What is a gratitude journal and why write one now?

Our apologies for the interruption in our regular posting schedule. We’ve been busy dealing with some personal issues that are utterly unrelated to the current COVID-19 pandemic. If anything was ever proof that life goes on, that’s it. Now is the time to really embrace my bias for positive action. I’m going to start a gratitude journal, which is pretty much what it sounds like. You sit down and take a few minutes to write out some of the many things that you are thankful to have in your life.

Gratitude turns what we have into enough.
– Aesop

There are many benefits to a gratitude journal:

  • Improves mental health: Psychology studies show that gratitude journaling can help you reduce the frequency, intensity, and persistence of negative emotions. Wouldn’t you like to reduce the amount of greed, envy, regret, and frustration in your life?
  • Increases happiness: Regular gratitude journaling helps you really take joy in the many gifts you have been given and can serve to improve your self-esteem.
  • Helps you sleep better: When you cut down on negative emotions and increase your happiness and sense of self-worth, many of the things that keep you up at night tossing and turning go away. This is a chance to improve your sleep quality and quantity.
  • Improves relationships: When you take the time to write down in your journal what you are grateful for, you become more aware of what others do for you. This activity can help you express gratitude to others and forge deeper connections with them, regardless of whether you are grateful for someone holding opening the door or giving you a life-changing opportunity.
  • Gratitude increases resilience: When you are grateful for the good things that have happened in your life, you also become more immune to negative reactions when the bad comes around. Gratitude gives your perspective and helps you realize that no matter how bad things are “this too shall pass”.

I am grateful for…

Here are some of the great many things that I am thankful for today.

  1. I am alive. Like everyone else on the planet, I have been in situations where an accident and being in the wrong place for just a few seconds could have meant I would not have been here anymore. If I had been born in another time, another place, or in a different set of circumstances, then there is a big chance that I would not have been here today. But I am here now. I have this moment and day and hopefully many days still to experience and live my life.
  2. My health. I may not be perfectly fit, but I am not seriously ill. I am not trying to cope with the effects of COVID-19. I am not anxiously awaiting test results that might separate me from my family and leave me in a ward in a hospital. I am well enough to enjoy living my life, and well enough to help some of the people around me cope with their own health issues. Not only can I get through my day unaided, I can go out for a short walk every day for some exercise and some exposure to sunlight, which are both helpful in regulating my mood.
  3. A roof over my head in a warm, safe, comfortable home. I am not trying to deal with all of the challenges that COVID-19 presents without access to hot water, a shower, and a clean environment where I can reduce exposure to the flu and other health risks. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to be homeless at this time, exposed and without protection.
  4. Adequate food and water. I have enough money to buy food for my family, and because I have a home, I have a place to store food so I don’t need to go back out very often to get more groceries, risking further exposure. I know how to cook, and greatly enjoy doing so. There is no food shortage. There have been very real famines and food shortages in human history before. I am so grateful this is not that, and that I have all the water I need when. Where 785 million people lack access to safe drinking water according to water.org, I have all that I need, whenever I need it.
  5. Access to a phone, internet, and a television. Unlimited amounts of information and entertainment are available to me, even though I am “trapped” in my home. I am rich in a way that millions throughout history could never have imagined. I can take online courses, read books, and communicate with my friends, family, and co-workers. How can I complain of being bored under such conditions?
  6. A job that allows me to work remotely. Not everyone has an employer that offers the chance to work from a home office. Not every employer has been able to remain open under the current restrictions. I have an income right now, when so many people are trying to figure out how to support their families after they have been laid off, or because they had to stop working to protect their health.
  7. I have a home office where I can work comfortably. There are folks making do in laundry rooms, kitchens, and at kitchen tables. Many of my co-workers are trying to keep their children amused and educated while trying to work at the same time.
  8. I have a chance to learn new skills. I have learned how to share my Evernote files with my spouse, do group text chats, and we’ve scheduled regular FaceTime calls. We’ve learned how to coordinate activity in new ways with our extended family. While we can’t apply many physical hands to our shared responsibilities, we can at least all share in the planning and keep our connections strong. I’m going to learn still more in the coming weeks.
  9. The setbacks that have formed me and made me stronger. My life hasn’t always been perfect, and this is true of eveyone. Every challenge I have faced has given me new skills, taught me valuable lessons. I was lucky that I had enough support to make it through those past challenges so that I could learn from them. If I hadn’t experienced those things, I would be having a much harder time right now.
  10. The kindness of the people around me. Every day I see stories of people rising to this challenge, people who are helping others get through these times. People who are demonstrating the very best of what humanity can be.

What do you have to be thankful for?

You already have most of what you need and a lot of what you want in life. Even single day there are good things happening all around you. People love you. You have food to eat, a bed to sleep in, and a roof over your head.

The antidote to our unhappiness isn’t the newest thing, the latest diet fad, or the next achievement.

The antidote is gratitude.