You may think this is an impossible feat or an ambitious, empty promise, yet studies have proved this habit actually helps.
Gratitude: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Reflection: the ability to analyse yourself, others and situations, then learn how to do things better, improve outcomes and feel better moving forward.
Gratitude is a powerful emotion. It can transform your life and open up incredible opportunities for love, joy, and success. It shifts your perspective and helps you learn and find the good in each and every moment… even the dark moments!
Robert Emmons at the University of California Davis has conducted a number of studies demonstrating the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal. In one study, he and Michael McCullough randomly assigned participants to one of two groups.
Those in Group One were asked to write a few sentences each week about what they felt grateful for during the past seven days, whereas Group Two participants were asked to record what irritated them during the same period. Everyone was also asked to keep a record of coping behaviours, physical symptoms and levels of mood and wellbeing.
At the end of ten weeks, those who’d kept a gratitude journal felt significantly more optimistic. They also recorded higher levels of wellbeing (perceived 25% higher levels of happiness), fewer distressing physical symptoms (23% lower cortisol, which is a stress hormone), and greater levels of physical activity.
But it’s often when we need gratitude the most, that it’s difficult to find. When you’re overcome with grief, sadness, anxiety or anger, it’s hard to see what’s going right in your life.
Getting in the habit of keeping a gratitude journal is an excellent way to ensure you experience the benefits of gratitude when you need it most. The gratitude journal I have written also has a reflective element that helps you learn how to adapt and to move forward in a better way, as life can throw lots of challenges at us and it’s important to learn from situations and then let go of any negativity.
I have seen with many of my clients and on a personal level just how beneficial a gratitude journal can be for learning to see the positives around us. This in itself improves our wellbeing, health and ability to sleep. I’ve observed that those clients who struggle with low mood, depression and stress improved their mental wellbeing and sleep quality when they were better at turning negatives into positives.
So, if you feel you are having a ‘bad day’, spend more time writing down what you are grateful for and what positives there are in your life. This is particularly beneficial before bedtime, which can also be a time to reflect on your days ups and downs and how you maybe could improve tomorrow.
Often we drift through life focusing on what we DON”T want. Note, putting a NOT in front of a negative feeling or word, never makes it a positive and gives the wrong message to our unconscious mind. It’s important to realise that we always get what we are focused on, so if you focus on what you DO want, imagine what could happen?!
What are your goals?
What do you want to achieve? In life we often have little focus on what we want to achieve and then wonder why we don’t seem to achieve anything! Think SMART: Be specific and realistic. Make your targets measurable, attainable and set a timescale.
How can I turn a negative into a positive?
Remember, that you choose what you think and feel, no one else makes you do it, so you need to choose the path that makes you feel positive and happy. No excuses!
Hence, we need to learn to look for the positives and opportunities that any challenge opens up for us, embrace it, learn from it, adapt and change if needed and then let go of the emotion and move forward positively. Learning this skill of spinning the negatives in your life to a positive learning will help you mentally, emotionally and physically, which will also help keep you calm, productive, happy and healthier.
1. Don’t just go through the motions. Make a decision to be consciously more grateful. Feel what you write, mean what you write, believe it and action it.
2. Don’t put yourself under pressure of a set amount, be flexible and don’t take the joy away by being too regimented.
3. Don’t wait for the right time. Making it part of your bedtime routine works, but if you have a positive experience, maybe write it down straight away. This reinforces the positivity felt and ensures you don’t forget anything.
4. Elaborating on why you are grateful allows you to really explore your feelings.
5. Focus on people rather than things. As much as I love my Iphone, it can never give me the same loved feeling my son gives me when he tells me he loves me or giggles at something he finds funny.
6. Set an intention each day, so you are focused on achieving this, such as finding the humour in an event, even if a bit boring, being productive, or eating 5 vegetables that day. Whatever helps you reach your goals and feel good.
7. Don’t rush. Don’t see this as another boring chore to get through. The fact that you can give yourself permission to take time to write a list of things that make you feel grateful and therefore good about yourself, should make you feel, well…. grateful!
8. Include surprises. Unexpected events often bring a greater emotional response. They’re also wonderful to look back on when you feel that life is boring and the same old routine all the time.
9. Keep out the negative...make your gratitude journal a purely positive exercise.
10. Mix it up. Don’t put same thing every day. The more you can do this, the more you’ll start to really appreciate what a gift life is. The world is beautiful. You are fabulous. Learn to really experience it.
11. Be creative. Who says a gratitude journal has to be full of lists? Mine contains everything from concert tickets to photos. Have some fun with it.
12. Give it time. Some experts say it takes, twenty-one days for a new habit to form. Don’t give up or dismiss it as not working. Commit to just three weeks and then see how you feel. Think about all that you can gain when it works?
So I invite you to enjoy your life and make the most of who you are and what you can feel and achieve.
You are so much more than you realise.
You deserve to be and to feel your best and the good news is that you can…. with Positivity and Gratitude
Definitely a beneficial and rewarding gift for yourself, a friend or relative this Christmas. Perhaps a new year’s resolution? Or make part of your healthy lifestyle.
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Have a wonderful Christmas