If you ever got into a problem said “Why me?” then read on. If you often crib about your work, go ahead. If you are anxious, troubled and can’t seem to find happiness in your life, don’t stop.
A daily Gratitude list is a simple act of showing gratefulness towards what you have or have experienced. Often we keep brooding over things we don’t have, people who don’t want to be with us or experiences we can’t afford.
But research shows how the very simple act of daily gratitude list brings you back to the process of identifying the things you have and how wonderful your life is.
It is a daily reminder to the self to realize all the good things in your lives.
“Gratitude, like faith, is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it grows, and the more power you have to use it on your behalf. If you do not practice gratefulness, its benefaction will go unnoticed, and your capacity to draw on its gifts will be diminished. To be grateful is to find blessings in everything. This is the most powerful attitude to adopt, for there are blessings in everything.”
— Alan Cohen
Why is a daily gratitude list so important?
Often we get in the spiral of negative thoughts and the more we dwell on it, the more we start hating our lives.
It is a scientifically proven fact that our brains get into a repetitive cycle of negative thoughts.
It becomes impossible to shut them down at times and any effort at distracting yourself becomes futile.
Sit in silence for a moment and self-assess if something similar has been happening to you. It has happened to me before and I am telling you from my experience that dwelling on these thoughts is easier compared to finding the strength to get up and change the pattern.
Your mind gets into the victim mindset and you feel that the whole world is conspiring against you. But hey, that’s ok. It’s your brain playing tricks and there is nothing wrong with you.
I was recently listening to an interview by Seth Godin and what he said to the interviewer is something that I am not going to forget for the rest of my life
“Stop living as if one day someone else is coming to pick you up. Nobody is coming. It’s your life, pick yourself up. Tap your back and stop being a victim.”
That line hit me hard and made me realize how much wisdom is packed in these two sentences.
Our brains evolved to keep us safe and the negative emotions made sure that our safety guard was always in place. However, now that our lives are secure, our brain is still attracted to negative thoughts.
Almost 70% of our daily thoughts are negative. But the good news is we can rewire the brain to not dwell on these thoughts. It takes time, effort and the will to do so.
Having a daily gratitude list is one such method. It has been used by personal development gurus for a long time. I have never met an unhappy person who is grateful for the things he has. In fact, they are the happiest.
If the simple trick is so powerful, then why isn’t everybody happy? Because people don’t practice it. You can feel the benefits only when you experience it.
1. Rewires your brain
UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center established the fact that practicing a simple act of gratitude can change the molecular structure of the brain.
Practicing daily gratitude makes us happier by switching on the brain’s reward pathway and hypothalamus. The serotonin neurotransmitter is boosted and the brain stems are activated by dopamine.
2. Gives you back the control of your life
When your brain is stuck in a negative cycle, it becomes very difficult to think about other things in life. Jasmine was troubled because of her job.
She was constantly creating negative images in their brain and it kept growing to an extent where she started forgetting if she had locked the car or if she has locked the door. The daily tasks became extremely difficult.
When you start writing a daily gratitude list, you distract your brain and allows it to focus on the positive things in life.
Slowly it becomes a habit and a form of mindfulness exercises where you realize how good your life otherwise is and you make rational decisions about the negative things in your life.
Healthy mind = Healthy body is an old adage but holds meaning much more today. Every generation had their set of problems and we have our own.
Emotional instability is one of the major ones. Increased cortisol disturbs our sleep pattern and decreases our ability to process information correctly.
A daily gratitude list will give you a feeling of instant gratification as it charges up the reward pathway of our brain. This makes you happy and gives you a boost of health and immunity.
4. Reduced anxiety
Yes! It reduces anxiety too. I met a female entrepreneur recently who was extremely anxious and wanted to grow her business fast.
She had to file her tax and that’s when she had the numbers in place. She realized how far she has come already. The number on the paper reinstigated her belief and she was grateful for being able to achieve that.
When you accept your reality, you are dismissing the sad picture your brain has portrayed. The key to this is writing a daily gratitude list. When you look at how much you have already, your anxiety levels come down and you start feeling more confident.
5. Better relationships
Nobody wants to be friends with someone who is constantly talking about negative stuff. When you are negative in your approach you distant people from you. Your family, friends, coworkers…all of them.
