a bad day, you can read your gratitude entries from the last week and realize things are still going pretty well, despite whatever setback you might be facing.
Here's how to get started:
- Get yourself something to write in. You can keep your gratitude log in your Happier Mind Journal or use any type of notebook you like. Dedicate that notebook to this purpose.
- Set your alarm three minutes earlier. Really, it won't take long to jot down three things you're grateful for every morning.
- If you're struggling to think of something, start simply: your family, your good health, your wonderful job, your most recent success. There is no wrong answer. The longer you do this, the easier it will be to think of things you're thankful for. You may not want to stop at just three things.
- Keep your gratitude log by your bed so it's ready to go morning and night. When you lie down to sleep, write down another three things you're grateful for. These could be three of your accomplishments that day, or three funny or joyful happenings you experienced.
- Use a pen you love. Seriously, it sounds like a simple thing, but using a sub-par writing utensil is no fun if it doesn't write smoothly or in a color you enjoy. You want this to be an enjoyable experience from start to finish.
- Commit to the process for 30 days. By then, and very likely before then, you'll be enjoying your gratitude log so much you won't want to stop. And see if you don't notice your overall happiness with your work, goals, and relationships increasing within just a few months.
Sometimes, we get so connected to our goals and ambitions that we forget life is happening right now. Don't push your happiness into the future: bring it into the here and now, and enjoy the journey toward your dreams. A gratitude log is an easy way to take charge of your happiness this year.