A while ago I responded to a great article by Tom Kuegler, titled ‘How To Become Ridiculously Self-Aware In 20 Minutes’.
In his article he describes 4 life-changing benefits of daily journaling:
- To stop getting angry and upset
- To understand why certain strategies work or not
- You’ll actually live in the moment more
- You become more self-aware
Tom’s post resonated with me deeply. And with thousands of others.
I responded to Tom’s article with the following:
“Hey Tom Kuegler, you hit the nail on the head with this one. At least, my head. I’ve experienced similar reactions to my journaling. I’ve been doing it for about 4 years now.
I would add that writing down 3 things you’re thankful for every day could be a great addition. Analyze what you’ve written down from time to time and you’ll find your recipe for happiness.”
The Benefits of Journaling
“I don’t know what I think until I write about it.” — Joan Didion
To me, this explains why journaling could be beneficial to everyone.
I’ve been journaling for over four years now. It helps me to understand myself, to organize my thoughts, to spill my darkest secrets and analyze them. Furthermore, it’s beneficial to my relationships, dreams, values, etc.
It also helps against my anxiety. Your fears and worries lose potency once you write them down and reflect why they are not helpful to you.
Raise the Bets: Add a Pinch of Gratitude to Your Journaling
At the end of each day, after I’ve jotted down my thoughts I do one more thing. I write down three things I’m grateful for. And I would urge you to do the same.
Write down three things you’re grateful for. That’s it.
It could be anything. These things don’t necessarily have to be very ‘deep’. They may be simple, weird, thoughtful, ridiculous, serious, funny, playful, mundane, anything goes.
Let me give you some examples:
- Your relationships
- Your work
- Your hobbies
- A book
- Your house
- A good night’s sleep
- Working out
- A massage
- A TV show
- But also things like your favorite pen, a comfortable chair, hot cocoa, a glass of wine, chocolate, etc., etc.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Experiment.
I do urge you not to write down the same thing every day. If you write down “my girlfriend” every day, that’s really sweet, but then you’re missing out on other things to be grateful for.
Let Your Gratitude Simmer
Now when I or other people say ‘journal daily’, the world doesn’t end when you skip a night. If you can journal daily, that’s great of course. However, sometimes you have to accept that life happens and you can’t always tend to all the things you want to do in life. Only recently did I realize that that’s ok. You don’t have to demand the world from yourself. Take a breath.
I’ve analyzed my daily gratitude lists from the past year. For me, this meant over 200+ lists of three things I was grateful for.
Once you start to do this on a regular basis something wonderful happens, like I responded to Tom’s post: analyze what you’ve written down from time to time, you’ll find your recipe for happiness.
It’s like magic. Because even though you’re trying not to write the same things down every day, you’ll start seeing patterns. That my friends is your recipe for happiness.
Pick the Best Flavors
When you’ve gathered a solid 100+ gratitude entries, start analyzing them. Grab a piece of paper and write down the common themes/entries. Count them.
When you’re done you’ll notice something amazing. In my case, I found 5–10 subjects that kept recurring in different forms. Apparently, these things make me really happy.
Try doing these things more often! Keep yourself happy.
When you’re feeling down, or when life throws you obstacles, know that you have a toolbox full of things that help you cope or bring you joy.
The thing is, I was surprised by my own analysis. I mean I had a vague idea of what would pop up, but I never imagined that there was one thing that kept coming up in different forms. Something I keep struggling with.
Here are some of the things I’m grateful for on a regular basis:
1. My health
I’m a bit overweight, I have a busy social life and I like to party. I try to watch what I eat and exercise from time to time, but to say I’m the male equivalent of a quinoa eating fitgirl? No.
However, I feel extremely grateful for days full of energy, positivity, and strength. Days when I’m not tired, have a hangover or generally feel sick. I’m constantly grateful for my health. Therefore I need to take good care of myself to feel even more grateful.
This comes as no surprise. I’m happiest when I’m writing. Both creative writing or the growth I go through in the process.
I’m very happy when I’m in the flow of writing a short story, blog post or when I’m working on a novel.
Simultaneously, I’m also very happy when my posts perform well, when the number of visitors on my website grow or when I receive positive feedback. This year I even published a book, something I wanted to do ever since I was a kid.
So I’m a bit of a weirdo. Sometimes I crave nothing more than being alone. Other times I desperately want to go out or hang out with friends.
Apparently, being on my own wins slightly when I analyze the things I’m grateful for.
Nights on my own, having a massage, reading, binge-watching a good TV show, going to the movies, not having to do anything (no to do’s), lying on the beach, whatever it is that helps me relax.
4. My friends
Like I said, I have to be around people too. In the Netherlands we have a word for it that’s hard to translate: “gezelligheid”. Which means something like coziness, similar to the Danish “Hygge”.
Nights out, long conversations, having dinner with friends, laughter, going to the movies, trips, it doesn’t matter.
I’m very happy with all of my close friends, they’re great and I’m very grateful to have them in my life.
5. Mental health
I easily get anxious, I worry a lot and I like to be in control. I struggle with my mental health from time to time. It’s always there, but sometimes it’s more severe than other times.
Whenever I have insights that help me cope or when I have a good day or handled a situation well, I feel really happy. After all, it’s all a journey of learning and every lesson apparently spikes my gratitude — and growth.
Serve Your Gratitude
So that’s my list of things that make me the most grateful.
I noticed something. Money isn’t one of them, neither are possessions. Furthermore, I’ve never mentioned something remotely negative towards myself or another person.
I also noticed that most of the things I’m grateful for come from within. I don’t need external things to make me happy. I find this a really powerful realization, especially since I’m a fan of the Stoics too. Because you can control how you respond to anything, but you can’t control your external environment. Luckily I’m not too dependent on them for my happiness.
When you write down three things you’re grateful for every day, please look back every quarter or half year and analyze them.
What patterns can you find? Cultivate your gratitude and become a happier person.
I hope you’ll try this out! Perhaps you’ve already been keeping a gratitude journal, then by all means make your analysis, let me know what you learned!