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5 Ways A Gratitude Journal Can Improve Your Life

5 Ways A Gratitude Journal Can Improve Your Life

A gratitude journal is a reflection of the things you are thankful for. It is the simple act of recording things into a notebook about things that strike you during the day as having gone well. Although usually done with pen and paper, the multitude of online journalling tools widely available means that you can choose to blog online instead of writing it down, or even post images and caption them instead. When keeping a gratitude journal on a regular basis, there are a host of benefits that arises which can increase mental wellbeing and improve aspects of your life.

It gives you a choice

Knowing you have a choice in life is powerful. Many studies have shown that choice influences your satisfaction in life as well as your coping ability. There will always be at least one thing you can put in your gratitude journal, such as the bus arriving on time or the elevator not breaking down on your way out. The very worst can happen to anyone, but knowing you have a choice to see the good in spite of that is crucial for helping you to maintain your ability to manage yourself well during these situations.

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It teaches you gratitude

Gratitude is feeling appreciative or thankful. We are taught to say thank you by others from an early age, but feeling grateful comes only from within. The act of noting down things you are thankful for helps you to recall the feeling of gratitude, whether the feeling was brief or not. This comes in handy particularly when facing difficult times, when gratitude can often take a back seat to many other feelings that arise easily such as anger, depression or annoyance. Gratitude itself is also associated with other effects such as increased empathy, sensitivity and happiness, which in turn strengthens your ability to learn positive emotions.

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It prepares you to handle problems more calmly

Being grateful doesn’t mean you will ignore your problems, but helps you to shift into a positive and calmer perspective to deal with them productively. Our internal talk is a key factor in determining how easily we slip into depressed, angry or unhappy moods. If you notice a lot of thoughts such as “I won’t be able to do it, why even try” or “why is he acting like so selfishly” in reaction to various events, this can be indicative of negative self talk that has been implicitly reinforced over the years. A gratitude journal helps to reframe your internal self talk gradually to take on a more positive tone by focusing on things that went well, and therefore help you to see problems more objectively and handle them in better ways.

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It keeps you in the present

The very act of journalling grateful thoughts increases your mindfulness by keeping you in the present. Too often, overthinking and dwelling on negative events of the day will keep you distracted and unable to focus on the present task at hand. Keeping a gratitude journal helps you to learn practiced focus as you concentrate on recalling and noting down positive aspects of your day, as well as physically distract you from acting on the impulse arising from any negative feelings.

You become more resilient

The more things you are grateful for, and the more you practice recording down this gratitude, the more easily positive thinking will come to you over time. Your thoughts influence your actions, and so by paying more attention to your gratitude journal, your focus on this process will enable positive thinking to stick and take on a more automatic role in your thoughts. By repeating this process you will increase your resilience, which is the ability to be strong and bounce back after setbacks.

Featured photo credit: Photo Credit: J Yung via photos.google.com

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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