A gratitude journal has a very focused journal writing topic. And if you are looking for ideas on how to keep a journal, it is certainly a simple place to start. But in my experience its benefits for improving your outlook on life are by far the most significant reasons for considering a gratitude journal.
Gratitude and Grief?
My regular readers might be wondering why I would be putting this article up on a grief website. On this site, I warn of the dangers of denying grief feelings. I do not believe that a gratitude journal causes us to ignore the more typical negative emotions associated with grief. If you are allowing yourself to really work with your grief emotions, a short joy-focused exercise once a day may be just what you need. It is a reminder that there are indeed things in life for which you can be thankful.
In her book The Joy of Appreciative Living
Jackie Kelm describes her research in using gratitude to create more joy in individuals’ lives. Her research so convinced her of the power of a gratitude journal that she has made it a focus of her work. While the book provides great insight into the results of her study and the theory behind the principles of the journal process, the three steps are really quite simple.
1. Daily Appreciation List
Each morning write down three things for which you are grateful. Spend a few minutes in silence feeling your gratitude for these three things. Some days, especially if you are dealing with loss, it is truly hard to come up with three things. This is especially true since these three things are supposed to be things that were not on your list from previous days. Each day you are adding new items for which you are grateful. The book includes stories of how on some days the items may be simple things around your house that you never thought to be thankful for. It may feel hard at first, but with practice it can help to change perspective.
2. Daily Question
The second exercise after the appreciation list is to ask yourself, “What one thing could I do today, no matter how small, that would increase my joy? (103)” After you come up with an answer, you write it down in your journal. These things should be simple, doable things such as taking a walk, talking a few minutes to sit and enjoy your favorite tea, or take a bubble bath. Then plan to carry out your answer.
3. Weekly Visioning
This is the exercise that may be most difficult for many readers of this site. But finding ways to envision a happy future for myself helped me a great deal in my own grief work. For this exercise, once a week you spend time writing about what a joy-filled life would look like for you. The point is not that it can or will actually happen. The point is to help you look for the potential for joy your life.
Jackie Kelm’s research says that if you carry this simple process out for 28 consecutive days you will be noticeably more joyful at the end of that period. Remember joy does not equal a happy, perfect life, but rather it is noticing the good and being grateful for it.
For more journal writing topics, read these creative writing prompts. Return from Gratitude Journal to Journey through Grief homepage