Does Your Gratitude Journal Experience Miss the Mark Even When You’re Specific? Here’s Why.


Am I the only one whose gratitude journalling experience misses the mark?

Most evenings one of the last things I do before shutting off the lights or picking up my book to read is

  1. write out my intentions for the next day in my planner, review appointments etc. and
  2. journal what went well that day including a short list of what I’m grateful for.

There are times I find myself going to bed with a big smile on my face, feeling open hearted and having a peaceful mind. However, if I’m honest there are a lot of times when I’m just “Eh…did that important thing that all successful people do.” In those instances my attempts at gratitude missed the mark. It was a habit that I was successful to complete but my completion didn’t bring about the success that studies of gratitude promise. The success that I had hoped for.

Not only does my gratitude experience often miss the mark in my bed time routine it also misses when I being more intentional. In particular I use my gratitude journal as a means to turn around a bad mood. Whether I wake up grumpy or have everything in my day turn out totally wrong, I’ve read that gratitude makes you happier. So I grab my trusty journal to take a few minutes to pause and be grateful.  And I intentionally get specific about what I’m grateful for. Even go so far as to try and find things in the bad stuff that I can be grateful for.

Ah-Ha I found what’s missing

Being that I’m a writer and looooovvveee to solve problems I often find myself starting by looking at the meaning of words. Here’s the meaning of gratitude.

Gratitude: the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.

Did you catch it? Hidden in the definition is what was missing from my gratitude journal routine. What was missing is the feeling! And perhaps you are like me and turn everything into a mental task list and forget all about putting heart and feeling into the task at hand. Sadly, being devoted addicted growth I often turn what is meant to be an heart felt experience into a mental exercise to be crossed off my list.

When we move gratitude from a heart felt experience to a mental exercise to cross of the list, it loses it’s power change us. @KarenZeigler tweet

Gratitude with Feeling

In other words to experience all the success, health and positive benefits that can come from being grateful we must turn it into a feeling experience and not a mental exercise. How is that accomplished? Here’s some tips that I’ve found useful.

  • Find a quiet space and 5-10 minutes where you can turn off all distractions. Yes, put your phone on do not disturb. The Facebook notification can wait 10 minutes.
  • Think of the first item you’re grateful for and write it on your list. For example purposes I’ll choose my husband.
  • Next write down something specific specific. And by that I mean go down a few layers. For instance, I’m grateful for my husband because he makes me laugh. Then more specifically I will recall our dinner last night as a family where he had us all cracking up with his impersonation of a situation we were discussing.
  • OR you may find it more helpful (I do) to connect with the feeling (either after writing or in place of) closing your eyes and envisioning the specific time. Like me closing my eyes and seeing my husband making the funny voice, talking with his hands and the seeing the laughter on each face around the table.
  • Now sit with that feeling. Notice how the tension in your body releases. Perhaps even a smile will turn up the corners of your lips. Just notice. In fact, this can be even more profound if you take a few minutes to jot down how you were feeling – mentally, physically and emotionally before you started journalling and compare it with after.

Hitting the mark, flipping the switch with gratitude

Consequently, after practicing gratitude in this way I now understand why Oprah, Tony Robbins and  many others say to make note of just 3-5 things you are grateful for. I always thought 3-5 was too short to flip the happiness switch. It turns out the switch doesn’t flip like a tipping point when you get to the magic number on your list. It flips when you plug into the feelings that you experience when you think about those people or things you are grateful for.

Grab your journal; it’s your turn to grow

  1. Turn off all distractions and find a safe and comfortable spot you can reflect and close your eyes if you feel it helps. Take a moment to notice how you’re feeling mentally, physically and emotionally before starting.
  2. Jot down the first person, place or thing you are grateful for and get specific specific with what you’ve listed.
  3. Next move from your head to your heart and really connect with the feelings that what you have listed brings up. Perhaps even think of a special occurrence (like our dinner out last night)
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 a couple more times or as time allows.
  5. Finish with noticing the change in how you’re feeling – emotionally, physically and mentally? Did you hit the mark? I would love to hear about the differences you found in your gratitude experience by bringing back the feeling.

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