I tried a gratitude journal for the second time


Laura Simmons

I’m grateful for my goofy and overly affectionate dog, Hovi

Last January, I did a gratitude journal for a week. I went in with high expectations after hearing that it increases positivity and happiness, improves self esteem and sleep, and reduces stress. However, I was disappointed after finding that I had to dedicate extra time out of my life to do something that seemingly yielded little results. I was even more disappointed, because I had done gratitude journaling in the past and, even though it wasn’t consistent, I had still found it helpful. I decided that it wasn’t very effective at that point, because I had only done it for a week, and I had done it during one of the most stressful and busy weeks of my life: finals week.
Surprisingly, the benefits of gratitude journaling actually appeared after I had stopped. Seeing the more positive aspects of life began to appear more frequently and rather unexpectedly. For example, one Monday morning I was not happy and rather disappointed when my alarm went off, having rudely awakened me from my dreams to the fact that I’d have to get up pretty soon to go to school. But then, I thought that I should be grateful for the opportunity to go to school and for all of the amazing and caring teachers I have. This thought didn’t spur me out of bed with a big smile on my face and ready to go to school, but it did help me.
After experiencing these random bursts of thankfulness, I decided to begin keeping a gratitude journal again, but this time for a month.
I continued to feel unexpected bursts of gratefulness and I was overall more optimistic, because it’s hard to feel both gratitude and pessimism. Normally, when I looked at my day or week ahead of me, I’d feel a little sad by my overwhelming workload that I knew would only increase as the week progressed. But I began to feel grateful for all the opportunities available to me, grateful for my drive to pursue them, and even slightly excited for them.
The journaling experience was another great benefit of keeping a gratitude journal. It was a wonderful end to my day where I could sit down, evaluate my day, and write about the good things that happened and what I was grateful for. Journaling is a habit that I often do before I go to sleep, but previously I had focused on my problems that I had faced throughout the day, so that I could evaluate it. Although I still continue to do this, because I do believe that it is beneficial, after keeping a gratitude journal I found that focusing on the positive aspects in my life is just as important as evaluating my struggles. I have found it is important to keep a good balance in not only my writing, but my thoughts as well.
I experienced many benefits from keeping a gratitude journal, but I think my biggest takeaway is that optimism and gratitude are a choice. Before, I had previously believed I had little control over how I felt about the events and circumstances in my life. However, I began to realize that I did have control over how I felt. I could choose to just experience life as it came, or I could make a conscious effort to also see the positive side. I believe the benefits that come from keeping a gratitude journal are worth the minimal effort and I encourage everyone to try it out for themselves!