6. Using it as a diet tracker. I don’t do this much anymore, but for several year I was guilty of it. I tracked all things food and weight related in my gratitude journal. I wrote down my weight, how many calories I had, and often, whether it was a “good eating day” or a “bad eating day.” In my defense, I was trying to make some useful connections about triggers. (Oh, on days I have lunch by myself and have time to read a good book, I also usually eat well. I also see that on days that are over-stuffed with tasks, I don’t usually have a “good eating day.”) This may have been helpful to a point, but it’s not really a gratitude journal and it definitely shifts the thoughts and focus to evaluation and assessment (and judging!) myself and my behavior instead of noticing what I love and what I am grateful for.
7. List of stuff I bought or received. I may be most tempted to make a list of things I received on a holiday. It’s exciting to get presents and writing the list sort of “captures” the feeling of the newness. I might also make this kind of list if I have taken a big shopping trip or bought something exciting that I have wanted a long time. It’s okay to put these on your gratitude list, but I think it’s more satisfying if you can connect a person or an experience to things on the list. Here’s an example: You want to put on your list that you bought some new clothes. What if you add to that how fun it was having the whole day to yourself to look and try things on? Or that you enjoyed getting something in a color that’s new to you? Or that your mom came with you and told you the turquoise dress made you look stunning? Similarly, you could write on your list that your mother-in-law gave you a ring, or you could write another sentence or two and describe the ring and why you like it.
8. Underrating its importance. Thanksgiving, gratitude and appreciation are huge spiritual gifts that can be life changing. Challenge yourself to keep a running list of the blessings and gifts in your life. Our minds are predisposed to pick out what’s wrong in any given situation, but gratitude reverses this tendency and we train ourselves to notice what’s good. Focus on gratitude can turn your whole day around and cause a dramatic mood shift. Keeping a gratitude journal is a step in the right direction. You might also find it a wonderful experience to reread past sections of your gratitude journal if you have kept one before, or to even keep a book designed to notice the good in a specific situation (i.e. Amazing Things My Husband Does For Me, Blessings On the Job, etc.).
9. Not thinking about it enough—or at all and just writing the things that occur to me first. Gratitude journaling can be and is a type of prayer or meditation at its best. There will be times you are rushed, but try to take time with it to really reflect about your day, your life, and your best moments, when you were happiest.
10. Doing it right before bed when I am completely exhausted. Try earlier in the evening or even adding it to your morning routine—journal about what you feel grateful for from the previous day. I share these ideas to help you get the most out of your gratitude journal. As always though, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good! Keeping a gratitude journal is an amazing habit and ritual to embrace. You will see immediate benefits and be glad to have the practice in your life, even if some of your entries are rushed or a little hard to read because you were so sleepy when you wrote them.