I have struggled for most of my mature life with Depression - feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and shame that I'm not living up to my own expectations. There have been days where I've felt hopeless that things would get better for me and I'd never make it out of the darkness. But through it all, I've had some incredible blessings always there in the background, holding me up.
When you're in the abyss though, it's hard to see those blessings. All you see is darkness. The light gets snuffed out by the negativity that is continually pressing down on you. So what can you do to help those glimmers of light shine through?
For me, one of the only things that helped keep me afloat were the times I sat and pondered, and then recorded those blessings.
Keeping a Gratitude Journal can help you feel happiness even in the darkest of times.
Spending just a few minutes a day writing down your blessings can reap amazing rewards in your life! Scientific studies have proven that showing gratitude on a consistent basis makes people happier and healthier. One of the best ways to get into the habit of cultivating gratitude is by keeping a daily journal. Here’s a short list of how a gratitude journal can change your life for the better:
Being grateful makes you happier.
Being grateful for what you have, rather than pining for what you don’t, keeps you filled with feelings of positivity and hope. It crushes the negativity that is determined to keep you down. Studies have shown that gratitude can actually reduce negative thoughts and increase feelings of contentment, love, joy, and empathy towards others. As Tony Robbins said: "You can’t feel angry at the same time as you feel grateful." When you fill yourself with feelings of gratitude, you are focused on the good things that already exist in your daily life, instead of wishing for the things that don't. And once you commit to writing them down each evening (or morning, if that's better for you), you may even start looking for things to write down- even those little things throughout the day that you might otherwise miss. How much would your life improve if you only focused on the positive instead of negative!?
Good Physical Health
Negative energy (from thoughts and memories) causes resentment and stress, which manifests physically in your body. So when your mind only considers the bad, you are literally sending poison into your veins. Gratitude helps keep those negative thoughts at bay, by replacing them with positive ones. When you allow yourself to concentrate on the good in your life over the bad, you're sending much-needed endorphins to your brain, which it needs in order to thrive.
Increase Empathy for Others
Thinking back through your day and remembering the good things others have done for you increases your positive thoughts toward them. It helps you understand more about their life and situation, as well as your response to how they interact with you. Let's say that someone cuts in front of you on the freeway, but as they pass you they wave at you in apology. You could choose to be upset over their lack of tact and control, or grateful for your safety and try to think of why they might be in such a hurry? Maybe they're rushing to the hospital to visit an injured family member? Or they could be late for a meeting that could mean a loss of their employment. There's often a hundred possible reasons for a person's actions- if you focus only on the bad possibilities you're robbing yourself of the opportunity to see the best in people.
How much better would you feel about your sister if you listed three things every day that she's done for you? When I've struggled in relationships with those around me, I've seen that relationships always seem to improve just from me changing my perception of how they act. People aren't perfect, but as you focus your thoughts on their positive qualities and make a point to be grateful for the good things they do, you encourage more of the same in the future. It’s easy to find fault, but once you start showing appreciation for the people in your life, your relationships have room to grow.
How many times have you gone to bed thinking negative thoughts about your day, circumstances or interactions with others? How well did you sleep? For me, when I try to sleep with so much negativity I know I don't sleep well, and I'm usually still upset in the morning, which can influence (or entirely ruin) my whole day.
How much better would it be to go to bed with only positive thoughts? Writing in your gratitude journal can help with that! When you write in the evening (right before bed), you tend to get more rest because you have reflected on the positives of your day, inviting peace and calm to your mind before you sleep.
Experience Less Stress
Your body doesn't know the difference between current and past "stress." So when you think back to a stressful time in your life, you're essentially reawakening all those negative feelings, including their emotional and physical toll on your body.
By focusing on the positive, writing down the good things in your life, you avoid repeating that stress reaction in your body.
You can think of gratitude as being a mental and emotional muscle that you can build with daily exercise. If stuff goes wrong in life and your gratitude muscle is weak, you’ll struggle to find a silver lining in those storm clouds. But if you already have an excellent daily gratitude habit, then your gratitude muscle will be resilient and well-trained, meaning life’s challenges don’t completely knock you off course.
All in all, keeping an ongoing gratitude journal benefits all levels of your health and well-being, and is a very worthwhile activity, having the capacity to change your mindset, and therefore also your whole life, from one that seems full of poverty and loss to that of abundance.
Gratitude, when practiced daily, can train the mind to stay focused on positive thoughts, increasing feelings of happiness and contentment, while also strengthening you in preparation for the stressors of everyday life.
Ready to gain the benefits of daily gratitude journaling? Download your printable and start putting it to use!
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