This post is from Greg Longoria. Greg is a Christian blogger and writes at Medium.com. Greg writes articles to enhance believers to grow in their faith and deepen their relationship with God. You can read more from Greg at https://medium.com/@greglongoria
Gratitude is the ability to see good when life is good.
Gratitude is the ability to find good when life is difficult.
Gratitude is the ability to see good and find good in all circumstances.
The more grateful you are, the more good things you’ll see.
The famous motivational speak Zig Ziglar said,
Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.
Here’s how I’ve stayed grateful through good times and bad.
On March 6, 2019, I started a gratitude journal, and it changed my life. Because of my gratitude practice, I’m more connected to people, more optimistic, and more appreciative of the world around me.
As we approach year-end, we must step back and be intentionally grateful. Sure, not everything in your life is perfect, and maybe some things suck. But gratitude is the secret weapon to living a healthier, happier, and more successful life. As my spiritual coach Rick Warren says,
Every day, cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
In this article, I’ll share my experience with a gratitude journal, the science behind why gratitude is important, and twenty-six journal prompts you can use to kickstart your gratitude practice. Living with gratitude will open your eyes to the happy things in your life, both big and small, past and present. So read on; this article will motivate you to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
Gratitude is NOT the same as being thankful
Most people think gratitude is the same as being thankful; it is not.
Thankful is an adjective that results from some action or event. Merriam-Webster defines it as being conscious of benefits received or well pleased.
Gratitude, however, is a noun. Merriam-Webster defines gratitude as the state of being grateful.
For instance, you are thankful when somebody does something nice for you, but that is not gratitude. Gratitude is not situational; it is an attitude.
Gratitude is a state of being.
Gratitude is your outlook.
Gratitude is your worldview.
Gratitude is the lens through which you view the challenges and opportunities in your life.
“Gratitude” is derived from the Latin word gratus, which means “thankful and pleasing.” But here’s the game changer, gratus is closely related to the word gratia, which is the foundation for grace.
Merriam-Webster includes in its definition of grace: unmerited divine assistance, a special favor, an act of kindness, or a temporary exemption.
I’ve often heard grace defined as getting something you don’t deserve; that sums it up well, too.
When you merge these concepts, the secret to achieving an attitude of gratitude is revealed:
- First, be thankful for what you’ve received.
- Second, to know you don’t necessarily deserve it.
Hence, Gratitude = Thanksgiving + Grace
But don’t just take my word for it; the preeminent gratitude researcher, Robert Emmons, agrees.
Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, defines gratitude:
…it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received … we recognize the sources of this goodness as being outside of ourselves. It didn’t stem from anything we necessarily did ourselves in which we might take pride.
There it is again: we’re thankful, and we’re not responsible.
Gratitude can change your life
Being grateful impacts your mind and your body. Research shows that you can increase your optimism and decrease depression by exercising gratefulness. But how does this work?
Your brain is made of billions of tiny nerve cells called neurons. These neurons are grouped to perform different functions, and they talk to each other by releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters. Scientists have determined that our feelings and reactions to any particular event are impacted by the chemicals in the brain.
So, here’s why this matters: If you think and act with an attitude of gratitude, you can impact the release of these chemicals!
Numerous studies have shown that the conscious act of gratitude releases two main chemicals: dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine triggers positive emotions, making you more optimistic and willing to change bad habits. Serotonin, another chemical, improves your mood and increases your motivation and willpower.
In his book The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time, Alex Korb, Ph.D., discusses the benefits of a gratitude journal. He cites a study in which a group of college students kept a gratitude journal for just one week. This practice resulted in significant benefits such as improved sleep, healthier bodies, and reduced anxiety.
I can vouch for these benefits, but I’ve also benefited in a more valuable way. I’ll never forget the time early one morning when I first sat down with my gratitude journal; it was a surreal experience, as I recount below:
As I closed my eyes and put my fingers on the keyboard, a brilliant scene formed in front of me. I saw a colorful brick path that twisted and turned, with each brick intricately laid, fitting together perfectly to create the life I journeyed upon. Each brick represented a moment in my life that was laid by someone else. As I walked along the imaginary path and looked down at each brick, I could see the face of the person it represented. But then, suddenly, a powerful realization hit me:
I am not, and have never been, in control of my life.
