“Maybe if I just had more money, or a bigger house, or this thing, or that thing, or that person, I would be finally be happy.”
It happens all the time. We feel unhappy, and our mind starts wandering, yearning for more things that we want in life.
We think if we had more of what we wanted for, we could be happy, and then grateful for all of these things we finally have.
But we see people who have everything they’d ever want for or need in their life, and then some, and yet...they are still unhappy.
So what’s the problem? The issue may be that our thinking is just in reverse. As the famed monk David Steindl-Rast tells us, “It’s not happiness that makes us grateful, it’s gratefulness that makes us happy.”
Expressing gratitude is the simplest and most effective way to bring more happiness into your life without having to change your circumstances.
Studies have shown that when we are intentionally grateful, and put a focus on the positive, our brains cannot focus on both the positive and negative at the same time. Gratitude disables our negativity, and we start to enter a life more abundant with happiness.
As you regularly express a focus on gratitude, dopamine and seratonin are released, and they send a message to the brain to crave for more.
Gratitude is one of the healthiest habits we can have, and all it takes is a little practice to develop this skill!
Starting your Gratitude Journal
So how can we start bringing more gratitude into our lives in a noticeable way? One of the best ways is by starting our own Gratitude Journal.
When we write down what we are grateful for, it has a greater and longer lasting impact on us than just thinking about what we’re grateful for.
Start out with a place on paper where you can write your gratitude entries. A great starting place is a journal or notebook with the sole purpose of being your Gratitude Journal. Maybe pick out one with a design or color that makes you happy.
You can also use your regular journal by marking off a section for Gratitude Journaling, or make a section in your planner. As long as you have a place to write, and you’re writing regularly, this simple practice will be able to work its magic.
A Little Gratitude a Day
Now, make a promise to yourself that you will spend at least 5 minutes a day with your Gratitude Journal, writing what you are grateful for. It's that simple! When we practice this on a regular basis, our gratitude muscles get a workout and we experience its greatest benefits.
Gratitude in Many Shapes and Colors
The great thing about Gratitude Journaling is you can do it however you want. You can do a regular journal entry, you can make bullet points, you can emphasize with drawings and colors, the possibilities are endless!
Some people like to commit themselves to a certain number of things they are grateful for. They may name 5 things that they are grateful for every day, for example.
Another method that works for some people is thinking of the alternative - how different would your life be if you didn’t have many of the things you have today? You can express gratitude by writing out how thankful you are that your life isn’t the way it could be without all that you have.
It’s also good to make a point to be thankful for people, and not just things in our life.
You can feel out different methods and find which one works best for you, just as long as you are expressing with intent. When Gratitude Journaling, it’s important to not be driven to use it just out of routine, or just to fill in numbered slots. Remind yourself that you are journaling because your happiness is important to you.
Once your in the motions of regularly filling in your gratitude journal, start getting into the fine details. Expand on the things you are grateful for, getting more specific as you go. It’s such an eye-opening experience when we consider how deep our gratitude can go for even the tiniest things in our life.
A Moment for Gratitude
Gratitude Journaling is a powerful practice to take with us on our own personal journey - it trains us to be in a mindset of gratitude. We can start to see that every single moment is a precious gift, and something to be thankful for. When we have struggles in our life, or moments that go sour, we know that we have a new opportunity with the next moment life gifts us with, and that is something to be grateful for!
We don’t have to rush to change external things in our life just to find happiness. Our happiness can come from within, without having to change our situations or fill our life with new things. Finding gratitude for what we already have can actually attract more abundance and success in our life, and we may find happiness in new, unexpected ways!
We simply need to remember to place stop signs in our life, to slow down, and look around at everything we have to appreciate, to embrace the next moment that life gives us.
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