Have you heard of writing a gratitude journal? Have you seen people post their gratitude lists on social media and wonder what it was all about? I decided I wanted to learn more and do some research to see if it would be something for me or not.
Something that kept popping up was the 21 Day Gratitude Challenge. Recommended for gratitude newbies like me. The idea is simple: write at least three things you are grateful for each day for 21 days. Why 21 days? Apparently, this is the sweet spot for creating an ongoing habit. This sounded perfect; so I decided to give it a go for three weeks to see if it worked and if it stuck.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF JOURNALLING?
If I was going to commit to a new habit, it needed to be worthwhile, right? The benefits of gratitude journals were pretty extensive and included:
- Lowering stress levels
- Greater sense of calm
- Better sleep
- Reduced depression
- Improve physical wellbeing
- Improved positivity
Sounds great doesn’t it! Surely it was too good to be true, but given the state of 2020 I figured it was worth a go!
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY OF JOURNALLING?
There was LOTS of advice out there as to the best way to do it. Some suggested a handwritten diary, others on a digital platform. Some said morning time was best to set you up for the day in a positive frame of mind. Others recommended just before bed as a summary of the day.
I opted for a handwritten journal as I love stationery and any excuse to buy more is always welcomed! I also decided that before bed would be best, as mornings with a 5 year and 2 year old to get ready probably wouldn’t be ideal…
WHAT DID I FIND?
So, having completed the 21 days – does it work?
Initially, I actually found it quite hard. I felt there was an invisible pressure to make my gratitudes really deep and meaningful – like I needed to make it count. You know, something like ‘I am grateful for the beautiful autumn leaves falling from the sky creating a warm autumn glow’. Now I do love an autumn leaf but somehow felt I was missing the point.
After a few days I realised that I was only writing this for me. It didn’t matter how basic they were. In fact, I realised that’s the whole point. It’s often easy for us to be grateful for the big things as they are right in front of us and we tend take notice of them. It can be the little, every day, mundane things that we miss and often take for granted. Once I had figured this out, I found it much easier and more enjoyable to do.
I have heard some people say they aren’t keen on writing gratitude journals as it feels forced and stops them from enjoying the ‘moment’. For me, I felt the opposite. After a few days of writing, I found that I was noticing more and more the little things that previously I might not have consciously appreciated. A funny laugh from my little girl; a chat with a friend; a decent cup of coffee. All of a sudden, I found there were more and more ‘moments’ where I honestly felt grateful and happy.
During the course of the gratitude challenge I had a lot of stuff going on personally. If I’m truthful, at times it was all feeling a bit much and felt like we were moving from one problem to the next. Honestly, there were some days I really DID NOT want to write in my journal and on those days it felt like a burden which I really didn’t need.
Halfway through the challenge, my washing machine broke. Now, I totally understand that in the scheme of 2020 this isn’t a big deal. But, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back and all I could do was focus on the fact that I had two small children (and the never ending tide of washing that comes with it) and now I had to take my washing to my Mum and Mother In Law. Honestly, I was in a really foul mood (ask my husband) and all I could see was the negativity and inconvenience. I begrudgingly went to write my gratitude journal that evening thinking it would be difficult that day. Instead I was able to see past the fog of negativity, annoyance and if I’m honest the part of me that was feeling a bit sorry for myself. I was able to see how lucky and grateful I was to have my Mum and Mother In Law who both lovingly and willingly helped me out (I will stress that all laundry services were carried out in a COVID compliant manner.). Don’t get me wrong, I was still annoyed about the washing machine situation but it definitely gave me a different outlook on it and my mood certainly improved.
I found it was on those days when I really didn’t want to write in my journal that the process was most beneficial and had the biggest impact on my wellbeing.
WOULD I RECOMMEND IT?
Is it a magic bullet that makes everything hunky dory and going to make you feel as though you’re tap dancing on rainbow? No.
Is it a useful tool to help keep some perspective and recognise the small positives in the everyday? Definitely.
With that in mind, I would absolutely recommend it and will continue to keep doing it myself. I think it is a useful tool to keep mental wellbeing in good shape. I think 21 days isn’t quite enough to solidify it as a long term habit and, for me, a bit more practice is needed.
I would certainly recommend giving it a go – what have you got to lose?!
TOP TIPS FOR JOURNALLING
If you do fancy giving it a whirl, here are some top tips:
- At the end of the day, you’re doing it just for YOU. So, do it whichever way works best for you.
- Don’t worry about what you write. No one else is going to read it so it doesn’t matter!
- If you can only write 1 thing, then just do that and try and again the next day. If you want to write 10 things, then do that too!
- Go beyond yourself – you can be grateful on behalf of other’s too and can help see a picture wider than just you.
- If you’re really struggling to find things to be grateful for, try some Googling some gratitude prompts. They can be good to get you started.
- Just give it a go and see if it works for you!