There is a two minute habit that many of the world’s happiest and most successful people practice on a daily basis: keeping a gratitude journal. It is a simple, yet profound practice. All that is needed is to reflect on each day and jot down 2-3 things that you are grateful for. They can be as small as a well made matcha latte or as big as your physical health and safety… what matters is that these are current things in your life that you can bring to your attention.
There is a saying, “where the mind goes, energy flows.” When we focus our minds on the things that we already have, and feel a sense of gratitude for these, we begin to live with a sense of abundance. Some people feel and experience the mystical phenomenon that spending time in the grateful, abundant mindset attracts even more success and happiness. One patient of mine is an overachiever, faithfully writing fifty gratitudes in a journal each night! She credits this practice for the booming success of her business.
For most of us, there may be a hundred things that go right in a day, but somehow our minds manage to ruminate on the one or two things that went wrong. A gratitude journal is way to reset our thoughts, which in turn, resets our central nervous system. Like meditation, experiencing gratitude decreases cortisol- the stress hormone and increases oxytocin- the “feel-good” hormone.
Clinical studies have shown that cultivating gratitude improves measures of optimism, well-being and quality of life in people with depression, trauma, PTSD, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. A 2016 study at UC San Diego found that gratitude was associated with better measures of heart health- including heart rhythm and biomarkers of inflammation. Another randomized control trial, published last month in the Journal of Health Psychology, showed that keeping a gratitude diary for as little as two weeks led to lower blood pressure, less fatigue, and improved sleep.
When “being happy” seems abstract and daunting, can we instead cultivate gratitude for what we have? Subtle shifts can bring huge lifts. As we enter the holiday season, keep this simple practice in mind. Count your blessings, invite them and enjoy them!