The realization of this truth is, and was, the best thing that’s happened to me.
This first experience with my gratitude journal is just one of many powerful and life-changing insights.
So, if you want to successfully start a gratitude journal, here’s how.
How to start a successful gratitude journaling practice
Do you know the KISS method?
I had a very smart client who shared his secret to business and personal success with me. He told me, Greg, I live by the Keep It Simple Stupid method — the KISS method.
Use the KISS method for your journaling practice. Don’t overcomplicate it. Don’t take it too seriously. Don’t worry about spelling. Don’t worry about eloquence. Don’t worry about literary perfection. Don’t worry about anything except getting your words onto the page, either paper or digital.
Use the following strategies to have a long and successful relationship with your gratitude journal:
- Set aside a specific journal to chronicle your gratitude. Use a spiral notebook, a Word document, or a journaling phone app such as DayOne. I’d suggest something you can carry around for spur-of-the-moment reflections, so a portable spiral notebook or phone app works best.
- Commit the first 10 minutes of your day to gratitude. It’s essential to do this before you scramble your brain with social media, texts, emails, or any of the day’s hassles and frustrations. When you start the day with an attitude of gratitude, it sets the tone for the remainder of your day.
- Get comfortable. Get yourself a cup of coffee or a big glass of water in a quiet, relaxing space without distractions.
- Write a stand-alone bullet statement for each someone, something, or event you’re thankful for. Don’t worry about punctuation or grammar; get the thought onto the page.
- Be specific about what you’re grateful for; the more specific, the better. Focus on the little details; nothing is too small.
- Let it flow. Don’t self-edit. Write down anything and everything that pops into your mind. This is important because you never know where your brain will lead you.
- Begin each bullet statement with thank you. This affirms that you’re thankful for someone or something outside your power.
26 journaling prompts to cultivate an attitude of gratitude
Select one or two of the journaling prompts to start your practice. Each day, move through a different prompt; this will force you to think about gratitude differently. Eventually, you’ll fall into a rhythm that works for you.
- List three things you’re grateful for today.
- Describe a broken dream that worked out for the best.
- Describe someone from your past that you’re grateful for and why.
- Describe something you’re grateful to have learned this year.
- Describe something or someone in your life that you’re “lucky” to have.
- List three qualities about yourself that you appreciate.
- Name someone you’re grateful for today and why.
- Describe something you enjoy about where you live.
- Describe your favorite moment of each part of the day.
- Describe one of the best experiences in your life and why.
- Name three little delights that bring a smile to your face.
- Write about a success you had (and who helped you).
- Write about a hobby you love.
- Write about a pet and why you’re thankful for it.
- Write a list of three people you love.
- Write about a tradition for which you’re grateful.
- Describe a mistake in your life for which you’re now grateful.
- Name something you’re grateful to have today that you didn’t have a year ago.
- Describe something you do that brings you peace, joy, or comfort.
- List five things around you right now that you’re thankful to have.
- Describe something about your health situation that you’re grateful for.
- Describe something about your work that you’re thankful for.
- Describe something you did in the past that you’re now proud of.
- Name someone that makes you happy that you didn’t know last year.
- List your talents and skills that give you pleasure.
- List your quirks and funny habits that bring a smile to your face.
Hopefully, this list will get you started. Remember:
- Be specific.
- Get personal.
- Be positive
Wrapping it up
I became a living testament to Professor Emmons’s research one pre-dawn morning. I now actively try to cultivate an attitude of gratitude every day and am grateful for the positive and powerful impact it’s had on my physical and mental health. In summary,
- Gratitude is a state of being.
- Gratitude = Thanksgiving + Grace.
- Gratitude can increase your optimism and decrease your depression.
- Gratitude can be built through a daily, simple journaling habit.
You’ll be amazed by the unimaginable ways your life has been impacted by the words, actions, and people you’ve taken for granted. And as Zig Ziglar said, you’ll have even more to be grateful for as you give thanks for what you have. So, take time every day to develop an attitude of gratitude, and believe me when I say it will change your life for the better. Good luck, and please respond below with helpful pointers, stories, or tips you can offer other readers!
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