Strengthen your success with a gratitude journal

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but also the parent of all the others. — Cicero

Gratitude journalsFor years I had kept a gratitude journal — a notebook in which I recorded things large and small in my business for which I felt grateful.

I knew that great thinkers from all ages and traditions had commended the practice of gratitude. Though I was never certain how the gratitude journal “worked,” I was aware that whatever I focused on was the thing I attracted, and I continued to find the practice helpful in combating the slumps that beset solo entrepreneurs, so I recommended it to many of my organizing and productivity clients.

Recently, I encountered scientific validation for the power of my gratitude journal (see source of original study below.) As described by Dr. Martin Seligman in his book Authentic Happiness, “(the researchers) randomly assigned people to keep a daily diary for two weeks, either of happenings they were grateful for, of hassles, or simply of life events. Joy, happiness, and life satisfaction shot up for the gratitude group.”

Here’s my method for keeping a gratitude journal: Find a small notebook that pleases you. As you finish work each day, jot down a few things for which you feel grateful. Here are some of mine:

  • I am scheduled to teach the GO System workshop at (a client) next month.
  • Steve Overman wrote a recommendation for me on LinkedIn. What he wrote was warm, gracious, articulate, and deeply felt.
  • (One of my board colleagues) told me she is glad I’m president of the organization. She feels the group is more inclusive and welcoming.
  • Tonight I arrived home at 7 pm after an 11-hour day. The dog walker had already taken care of the dog. It was heaven!
  • I was able to refer (a client) to Susan Tiner for bookkeeping and financial organizing. I think it will be a great match for both of them.

Start your gratitude journal. Begin by recording one to five thoughts daily for a few weeks. Then use your journal as often as it seems helpful.

As you prepare to do a review of your accomplishments as part of your planning process, be sure to scan your journal entries to remind you of past accomplishments.

Do you keep a gratitude journal? What have you observed? Leave a comment here.

(Original study cited above: Emmons, R.A., & McCullough, M.E. (2003). “Counting blessings versus burdens: Experimental studies of gratitude and subjective well being in daily life.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, No. 84, pages 377-389.)

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2 comments so far

  1. Colleen on

    I began keeping a gratitude journal as part of an exercise I did last month, which I called Month of Thanksgiving. I wanted to be more mindful of the abundance of blessings I have, instead of arriving at Thanksgiving and giving a sort of perfuntory bit of thanks for family, food and health. (pass the mashed potatoes)

    I found in helpful in part because even when I’m not writing items down, I find I’m looking for them all day — I’m more commonly narrating my life with thoughts like “I’m so grateful we can afford to order in Thai food when we want to” or “I’m really grateful my boss is so kind.” It’s become a habit.

    I cited the Emmons research in my kickoff, too. It’s powerful to think this isn’t just a feel-good exercise. It has proven effects on our psyche. http://newvinegrowing.wordpress.com/2009/10/26/launching-a-month-of-thanksgiving/

    Are you keeping a gratitude journal again personally?

  2. New Leaf News on

    Colleen, you make an important point, that the act of writing regularly makes us more aware of our satisfactions all the time. I still keep a journal, though I don’t write in it every day. Having filled a few, I now write in my journal every few weeks, or whenever I’m feeling stuck. As you say, the benefits of keeping the journal stay with us between entries.


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