Solihull Yoga Retreat Day 18th December 2022
Reflection and Gratitude
Writing a gratitude journal
The simplest of moments are always there, maybe you encounter the kindness of strangers as you go about your day, or you enjoy a sense of wonder as you walk out into nature, whatever the seasons or time of year, there are plenty of excuses to practice gratitude, all we have to do is find the opportunities to tune into them.
Writing down what you’re thankful for every day, in a ‘gratitude journal’, could make all the difference in how you feel. But before we get started, it’s important to recognise just how game-changing gratitude can be.
“Our brains are geared towards a negativity bias, which means we tend to notice what is bad before we notice the good, this is a survival mechanism, as it helps us to recognise danger to survive, but sometimes our survival mechanism slips into the subconscious and creates negative patterns of thoughts in the form of rumination”
So as a lot of us are learning to live with ease again feel after the last two and a half years it’s hardly surprising that our brains automate towards worry, fear and negativity, especially with the negativity that’s currently going on if we switch on the news, so in these times, more than ever, you can use gratitude as an effective way to train your brain away from that negativity, and guide yourself towards the goodness that’s already there in your life.
Our daily practice of gratitude helps us find all of the things to be grateful for in our lives even in times of crisis, gratitude is one of the most valuable wellbeing practices we can do for ourselves.
There are many benefits in studies for gratitude:
Sets down new neural pathways to increase positive emotions
Encourages life satisfaction, hope and optimism.
Lowers levels of stress hormones, anxiety and loneliness
A positive boost for our immune systems.
There are many great ways to express gratitude and one of the best ways is to write your thoughts down. By writing your thoughts down it anchors them, externalises them, and gives you a permanent reminder. There is something powerful about holding a pen or pencil and writing things down, it creates a stronger presence and is more likely to set down new neural pathways than just thinking about something or tapping your thoughts into a phone.
My own gratitude journal is a mixture of things, mainly made up of things I am grateful for, my future plans and dreams and manifesting moments for the future. I aim to use positive language and add a bit of spice to it so that it doesn’t resemble a “to do” list. I replace and language of scarcity to abundance when I am planning. On some pages I manifest places where I am going to be in the future and combine my words with doodles throughout the book. My journal is a brainstormer and doodler some days, then more structured on others. I let go of any expectations, of any perfection and just let my thoughts flow.
Here’s a few ideas that helped me with my journalling, maybe they will help you start your own journal and create consistency.
Make it a ritual. Think about how you can make this time special for writing in your journal and make it something to look forward to, a precious time for you and your book.
Timing. If you decide what time of the day to write in your journal, (some people prefer first thing in the morning, others prefer at night time before bed), this can be an opportunity for you to create consistency and create a positive habit. Habits are much easier to put in place if you attach your planned habit to a current one, for example, having a cup of tea at a certain time each day. If your day doesn’t allow time for quiet maybe you can write as the day unfolds, dipping in and out of the journal when you feel inspiration and have a few spare minutes here and there.
Treat yourself to a gorgeous notebook and a pen that writes with ease and grace to make your journalling even moire of a treat.
When you’re writing maybe you make a cup of your favourite tea, made in your favourite teapot with your favourite leaves, play some music that lifts your heart, or smell some of your favourite essential oils to make it more of a treat.
A good place to start with a gratitude practice is to write a list of at least ten things down every day, if you can’t think of 10 things that’s Ok, let go of perfection, the more you practice the more you will find. Sometimes you will with down things that are the same as other days, while other days you journal will be filled with things that are completely new.
Think about the people you’re grateful for. This type of gratitude connects us to others and increases our capacity for empathy and compassion. For example, your husband or partner for getting up early to make the family breakfast this morning. Your son or daughter for the kind gesture they made. Your neighbour, who took your wheelie bin in the morning, your colleague for leaving a funny note or chocolate on your desk. A stranger in the shop who shared chit chat in a meaningful way.
Gratitude can also be felt by reframing thoughts when something doesn’t go to plan. For example, on a small scale, perhaps your local shop has run out of pasta that you wanted to make a recipe, but there’s still lots of rice, so you’re able to make a delicious meal for your friends anyway. Or maybe you can’t see your family this evening but you can still communicate with them on FaceTime and have a great conversation. Or maybe you didn’t get that job you were hoping for but instead you gained more time with your family you felt was something you may have to sacrifice. You can turn most negatives into positives and the more we practice this type of gratitude the more positive we become.
Use your five senses
You can add another dimension to your gratitude practice by thinking of things that are seemingly small and insignificant, use your five senses as a guide – think about all the things you can see, hear, smell, taste and feel. For example, the birds singing outside, the smell of essential oils, the taste of toast or coffee. Tuning into your senses is known as savouring, and helps ground you in the present moment
Think about what you’re excited for, think about what you are looking forward to in the future and give gratitude to that, maybe spending time with your loved one or friends at your favourite restaurant, spending time with your children or grandchildren, sharing their experiences as they grow and learn in the world. Nights out with your friends and family sharing laughs that warm your soul and lift your heart. Watching a timeless comedy on the TV that makes you laugh over and over again. Playing your favourite music that absorbs yo into the moment and makes you dance wherever you are. Maybe you create a picture of complete harmony as you jot down your hearts desires.
Most importantly enjoy your journalling and don’t make it a chore, aim to be consistent but if it falls by the wayside for a few days or even weeks that doesn’t mean your gratitude practice has to stop. Enjoy reconnecting with your book and start again, you are likely to get more out of your practice and it will flow a lot more easily the next time around.