Understanding the positive psychology of gratitude will benefit you when it comes to effectively using a gratitude journal. Did you know that people who write down what they’re thankful for are 25 percent happier, exercise 33 percent more a week, sleep 30 minutes longer each night, and have 10 percent lower blood pressure?  So, as you can see it’s worth learning how to use a gratitude journal to relieve stress. Robert Emmons, Ph.D., whose research is mentioned above, suggests “journaling for five to 10 minutes three times a week. Think about the moments in your day—big or small—that felt like gifts, and reflect on them.
Why use journaling to practice gratitude?
As the introduction suggests, focusing on the things you’re thankful for (i.e., gratitude) can help make you happier. While there are a lot of ways to practice gratitude, journaling is one of the best, research-backed ones out there. It will be a big help when it comes to understanding the positive psychology of gratitude.
by Vince Carl
That said, there are steps that one can take that will make it easier to write the journal once the time comes. One really easy way to get started on a gratitude practice is to make a habit of counting your blessings both morning and night. You don’t even have to write them down, as in a gratitude journal, if that seems too overwhelming. We’ll get to that later. For now, all you need to do is to take a few minutes when you wake up and before you go to bed until it becomes a routine. Here are some tips to help you begin.
Start Small and set the stage for Understanding the positive psychology of gratitude
As I said in an earlier post, 10 Successful Tips to Make You a Better Runner, starting out slowly is the key to any change in your health habits. This will help you maintain them for the long term as they become a lifestyle change. Remember my tip about how to start a healthy running habit? I said, “Start where you’re at. Just put on your shoes and head out there. If all you can do is walk for five to ten minutes, start there. It’s a great start and that’s a lot more exercise than you’ve been getting. Stick with it for a week and then see if you can make it for 15 minutes.”
by Xochi Hughes Ma
The bottom line is that easing into any habit is usually the best approach. By making it easier on yourself, you’ll be more inclined to continue moving forward. So, try not to put too much pressure on yourself to come up with grand examples of gratitude when you’re just starting out. Just appreciating the bed where you’re starting and ending the day can be something to add to your initial list. Sometimes simply recognizing a tiny blessing can have a big impact.
Understanding the positive psychology of gratitude by learning to flip your complaints
This means that every time you are tempted to complain about a situation, pause and think about something positive about the same issue. Consider the following story:
“When Nancy Kirk, author of Big Little Book of Thank-You Notes, woke up for the twentieth night in a row to the sound of her newly-adopted baby crying, the sleep-deprived new mother wasn’t annoyed. Instead, she was thankful she had a beautiful child to care for and love. When a thief stole valuable items from her, Kirk didn’t become angry. Rather, she expressed gratitude that she never had to steal to provide for her family. When her son was in a serious accident, Kirk didn’t blame God. Instead, she thanked God her son’s life was spared.” 
Be Grateful Even when life is not ideal
Have you ever head the expression “going underground” ? It normally means to go into hiding; to begin to operate in secret. An unpopular political movement, for example, may be forced to go underground. However, when it comes to pain management or cases of high stress to go underground means that you feel so depressed that it’s not enough to describe your state as “feeling low”. It’s beyond that. You have done more than hit the bottom. You have reached a state of utter hopelessness. You have gone underground.
I spoke to a friend who recalled a time in his life when he had gone underground. Describing the situation, he said: “ People say that when you hit bottom you have no way to go but up. However, no one ever tells you that when it comes to anxiety and stress there is a level below the bottom—the underground. This is the level that you feel isolated and beyond anyone’s help. You’re terrified because you have no idea how you’re going to get back up.”
I asked him how he got out of the underground of his anxiety and fear?
“It wasn’t easy, but gradually I started to think about things I should be grateful for,” my friend said. He continued. “ I had always been a musical prodigy, and I was grateful that I could still play my keyboards. The love for music, and that’s what it was, defeated my demons and pulled me out of the underground. Now my life is good. Everyday I remember to be grateful for this musical gift that I have been given.” My friend learned that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.
Not allowing Pain to define your life
everything we have discussed in this post has led to us confronting the hard truth when it comes to chronic pain and practicing gratitude—does it really help? Let’s consider the case of Phyllis Peters. She is a woman who knows how to grateful when life is not perfect.
“In 1940, at age thirteen, she was stricken with acute polio. Hospitalized, she had to be turned every twelve hours from back to stomach. After months of hospitalization and therapy, Peters was fitted with full-length leg braces and a back brace that enabled her to stand and relearn how to walk.
As a young teenager, she felt her life was devastated. Nevertheless, she maintained a positive attitude, grateful for dedicated professionals who helped her. She always expressed thanks for the small but positive aspects of her life.
Despite her physical limitations, Peters attended college, became a writer, married, and had a son and daughter. Eventually she learned to drive a car, was able to walk with only one leg brace, and later discarded her crutches for a single cane. “
In short, one shouldn’t underestimate the power of gratitude. It can have powerful and surprising benefits.
You may also want to read the following post on this website:
Now that you have a firm understanding of how to practice gratitude, you can perfect your skills by using a gratitude journal to relieve stress. This is the focus of our next post. It will further build your skills in understanding the positive psychology of gratitude. I would be grateful if you checked in.
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Sheen, Jay. “Thanks-Giving All Year Long: How to Make Gratitude a part of your Everyday life.” Vibrant Life, Nov.—Dec. 2018, p. 13+
Mowe, Sam. “The zen of Gratitude.” Spirituality& Health Magazine, Sept.-Oct. 2016, p.62+