The days are getting darker and colder and there’s a definite hint of pumpkin spice in the air. That means Thanksgiving is just around the corner for us Canadians, and this year it falls on October 10th, the same day as another important day worth noting - World Mental Health Day. So, while organizing your Thanksgiving plans, take some time to consider how you can give your mental health a boost by making a habit out of saying thanks year-round.
Gratitude is not just a Thanksgiving thing. It’s been shown to be a major contributing factor to improving our overall wellbeing. Last year in our blog we dove into how gratitude can help us improve our mood. As we covered, gratitude has a number of psychological benefits, but it can also sound like a buzzword. How do we take a feeling and make it change to our mental wellbeing? One answer: gratitude journals.
Gratitude & Mental Health
Gratitude journals can help us turn a passive thought into a conscious exercise that we can then turn into a practice in our daily lives. This kind of habitual behaviour has been shown to provide a variety of benefits:
This daily practice is where gratitude journals come in.
What is a Gratitude Journal?
It likely sounds familiar to you, but it’s essentially a way to make a practice out of gratitude and use journalling prompts to consciously think about the positive things in your life that you’re thankful for. This kind of positive thought exercise can be powerful. Studies have shown that the repetitive act of writing down positive thoughts can shift your attention away from negative or toxic emotions. Our thoughts of gratitude are often directed towards an important person in our lives; expressing gratitude in a journal towards this person can be beneficial without it even needing to be shared with them (but you can if you want to!). Just the act of writing it down can be enough to help steer your thoughts away from a negative place.
A gratitude journal can make you feel better in the moment, but it has long term benefits too. A study found that integrating one into your daily life can have long lasting effects on your mental wellbeing. So even if your gratitude journal sessions in the beginning don’t seem to have a major impact on your mood or your outlook, keep at it. Sounds promising right? Time to get started…
Tips for Getting Started
Like starting anything new, it may seem daunting at first. Make things easy for yourself by using journalling prompts and templates or you can try something new altogether, like a visual mood board.
- Use gratitude journal prompts. Does staring at a blank page seem to erase all thoughts from your mind? If so, you’re not alone. Using prompts can help get your mental gears turning and help you get started. A gratitude journal prompt is simple and intended to get you thinking of what you’re thankful for. It could be something like thinking about someone who helped you out recently, a nice thing someone did for you, a favourite thing about where you live, or a food that you really love eating. Then put pen to paper and let your thoughts flow!
- Find a gratitude journal template. If you’re keeping your journal on your computer, you can find gratitude journal templates online to get you started. Or go the old fashioned route and use pen and paper with a simple journal from the store.
- Think outside the box - a gratitude journal doesn’t have to actually be a journal. If this doesn’t sound like you, consider another option.
- Create a visual mood board that illustrates things and people you are grateful for. It will also serve as a great visual reminder on those days where you really need the reminder. Try adding to it frequently to keep the process habitual and place it somewhere you’ll see daily.
- Write a letter. As mentioned above, often our gratitude journal prompt is around a certain person in our life. Consider writing a letter to them or yourself.
- Try a bullet format. Bullet journals are popular right now and for good reason: they allow you to get your thoughts down succinctly and help keep the journaling exercise attainable for your everyday routine. You can easily try this format for a gratitude journal.
Keep your daily gratitude journal prompts to a few points a day and try to keep at it. Hopefully you’ll feel the impacts and reap the benefits with an improved mood and mental wellbeing.