Gratitude makes you nicer, more trustworthy, more social, and more receptive. As a result, it helps you make more friends, deepen our relationships, and improve our connections.
6. More energy
Vitality and gratitude are strongly correlated – those who practice gratitude are more likely to have improved physical and mental energy levels. A study of 1662 people found a strong correlation of 0.38 between gratitude and energy levels.
Grateful people are the most cheerful lot and fun to be with. Imagine a coworker who always brings in flowers and greets everyone with a fresh smile every day. That’s what a grateful person would look like.
Writing down things you are grateful for allows you to focus on the positives in your life, hence optimism. A person who is optimistic about his/her present is more likely to be optimistic about their future.
8. Better sleep
Most of us are always tired or feel like we have not rested enough. It is because of the poor quality of our sleep or disturbed sleep patterns. A daily gratitude list can resolve these issues too.
If you are trying to fall asleep but as soon as you close your eyes all the negative thoughts about work, or colleagues or a family member comes up, chances are your sleep is going to be very disturbed that day.
When you think about a few things you are grateful for, you are inducing a relaxation response and telling your mind everything is alright.
In a study of 400 healthy people, participants with higher scores on a gratitude test also had significantly better sleep. They reported good sleep quality, faster time to sleep, increased duration of sleep, and less afternoon fatigue.
9. Increased happiness
A daily gratitude journal can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10 percent if done for 5 minutes every day. Research says it’s the same impact if your income doubles.
How to maintain a daily gratitude list?
1. Daily Gratitude List- Journal
There is a lot of buzz around gratitude journals lately. Some people find it funny while others have shared life-changing stories.
We are always taught to be thankful but as we grow up, the feeling of entitlement takes over.
Setting aside our entitlement mindset and sitting down to write in a journal is a great idea then.
You can take any notebook or a diary for this purpose and write as long as you want.
You might, however, face a small problem after a few days. The habit seems to fade away or you don’t feel the zeal to do the same activity over and over again.
You won’t be surprised if I tell you that there are special journals for maintaining this habit though.
The one I love the most is the Five-minute journal by Intelligent Change a UK based company. They have an on-point journal which you can use every day and you don’t feel overwhelmed. All it takes is five minutes as the name suggests. It is available on amazon.com as well.
2. Daily gratitude list- Apps
The thing with journals is a lot of used paper and a lot of you might not be in favor of filling a journal and throwing it away once it’s over. Some people like the idea of having their journal safe and not accessible easily to others.
Hence, the idea behind Five-minute journal app. Launched by Intelligent change again, this app gives you the freedom to use the paper book in digital format without worrying about throwing it away or having to buy another one.
There are some other free apps as well.
Journey is the most rated and editors choice app on google play for android users.
3. Mindfulness gratitude:
To sit down and thank for all the good things will take up a lot of willpower initially. If you think you can muster up all that will power and turn it into a habit nothing better.
Mindfulness-based gratitude rewires your thought process in a completely different way and gives you a feeling of instant satisfaction. I like this a lot and practice it every time I am feeling a little overwhelmed.
You can take help of guided meditation if you are finding it difficult to do it yourself. Mornings and evenings are usually the best time to do this.
4. Saying thank you whenever possible:
Personally thanking everything you are thankful for and appreciating them for being a part of your lives can be a great experience for you and the receiver alike.
Imagine one of your friends comes up to you and says how grateful he/she is for having you in their life. Who doesn’t like to be recognized and appreciated?
The more you do it, the more things you find to be grateful for. The person feels valued and your relationship improves.
“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”
— Cynthia Ozick
Gratitude can bring immense joy and gratification once you start doing it. It is only a matter of days that you start feeling good about your lives and a sense of fulfilment.
Imagine being in a peaceful, calm state throughout the day where nothing can make you anxious. Imagine being rooted and accepting yourself completely, your confidence will speak for itself. Imagine being in balance always and taking rational decisions without losing your mind. Go for it!
Chakshu is a US alliance certified yoga teacher, a biotechnologist and an Ayurveda evangelist. Her passion is to help people live a toxic-free life, emotionally and chemically. She loves reading self-help books. When she is not writing, she is busy thinking about life.