At the beginning of last year I was struggling a bit, feeling a bit low. I was sleep deprived and not coping well with the 5am wake ups and the introduction of tantrums. I’ve never coped well with waking up in darkness. My reaction to it is disproportionate and I find my love for life wanes a little in the winter months (even here in Dubai).
My parents came to visit, and I took the opportunity to go sit in a cafe with a magazine and enjoy an hour of me-time. It was weird. I felt a little awkward, as if I was forgetting something, but it was also quite blissful. The magazine was about living a healthy, natural lifestyle, and I remember spotting an article which mentioned gratitude journals. It talked of the benefits, ranging from psychological (better mood) to physical (fewer symptoms of illness). Pretty big claims!
I thought I’d give it a go, so before heading back to meet my parents, I popped into Bloomingdales and chose a notebook that I knew would make me smile each time I looked at it. It said ‘the grass is always greener’, and I edited it, as a quirky reminder to myself.
That night I sat down, had a think of what I had to be grateful for during that specific day, and wrote down 4 bullet points. As I wrote them down, I found myself smiling. As I fell asleep, I was aware of the things I had to be grateful for.
The next day I did the same, and the day after. I started to get into a rhythm of writing each evening, and pretty soon I found the cloud around me lifting. There was so much in my life to be grateful for, that I was taking for granted. Writing them down each night brought them to the front of my mind and allowed me to go to sleep less stressed and more grateful. And I discovered that the more grateful I felt, the easier I fell asleep, too.
By midway through the year I found myself using the journal less and less, because I didn’t feel like I needed it. But lo and behold, by December, as the days became shorter, I again felt that cloud descending. So I picked up a new notebook, and started again.
The effects were even quicker this time. Just the process of writing in the journal would put a smile on my face and brighten my heart. The simple 3 minute meditation on my day, taking those few moments out before sleeping to record my gratitude, had a wonderful effect.
The benefits of a gratitude journal
- Lowers stress levels
- Increases happiness
- Puts things into perspective
- Links to improved physical health
- Induces calmness
- Improves sleep
- A form of meditation, healthy for your mind
- Improves self esteem
The list of benefits is impressive, and I can’t help but think how wonderful it would be to implement this with older children too. To encourage them to become grateful and to acknowledge their gratitude at a young age can only be a good thing, and improve their resilience and mental strength later in life.
How to start a gratitude journal
As a busy mama, this is such a wonderful tool to help keep you on track, to prop you up when you’re feeling low and put things into perspective. If you can spare 3 minutes before bed, I thoroughly recommend giving it a go!
Here are my tips for getting started:
1. Choose yourself a notebook that will make you smile.
It doesn’t have to be fancy, just something you’ll enjoy writing in. Mine coincidentally have both been from Kate Spade, who does quirky notebooks with fun phrases on and beautiful gold edging. But there are so many lovely options out there. I even found some gorgeous notebooks on etsy where you can choose a quote of your own and have it painted on.
2. Keep it (and a pen) by your bedside, so that you don’t have to go out of your way to fill it in each day.
3. Do it just before bed.
This helps put gratitude front of mind before sleeping.
4. Try to keep your bullet points specific to the day you’ve just had.
Rather than writing that you’re grateful for ‘My wonderful husband ‘, write ‘my wonderful husband who helped so much around the house today’ for example.
5. Don’t worry if you repeat similar gratitudes throughout your journal.
Repetition means there are things you are grateful for on a regular basis – lucky you!
6. Choose a frequency that suits you.
I find every 1-2 days suits me best, but for some (as this article suggests) once a week would be better.
7. Don’t beat yourself up if you forget to use your journal for a while.
Just get back into it when you feel you’d like to. It’s for your pleasure, and although it might feel strange to write in to begin with, don’t make it a chore! Once it becomes a chore, it’s pointless.
8. When you finish a day’s entry, sit up, take a deep breath, think about how fortunate you are, and smile.
It makes all the difference!
Let me know how you get on, and what type of notebook you choose!
I’m not the only one busy getting into gratitude journals – if you’re interested in reading more, here are a couple more articles:
Huffington Post (although I’m not so keen on some of their tips, feel like it would become a chore their way…)
Forbes (this one is about gratitude rather than journals but it’s a useful read nevertheless.