Do you want to be a happier person? Do you want to make others happier, too? And are you looking for ways to grow more quickly into the person you want to be?
Make a daily gratitude list.
According to Amy Morin’s article in Psychology Today, science has linked a daily gratitude habit with the following seven benefits:
- Improved relationships and greater ease in forming new ones
- Better physical health
- Improved psychological (mental/emotional) health
- Enhanced empathy and reduced aggression
- Better sleep
- Greater self-esteem
- Increased mental strength/resilience
When you write down what you’re grateful for, it magnifies the power of that gratitude and of the feelings that go with it: joy, peace, compassion, forgiveness, and love.
When you do this every day — writing a list of what you’re grateful for — you invite more of that into your life. You become more aware of the good in others, in spite of your differences. You make the world better, not just for yourself but for everyone you come in contact with.
In Amy Morin’s related TED talk below, “The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong,” she emphasizes the importance not only of building good habits but of eliminating bad ones — including the small, unhealthy mental habits that hold us back (resentment, self-pity, etc.)
A daily gratitude list makes it easier to do this because it gets you into a frame of mind where you can acknowledge your negative feelings (e.g., sadness when you’ve lost someone) without getting stuck in “Why me?” thinking or blaming others for your continued suffering. Gratitude helps you work through that pain and see beyond it.
So, where to begin? And what do you need to get started?
How to Create A Gratitude List
Simply put, to create the habit of writing a daily gratitude list, you need the following:
- A journal (physical or digital)
- The time to write in it
- A commitment to writing in it every morning
Before it becomes a habit, you need to consciously choose to make time for your gratitude list. As with any daily writing commitment, getting your butt in the chair for it is half the battle. Another part is eliminating distractions.
But first, you need something to write in.
Get a Journal for your Gratitude Lists
By far the best tool for making your daily gratitude list is a journal. This can be a physical notebook, a password-protected journal app, or a word processing document on your computer — whichever is easiest for you to use consistently.
Related: 101 Things To Be Grateful For
Writing the list out by hand into a physical notebook activates the Reticular Activating System (RAS), which tells your brain to pay attention. It makes it more likely that you’ll remember throughout the day what you’ve written for your morning gratitude list and how you felt while writing it.
This doesn’t mean you won’t benefit by typing out that list on your computer or portable device, and if it’s easier or more convenient for you to type, go with that. Building the habit is more important than whether you write your list by hand or use a keyboard.
It wouldn’t hurt, though, to buy yourself a dedicated journal or notebook, even if you only use it on some mornings. Who knows when you might find yourself sitting and waiting in a place where it’s just easier to write something down by hand then to type with your phone’s tiny keyboard.
Keep a physical journal with you as an option, and just seeing it will remind you of your commitment and of what you’re grateful for.
Create a Morning Gratitude List Habit
According to Dr. Maxwell Maltz, the author of Psycho-Cybernetics, it takes a minimum of 21 days to build a habit or to grow accustomed to changes and new behaviors.
Phillppa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, conducted a study of her own to clarify this. Based on her findings, it takes, on average, 66 days (over two months) for a new behavior to become automatic.
If you can commit to writing even a short list (three items) of things you’re grateful for — taking the time to reflect on them and to feel the gratitude — for a month, you’ll be well on your way to building the gratitude list habit. A few months in, it’ll be part of who you are.
The best time to write your gratitude list is in the morning. Try waking up half an hour earlier, so you can take some quiet time to reflect on what you’re grateful for and make your list.
Gratitude blesses everything; let it bless your morning, so it can influence your entire day.
Read on for some gratitude list ideas that can jumpstart your thinking when you sit down to honor this new, life-changing habit.
Categories for Gratitude Lists
Consider the following gratitude list examples to get you started. You can stick with one per day or write something each morning for three or more different categories.
- Family / Love relationships
- (Other) friends and what you’ve learned from them
- Physical health
- Mental and emotional health
- Spiritual health and growth
- Meaningful experiences – and what you learned from them
- Growth opportunities
- Special abilities: talents or skills (yours or someone else’s)
- Education / Teachers
- Goals you’ve reached / personal victories
- Your mission or your life’s purpose, and what that entails
- Things you enjoy every day: music, the beauty around you, etc.
- You — everything about you that you’re thankful for
Ready to Get Writing?
I hope this article persuaded you of the life-changing benefits of making daily gratitude lists – and that you find just the right tools (journals, pens, apps, etc.) for your gratitude habit.
Related: Enjoying The Small Things In Life
If you’re looking for more guidance to get you started on this, check out The 90-Day Gratitude Journal to help you build the habit of writing down what you’re thankful for.
Whether you use a guided journal or a blank notebook, though, writing a daily gratitude list will lay the best foundation for each day and help you replace depressing and limiting mental habits with energizing ones.
Your first thoughts of the day are often on repeat inside your head; choose thoughts that will help you maximize the good in your life and invite more in.
And may your gratitude and initiative influence everything else you do today.