Imagine increasing your feelings of gratitude just by asking “Why? Why am I grateful for this?” and really allowing the emotion of gratitude to flow through you. Imagine how this will improve your thoughts and feelings, increase your happiness, and heighten your daily moments of appreciation.
When I first began keeping a gratitude journal a few years ago, I started off strong but soon began writing only occasionally when something big happened in my life, a writing practice which did not help me live a more gratitude-infused life. After starting and stopping several times, I knew I needed to make it a daily ritual; when I did count my blessings, I could see a direct impact on my happiness that day. I also knew I’d have to keep it up for at least a month if I wanted it to become a habit, and even though I was skeptical that I could be consistent based on previous failed attempts, I began jotting down three things I was grateful for every morning even before I got out of bed. I like to greet the day slowly, and writing first thing in the morning seemed like a good way to ease into the day. And it is! The key for me was choosing the time that fit seamlessly into my life so that it easily became a routine.
But what really made a significant impact in keeping a gratitude journal was this one small change: after every blessing I listed, I’d ask myself why I felt grateful.
One morning, as I was writing that I was grateful for the opportunity to work on two projects with wonderful clients, I heard a tiny voice ask “Why? Why are you so grateful for these clients?” I wrote that I appreciated their optimistic attitude toward their work, was excited to collaborate with them, and loved how the creative juices flowed. I felt a strong surge of joy and gratitude wash over me. Wow! The exhilaration I felt from asking this one question stayed with me throughout the day, keeping me emotionally lighter and more appreciative and thankful.
Since that experience, gratitude journaling has taken on a whole new dimension, and I’ve been writing a ‘Gratitude Plus’ journal, which is a reminder to always go one step further and get into the emotional flow of my appreciation. When I write about the why, I always feel a response somewhere in my body, usually my heart or solar plexus, and I know that I have accessed the deep emotion that accompanies my gratitude.
I’ve found that asking why is very effective for:
APPRECIATING THE HIGHS AND LOWS
I was cleaning out my desk recently and found some journals from ten years ago. As I read through them, I had to laugh at how much I was complaining. Granted, I had a lot going on at the time and it did really help to vent in my journal, but I had turned venting into the art of complaining. Now I can clearly see that my complaints spilled over into my daily life—and not in a good way. Will I look back on my current journal in ten years and see a difference? Absolutely. By focusing on feeling grateful for the little and big things, I’m expressing much more appreciation, and by uncovering the why, I’m tapping into a powerful sense of gratitude. My writing practice now delves into what I feel grateful for—the beauty surrounding me, ideas stemming from good conversations, and spirituality—and the more I express my gratitude for these things, the more they come into my life. As far as those tough times, finding even one small thing to be thankful for in difficult situations has taught me to be more forgiving. That was extremely hard for me at first: what could I possibly find to be grateful for in a challenging relationship where I felt shut down? I discovered that after I expressed why I felt grateful for learning this lesson and how I could apply it in my life, I suddenly had more opportunities to speak up and grow.
BEING MORE AWARE AND INTUITIVE
Keeping a ‘Gratitude Plus’ journal reminds me throughout the day to be mindful of blessings that I would otherwise notice only fleetingly or not at all. The other evening, I briefly admired a gorgeous sunset and turned away all too quickly to focus on other things. That little voice inside encouraged me to take a second look, so I stopped and deliberately shifted my attention to really be present and appreciate the beautiful red-orange sphere setting behind the rolling hills. Ten seconds of appreciation equaled a surge of happiness, a lasting image, and a feeling of wonder. More than anything, being in the flow of gratitude has heightened my intuition. I hear my inner voice, I listen and act on it, and I’m learning to trust its guidance more than ever.
INCREASING POSITIVE THOUGHTS
When I really listened to my self-talk, I heard an underlying negativity that astonished me. By consistently writing a ‘Gratitude Plus’ journal, I can turn those negative thoughts around. It’s really hard to have a happy thought or a strong feeling of pleasure and be judgmental or self-critical at the same time. Journaling about why we’re grateful about something naturally increases our positive thoughts, and we’re more apt to carry those thoughts with us all day. Such awareness will affect everything—from our compassion to our feelings of being and having enough to increased self-love. The more joy we feel in our expressions of gratitude, the more joy and happiness we attract into our lives.
Author Bio – Karen is a writing coach and editor. Her website can be found here.