November 22, 2022
Note From Rochelle
Last week, I was delighted to teach a class on journaling at the Atkinson Branch of the Milwaukee Public Library. This is the first branch that welcomed Dream Keepers—and we met there for several years. It was fun to be back in that room, remembering all of our early writing sessions and the many pieces of work we created: stories, plays, poems, and more!
The journaling class reminded me how much I love gratitude journaling. So today’s tips gathers some of my best recommendations for saying thank you through journaling!
Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach
Gratitude Journaling Can Change Your Life
by Rochelle Melander
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
― A.A. Milne
Can journaling about what you’re grateful for make you happier?
The studies suggest that the answer is a resounding yes.
In the book, Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Robert A. Emmons. Professor Emmons and his colleague Professor Mike McCullough looked at the effects of gratitude journaling. All participants kept a journal and were asked to write a sentence a week for ten weeks. The first group described five things they were grateful for. The second group described five hassles. The neutral group simply listed five things that had affected them in the past week. After ten weeks, the gratitude group was 25% happier than the other participants. In addition, the gratitude group:
*felt better about their lives
*were more optimistic about the future
*reported fewer health complaints
*spent more time exercising (1.5 hours more per week)
(Emmons, p. 30)
Clearly listing what we’re grateful for impacts the quality of our life. Here are a few ways to practice gratitude journaling.
The Daily List
List 3-5 things you’re grateful for every day. Bonus points if you reflect on WHY those good things happened to you. Why? We spend a good deal of time wondering about the difficult things in our lives: why did I get sick, why didn’t I get the book contract, why did he break up with me? But we rarely ask why about the good things. Take a few moments at the end of your journaling session to write about why each of the blessings on your list came your way.
The Deep Dive
Some of the most productive gratitude journaling I’ve done has come from reflecting on life’s challenges. When I come to the end of a year like this one, where I have way more rejection letters than acceptance letters and I’ve spent oodles of time and money on physical therapy for my back, it helps to dig deep for how even these challenges brought meaning and blessings.
Gratitude Mind Map
Using a mind map, writers can visually organize ideas and information. Draw a circle in the center of a large blank sheet of paper and record your central theme. For this exercise, you’d write gratitude. Then draw spokes out from the center and add more circles. These circles might contain gratitude categories like family, friends, and creature comforts. From there, add more lines and write down the specific people and items you are thankful for. Use lots of markers, crayons, or colored pencils to make your mind map vibrant and fun.
Cut out or find photos, images, stickers, and found objects that represent what you are grateful for. Assemble them into a collage and glue!
Find a small shelf or table in your home and gather items that reflect the people, places, and events that you’re grateful for. I have a tiny bulletin board at the back of my shelf so that I can use it to display photos, buttons, and other images.
Year End Thanks
As the year comes to a close, I am making a big list of thanks. This is one way for me to reflect on the year and plan a new one. As I do so, I will be thankful for you, dear readers. You are a blessing in my life. Thanks for reading and passing on these tips. Thanks for writing to me with your comments and criticisms. Thanks for sharing with me your successes. You inspire me!