Start a gratitude journal

Consciously or unconsciously every moment of our day, if we’re not practising gratitude, we’re practisng a degree of ingratitude. We’re never really standing still. We’re either being grateful or ungrateful.

With gratitude, our attention is focussed on the blessings of life.  Ingratitude blinds us to these blessings. In every situation, find a way to be grateful. Every day is a great day. If you don’t think every day is a great day try going without one.

If gratitude is a weak area in your life, don’t worry. You can relearn this important virtue by starting a Gratitude Journal. People who have kept gratitude journals over a period of time report that it helps them focus on what they have in the present.

Make a list of all the things in your life you are grateful for. Make it as long as you can. See if you can fill pages and pages.

You might be struggling at first but once you start you will be amazed at all the good things that are around you. This can be a great exercise to practise if you are feeling down in the dumps.

However, it may be harder to do when you are feeling low, but if you are determined to feel better self-talk yourself into focussing on the good and write it down.

The items that you note down may be unseen blessings that you frequently overlook, like 10 parts of your body that function reliably. Or it may be 10 things that make you happy in your life.

Or it may be something more direct, like 10 people who have helped you (however small) in your life.

In her book, Simple Abundance, Sarah Ban Breathnach suggests allocating a page for each day of the year, followed by 5 blank lines. Each day, write 5 things you are grateful for on the page. There could be powerful effects from this simple action.

Such lists serve as a useful reminder of the good things that you have, or have come your way.

“You simply will not be the same person 2 months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you,” Breathnach says.

After practising daily acts of gratitude for some time, you will find you may not even have to say or do anything. If you spend your time in gratitude then it will radiate out from you. People will start to seek you out because they will feel uplifted in your company.

“Whatever we are waiting for — peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance — it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.” — Sarah Ban Breathnach

A feel-good medicine  

There is documented proof that practising gratitude benefits you in many ways. In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events.

A related benefit was observed in the realm of personal goal attainment: Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a 2-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.

In another study, a daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults showed higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy.

Participants in the above study also frequently reported having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another.

Find out more about mental health and well being in the CAP Guide, Emotional Fitness