Guest Post: Gratitude Journaling
Quite a few years ago, I came across the concept of Gratitude Journaling. With chronic pain and illness life is challenging. It’s sometimes hard to look beyond the moment, especially when you’re dealing with the accompanying pain, anxiety, grief, and possibly anger. Each day is filled with ups and downs, and it’s all too easy to get stuck on the difficulties and overlook the many blessings that God places in our day. But, Gratitude Journaling is a practice I’ve found quite helpful, particularly on the difficult days when I’m in the middle of a flare-up.
Gratitude is often defined as being thankful. It can be the act of showing appreciation for something, as well as returning that kindness. Learning to express gratitude on a regular basis is where a journal comes in and can be helpful.
A gratitude journal is a tool that can help you shift your focus from something negative to something positive by finding the good in each situation. It allows you to keep track of the blessings in life that might be masked by pain and flare-ups. By writing and being grateful on a regular basis, you may, over time, discover that you are strengthened and better able to handle the difficult times when they arise.
Gratitude journaling, and even the journal itself, will be a little different for everyone. There is no one right way. You have to find what works best for you. However, there are some basics to keep in mind that will help you make gratitude journaling a regular practice.
Tips For Starting Gratitude Journaling
- Choose a journal. The first step in your gratitude journal practice is choosing a journal. Consider which option will work best for you. Some questions to ask yourself are:
- Do you want a physical journal, or would you prefer to use a digital format?
- Will you want something you can carry with you and use throughout the day, or will you designate a place and time to journal at home?
- Do you want a lined or unlined notebook? Will you want the option to doodle in the journal, too?
2. Focus on the benefits. It’s important to think about the reason for why you do any activity. If you understand the why, you’re more likely to stick with it and make it a habit.
Through writing, you may notice that you feel less stressed, and you may start to view things from a different perspective. Journaling can help you focus on what and who is important to you, as well as help you discover a greater appreciation for the “little things” in your daily life. And on the challenging days when your pain is increased, your journal could remind you of the good things that have happened in your life. You’ll feel more accomplished when you realize your list of achievements, no matter how small they may have seemed at the time. You may notice ways that God has worked in your life and through your struggles. And unlike many treatment options, there are no side effects or noticeable downsides to utilizing a gratitude journal!
2. Schedule time for writing. It’s not always easy to find time to add one more task to your day, especially on days when you’re having a flare-up. But by making gratitude journaling a regular part of your schedule, you may soon discover that it actually helps reduce your stress and possibly even your pain level.
Establishing a regular time is key. Some prefer the morning, where they can journal while drinking a cup of coffee. Others may prefer doing it right before bed, as that allows them to reflect and unwind. Through trial and error, you will find what works for you. Making writing a routine is more important than the time of day.
4. Decide what to write about. Some people will have no problem coming up with things to write about in their journals. Choosing three to five things to be grateful for each day is a good objective. However, if you have more or less on some days, that’s perfectly fine, too. There are no set rules. What you are thankful for can be as simple as “family,” “a sunny day,” or “the flowers outside my window.” Try to elaborate on each one, where possible, as this can help you, over time, gain an appreciation of what’s most important in your life (and what may add to your stress and be something you can cut out). Where possible, include people, too, not only objects. Don’t just rust through this to check it off your list. Use it as an activity to help you develop an attitude of gratitude.
Prompts may be helpful when starting out. Here are some simple prompts to get you started on:
- Write about a loved one.
- Write about the last time you were silly.
- Write about something you see outside your window for which you’re grateful.
- Write about one thing for which you’re grateful, such as a house, car, pet, job, etc.
- Write about your favourite sight, sound, and smell.
5. Find what works for you. With gratitude journaling, there are no set rules. You can do anything you want in it to express yourself. You can write, draw, add photos, or do all three!
The benefits gained from gratitude journaling are endless. By making it a regular practice, you may find that it’s easier to notice that silver lining on days where you’re having a flare-up. Journaling will not magically make your pain or problems disappear. But by writing regularly, your mind will learn to look for the positives throughout the course of each day.
6. Download gratitude journaling apps. Some people love technology, and they may prefer using an app instead of a physical notebook. If this sounds like you, here are a few apps you may want to check out:
- Gratitude This app includes daily doses of inspiring affirmations and quotes, letters of gratitude, daily reminders, and even photo attachments. It’s available for Android and iPhone.
- Live Happy This app is from the makers of Live Happy magazine. It’s not just focused on gratitude journaling. It provides tips from psychologists and others to help you live a happier, healthier life. There are also shows and interviews you can watch on various topics, including gratitude, mindfulness, and overall well-being. It’s available for Android and iPhone.
- 365 GratitudeThis is not just a journaling app. It contains daily challenges, as well as daily prompts, the latter of which is designed to help you appreciate your relationships with family and friends. There is a mindfulness feature, as well as a community feature, where you can connect with and support others. A mood-tracking feature can be utilized to monitor your daily moods. It’s available for Android and iPhone.
7. Give it time. It can take a minimum of three weeks to establish a new habit.
Joy is everywhere. But it can easily be overshadowed by pain, if you allow it to do so. For some people, it will take a deliberate effort and regular practice to learn to look for the positives in daily life. For more information on Gratitude Journaling, as well as more about living a hope-filled life when dealing with chronic pain and illness, check out my book, Hope Amid the Pain: Hanging On to Positive Expectations When Battling Chronic Pain and Illness (a 60-Day devotional journal, published with Ambassador International).
Leslie is an editor, author, and reviewer, but editing, writing, and reviewing are not merely jobs—they are her passions. Leslie is an avid reader with an eye for detail. Leslie has been a chronic pain warrior for more than twenty years, so she is familiar with the peaks and valleys associated with living with a chronic illness. She has felt God come alongside her through His Word and remind her that the battle is His and she’s not alone. Leslie is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and The Christian PEN. She has had devotionals published in Ellie Claire/Worthy Publishing compilation books. She’s also published flash fiction stories. In her spare time, Leslie enjoys reading, playing piano, crocheting, spending time with family and friends (and her turtle!), and rooting for the NY Giants.