Gratitude towards the world and others is something frequently discussed as a way to feel better, increase your empathy, and become more spiritually aligned. Too often, us spiritual people will neglect to thank ourselves for our hard work. We favor giving other people compassion before we give ourselves this sacred gift. This week’s Monday Mindfulness will teach us a quick and powerful way to share some of this gratitude with ourselves.
This type of self-love resonates with our heart chakras, which in turn aids our ability to help others and deepens our relationships. We must be loving towards ourselves before we can fully experience a love for all other things. Isn’t it amazing that we can help others more extensively by treating ourselves to a little self-compassion? With a Universe completely composed of love, it is a wonderful gift to be charged with the mission of loving ourselves, as this fuels all other love we share with the world.
Increasing self-love is fortunately one of the easiest modalities of mindfulness, brought into our lives in a variety of ways. Gratitude journaling is not only one of the most efficient modalities, but it is also one of the most powerful. Unlike in-depth meditations on visually imagining the light of love pumping through us, this journaling practice works in a subtle way—opening our hearts behind the scenes.
Journaling in general is an easy to upkeep mindfulness practice. You can journal for under a minute every day or extend the practice to whatever length suits you best! All you’ll need is a notebook and a writing utensil of your choice. For this specific exercise, pick a pen or pencil that you really love writing with. Every part of this practice should be indulgent, including your medium of writing.
It is also important, with all journaling practice, to handwrite if this is an option for you. The intimacy of a pen scrawling your individual script on paper increases your connection to the whole exercise. The more you allow yourself to feel the words you write here, the more this practice will benefit you.
The Basics of Gratitude Journaling:
- Find a quiet and private space. With such a personally intimate exercise, this is something you’ll definitely want!
- If you feel that it centers you, do some calming breathing exercises or a breathing meditation before any writing. If these types of beginning meditations don’t aid you, move right into journaling.
- Consider trying this exercise in list format. It’s usually the easiest to jot down many ideas in a list. This is your journal, your practice, and your thank yous, so ultimately format it in the way you enjoy the most.
- Write down at least five things you are grateful you accomplished, thought, acted on, felt, experienced, or simply things you embody. Although it can become emotionally intense, it is extremely beneficial to tackle areas where self-love is lacking. If you struggle with body image, perhaps comment on one part of your body that you love (maybe this is your eye color, or maybe this is the ability that your body has to walk!).
- If you’re struggling, make your ideas simpler. This practice isn’t a resume of incredible achievements—the little things count the most here. There are some prompts and questions below if you’re not sure where to start!
- Once you feel like you have completed the practice for the day, pause, smile, and close your journal. Take a second to observe how you are feeling and be with yourself in the moment. If you are experiencing heavy emotions, allow yourself the space for these to flow through you without resistance.
- Ideally, continue this practice once a day, with at least five concepts of self-gratitude each time. Each list does not have to be things specific to that day, and you can repeat the same things over multiple days if you’re really grateful or you want to affirm gratitude towards that statement or part of yourself.
Use these to get specific! With some of these, you might be able to get ten different parts that you are grateful for. For instance, “an accomplishment you had in your workplace” could turn into “I am thankful I was kind enough to pour my coworkers coffee for them. I am thankful I sent five emails out to clients today. I am thankful I get up each morning and go to work.” and many more. Bury yourself in an avalanche of compliments!
- Something you treated yourself to recently
- A nice thing you said to someone
- A nice thing you said to or about yourself
- A bodily trait you like: eyes, skin, texture of your hair, height, anything!
- Something you cooked for yourself
- An accomplishment in school or in your workplace (small or large!)
- Something you had hope towards
- When you allowed yourself to feel a difficult emotion
- Something you survived that you thought you couldn’t get through
- Your ability to grieve a loss of anyone or anything
- Something you had the ability to taste, and it tasted awesome
- Something wonderful your nose was able to smell
- Amazement towards your body at reacting to sensation, temperature, emotion
- Your ability to walk, move your arms, blink, breathe, exist in whatever way you and your body can
- Taking the time to feed yourself
- Taking the time to relax, watch TV, laugh, socialize
- Having the willingness to be alone, spend quiet time with yourself, and/or manage your own living space
- For impacting another person’s life (small or large impacts!)
- For getting up each day, even if it’s just to keep breathing
- Thank your body for its natural cycles: hormonal, sleep, energy, dietary, emotional
- Thank yourself for slowing down to self-reflect, in any and all ways you do that
- For exercise or rest—whichever wonderful thing you provided your body with
- A childhood accomplishment
- Something relating to your family, friends, or another relationship you have
- A moment you interacted with a stranger in a positive way
- A risk you took, whether it worked out or not
- Your ability to “fail” at something and try again
- Your ability to love yourself beyond the mistakes you have made
- A tradition you love about yourself
- A way you cope through hard times
- For pursuing healing, spirituality, mindfulness, and meditation
Experiences You May Have:
- Strong emotions are common. I remember when I first did this exercise, tears welled up in my eyes before I completed the third sentence. I recognized so much self-compassion in the moment, it made for an amazing experience of growth. Especially if you struggle with self-love, self-esteem, or intimacy with your own emotions, I’d highly suggest having some tissues nearby!
- Sometimes this practice can be difficult to start, especially if you often put yourself down or don’t yet recognize your self-worth. It’s okay to sit with a blank page for a minute. Perhaps your first thank you should be for taking the time to sit down and try this exercise! Even the attempt is something worth being grateful towards yourself for trying.
Other ways to apply gratitude journaling:
Perhaps you want to add this onto your daily routine, or send gratitude towards other places when you feel it is most needed
- When you dislike someone, you can apply this practice in regards to them. List some of the things about them you thank them for or admire in them. This can help you look for the positive sides of a person when you are around them, in hopes that you can expand the list.
- You can journal about your life and the world in general as well. Instead of focusing just on yourself, you can also focus on the world and Universe, your faith, and situations in your life.
- When facing mental or physical illness, this can be an incredibly powerful practice. Focus your gratitude more specifically on being thankful for any ways you cope, your survival and persistence towards recovery, and even the illness itself if you can find a beneficial way to apply this to your journaling practice.
- If you fear something, it’s possible to write down things relating to some fears (like that of a certain type of animal). Ponder how this fear has a place in the world as being a benefit—how would the Universe Itself thank the existence of your fear, since the Universe does not fear it? This won’t work for every fear, but it’s worth questioning if it is a modality that will benefit you!
Like all mindfulness and meditation practices, this one builds upon itself through time and dedication. If you continue this for a month, your self-esteem, ability to care for yourself, and empathy will all increase. It’s a powerful practice, even if you can’t feel this each time you sit with your journal. Allow repeated journal entries to cascade into a river of self-love; it will happen if you give this practice the space to fuel you. Not to mention, if you’re having a bad day, you can look back on this journal and see all of the wonderful things you are grateful for in yourself! Your journal will become a great mood booster.
Please feel free to share some of your best journal entries, insights, or feelings about this practice below in the comments.