Periodically I have kept a gratitude journal reminding me that even if I did not feel grateful that there were things in my life to be grateful for. When I was suffering the effects of depression it was not always easy to come up with a list and I often wrote down the same things day after day. Did that make me feel better? Yes and no. What it did give me is the strength to go on, hoping eventually that I would feel better. And after a long journey in the darkness I did finally see the sun.

Gratitude Journal

Gratitude Journal (Photo credit: limevelyn)

Of course the gist is to write down your blessings. I had only one person in my life who was supportive and caring and I focused on that instead of worrying about those who had abandoned me. So that was what came first. I lost my job due to my bipolar disorder but I could focus on the fact that I was able to get on disability and was not starving in the streets. Again I did not actually feel better at the time. It was just an acknowledgment of the fact that things could be far, far worse.

There are ways though that get better results than what I did, and I found this great article from The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. I will share an excerpt from “Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal

Emmons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, shared these research-based tips for reaping the greatest psychological rewards from your gratitude journal.
•Don’t just go through the motions. Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and others suggests that journaling is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful. “Motivation to become happier plays a role in the efficacy of journaling,” says Emmons.
•Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
•Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
•Try subtraction, not just addition. One effective way of stimulating gratitude is to reflect on what your life would be like without certain blessings, rather than just tallying up all those good things.
•Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
•Don’t overdo it. Writing occasionally (once or twice per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling. In fact, one study by Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness afterward; people who wrote three times per week didn’t. “We adapt to positive events quickly, especially if we constantly focus on them,” says Emmons. “It seems counterintuitive, but it is how the mind works.”

Read more of the article here. Also visit the Greater Good Science Center

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