Saturday, June 21, 2014

Discover the Power of a Gratitude Journal

Tackle this challenge.
One evening each week, for the next nine weeks, write a few paragraphs in a personal journal. Each week, you should seek to answer these questions as you write your journal entry: “What am I most thankful for – this week?” and “Why?”
Set an alarm on your smart phone, at the same time and day of each week for the next nine weeks, to remind you to complete these journal entries. 
Here are some 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.
  • 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,” said another researcher. “It seems counterintuitive, but it is how the mind works.”
  • If you become stuck, always revert back to square one. Be thankful for each breath you take.

Various studies have shown that simply doing a five-minute gratitude journal, once or twice a week, can increase a person’s happiness by 10%. Doesn’t sound like much, until you realize that it takes a doubling of income to achieve the same effect (and often that effect is not as long-lasting).

Writing a “gratitude journal” reduces feelings of envy, makes our memories happier, lets us experience good feelings, and helps us bounce back from stress. The simple journaling of gratitude builds self-esteem and makes a person less self-centered and more optimistic from day-to-day. Studies have shown that a gratitude journal deepens relationships with others, and also makes a person even friendlier (and, as a result, possessing of more friends).
As so many philosophers have opined, it is far better to "live in the present" rather than in the "past" or the "future." Writing a gratitude journal assists in doing this. You realize that it is not major accomplishments that fuel happiness; rather, it is the everyday relationships you possess that can secure for you a far greater, and more permanent, source of happiness.
Take the challenge. Schedule your weekly "gratitude journal" entries. Keep them up for nine straight weeks, and see how your life changes.

Professor Ron A. Rhoades, JD, CFP(r) teaches Business Law, Retirement Planning, Investment Planning, Employee Benefits Planning, Money & Banking, Insurance & Risk Management, and the Personal Financial Planning Capstone courses at Alfred State College, Alfred, NY.

He is also the author of "CHOOSE TO SUCCEED IN COLLEGE AND IN LIFE: Continuously Improve, Persevere, and Enjoy the Journey," a 10-week program for success in college (available for $2.99 in Kindle store at, or in paperback for $6.99). Professor Rhoades may be reached by e-mail at:

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