Studies have shown that the more grateful you are, the better your mental, emotional, and physical health. This sounds easy at first but think about the last time you actually sat down to focus and reflect on the things you were grateful for in your life.
Many times it’s easier to focus on the negatives — why did this happen to me? Why didn’t I get that promotion? I’ll never find a successful relationship, etc. We tend to adopt more of a victim mentality which leaves us feeling out of control and at the whim of whatever life chooses to throw at us.
Gratitude lists allow us to focus on what we have instead of what we don’t. We realize what is important to us and what we want more of. This way we take back control of our lives and can figure out what we need to do to increase our gratitude and lessen the negativity.
Here is a quick rundown of what a gratitude list is, how to keep one, and only a few of the positive benefits of writing one.
What is a gratitude list?
A gratitude list is just like it sounds — a list of everything that you are grateful for. It’s a way of reflecting on your day, week, month, or year and taking into account all of the positives in your life. It can be easy to get caught up in the negatives that happen in life because they tend to cause us the most discomfort and sadness, which is why gratitude lists are so important in maintaining a healthy outlook on life.
How do I keep a gratitude list?
Writing out your gratitude list can be done in any way that ensures that you will continue doing it. To get into the habit, it helps to keep a journal that you can use nightly in reflecting on your day.
Depending on what helps you visualize your positives better, you can write or draw your list — it’s entirely up to you. It also doesn’t have to take long, maybe 15 minutes or less to jot down everything. A bullet journal, or BuJo, is a system for rapid logging and tracking.
Starting with more frequency will help you get in the habit of reflecting on your day and make it an easier task to do. Although taking a look at everything you are grateful for prior to bed can have a calming effect and improve sleep, feel free to reflect at any point during the day or even right after a negative situation to help shift your perspective.
Benefits of gratitude lists
By looking at everything good in your life, it helps you experience a more positive outlook going forward. You won’t be as fixated on the negatives when you’re constantly reinforcing and reminding yourself of the positives.
Reduces depressive symptoms
Gratitude lists have been shown to lessen depressive symptoms in those who practice them regularly. Although not a cure for depression, they do allow for a way for you to shift your focus to something positive.
Being able to reflect on all the things you are grateful for simply makes you a happier person. There’s less room for negativity when you’re able to have a better perspective on everything that you have.
Similarly, being able to look at all the positives in your life allows you to appreciate that life much more. You’re able to feel satisfied with what you do have and look for more of it rather than fixate on what you don’t.
The happiness that comes with gratitude lists, in turn, tends to increase the amount of self-esteem you have. You’ll feel more confident in your decision to work towards things you can feel grateful for and in turn, will feel more fulfilled.
Peace of mind
While a gratitude list can be done at any time, doing one at night and reflecting on the previous hours of the day can help instill a feeling of calm and peace of mind before bed. This may also result in improved sleep, which we all know is crucial for all facets of our health.
More Self-Care Tips & Resources
- Attend a reflection workshop, like the WELL DOT’s Annual Event.
- Add some of these self-care rituals to your week.
- Cut out these five negative habits that are holding you back.
Erin Bahadur is a NASM-certified personal trainer, writer, and owner of the blog Erin’s Inside Job, a site dedicated to focusing on physical, emotional, and mental health. She is currently working on an addiction and recovery-based memoir to destigmatize mental health and addiction issues in our society. When she’s not writing, she’s trying out new desserts in Chicago and relaxing with her husband Neil and her dog Donut.