The problem with gratitude journaling

The problem with gratitude journaling

“While keeping my diary has been helpful, at times I have ended up with something that looks like gratitude and sounds like gratitude, but feels like something flatter, just words accumulating on a page – a thank-you letter a child has been forced to write”.

(From The Guardian, Is gratitude the secret of happiness?)

I was 4 months into my gratitude journaling practice when I came across that article and I found myself nodding in agreement - my gratitude practice was feeling flat and forced.

I wasn’t enjoying it and it just didn’t feel right for me.

Now I wasn’t doubting the positive impact of gratitude- I know it works but I found myself asking- is there a better way for me to practice gratitude?

Like most people, having read about how powerful gratitude can be, I took to journaling with great enthusiasm and intent- don't we all?

Of course, being the type of person I am, I did extensive research - should I do it every night, or a few times a week? How many things should I be grateful for? Should I write in the morning or evening?

Eventually I settled on writing my gratitude journal once per week, every Sunday night.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that journaling didn’t come easy to me. I’ve never kept a diary, and the thought of writing about what I’m grateful for seemed a bit inauthentic.

It reminded me of the people who look in the mirror every morning and tell themselves how great they are. Good for you, but no thanks.

Never-the-less, I persisted, and while there were times when the practice came easily to me, overall, the whole process just wasn’t my cup of tea.

For gratitude to truly work for me, I need to feel grateful.

I can’t pretend to be grateful, or simply jot down a list of things I believe I should be grateful for.

Gratitude needs to be heartfelt, I need to let it sink in and enjoy it.

And I simply wasn’t getting this from my journaling exercise- it was too premeditated, too organised and just left me feeling flat.

Now I’m not dissing journaling- millions of people benefit from it. I’m simply saying that it never did it for me.

So this left me with the question- how can I harness gratitude without journaling?

I come from a meditation background and I love the practice of closing my eyes and enjoying the experience- whether that’s noticing my breath or silently repeating a mantra, or simply appreciating the sounds that surround me.

So I started thinking: how I could incorporate gratitude into a meditation-type practice so that it becomes more natural, more enjoyable.

Instead of trying to come up with things that I should be grateful for and then writing them down, what if I simply close my eyes and bring to mind a person, or a place, or a memory or anything at all that brings me joy and makes me happy?

Once you bring to mind that one thing that makes you happy, you engage with the image in your mind for 20 or 30 seconds, and then silently express heartfelt gratitude for this one thing.

So the exercise looks something like this:

- Bring to mind a great holiday you went you- think about it for around 20 or 30 seconds.

- Then bring to mind 1 good memory from that holiday and engage with that one memory, and again do this for 20-30 seconds.

And then silently express gratitude for this holiday and the good memory and let that feeling sink in and flow through your heart.

Get a free, breakthrough, happiness exercise

Sounds good- but does it actually work?

You’ll be glad to know that I didn’t pull this out of thin air.

Breakthroughs in the field of neuroscience show these types of exercises have been proven to rewire your brain for happiness.

As the fantastic neuroscientist Risk Hanson shows in his book “Hardwiring Happiness”, by thinking about the good in our lives or even creating good thoughts, and holding onto these good thoughts, absorbing them for 20 seconds or so, and doing this regularly, brain scans show that these good thoughts, get converted into neural structure.

These positive memories activate positive emotions.

And the more you do this, the more your brain will change. It’s called experience-dependent neuroplasticity.

In short, by thinking of things that make you happy, that bring you joy or that create any type of positive feeling, and letting these good thoughts sink in for a few seconds, we can train our brains to naturally tune into the good in our everyday lives.

And in doing so, we become naturally more aware, more appreciative and as a result more grateful for all of the little things in our lives.

OK, good, but how can I do this without it becoming boring? How can I keep coming up with new material for these exercises?

Very simply- before you do the exercise, you just think of one thing that you enjoy or enjoyed- anything at all that jumps into your mind - whatever memory or person or object that comes to mind or that’s within your line of vision, then run with that.

For example, while I’m typing this, I see my headphones in front of me. They bring me so much joy- I go for a walk every evening and use that time to listen to music, so I associate the headphones with my walks and with music.

So I simply close my eyes, take a deep breath.

I bring to mind my headphones and then I see myself walking in a beautiful park and listening to music.

I engage with the image and with the sounds, savoring 1 or 2 key details.

I spend 20 seconds or so enjoying this image.

Then I silently express gratitude for the headphones, and let the feeling of gratitude sink in and enjoy it.

And that’s it.

Get a free, breakthrough, happiness exercise

When you do this type of exercise just a few times every week, you will find that you become more grateful.

These exercises train your brain so that your mind naturally tunes into the good in your everyday life and this has a significant and positive impact on your well being.

I developed these exercises as part of a breakthrough technique called Lite Mind.

In short, Lite Mind helps busy people develop long term happiness by incorporating proven happiness techniques into short, enjoyable and highly effective exercises.

The technique was developed as a result of years of research. The main thrust of Lite Mind is that to develop a happier and more fulfilled life, a person needs to do the following:

1. Appreciate and take the time to appreciate the good in your everyday life
2. Add purpose to your life

And so I developed simple exercises around these 2 principles.

Contained within these exercises are what I found to be the best happiness techniques, including gratitude, intention, compassion, heartfelt appreciation, adding purpose through intrinsic goals, ensuring that you spend more time with the people you love, savoring nature, enjoying the sounds around you.

As part of the Lite Mind technique you get access to 64 guided sessions, so instead of trying to come up with different things to be grateful for, these guided sessions give you a huge amount of variety. This ensures that the practice always remains fresh and enjoyable.

Get Lite Mind for free: To show you how amazing the Lite Mind exercises are, simply click here to get a free, breakthrough happiness exercise.

About the author

Caemin O Connor is a business owner, a husband and father to 2 beautiful girls.

After years of practicing and teaching meditation, he got frustrated and a little bored with it.

So he started researching and developing new techniques.

He focused on happiness, as he realized the real reason why people try meditation, or any form of self improvement, is because they simply want to be happier.

Caemin spent years studying happiness and the various techniques involved in harnessing it, from gratitude, to compassion, from mindfulness to savoring nature.

The end result is Lite Mind, a breakthrough technique for developing long term happiness.

Simply click on the button below and get a free Lite Mind exercise.

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