In my basement, there is a box – a box filled with gratitude. There are pink ones and lined ones and ones with sayings from Buddha; there are ones with drawings and ones with hard-to-read handwriting, countless dates and years and moments remembered.
I have been keeping a gratitude journal since 2007, not diligently but noting down the things I was grateful for as I started on this journey. Early gratitude journals are filled with burst of happiness like rays of sunshine, then weeks of silence.
The early entries are there: in 2007, when I was struggling with infertility I wrote that I was grateful for a home, family who loved me and a supportive husband. But I wanted a baby.
In 2008, when my marriage was on the rocks, I was grateful to exercise for giving me an outlet – when I was upset or lost, I could go for a run.
In 2009, Lily was all over my gratitude journals – grateful to finally become a mom. Through the early baby and child years there were lots of pauses in keeping up with the nightly ritual – as sleep took precedence and trying to balance raising young kids with still working. But I finally got a groove back around 2012, right around the time Teague began sleeping through the night. In the last seven years – through sobriety, divorce and becoming a single mother –my gratitude practice has kept me grounded.
On the toughest days, I can always find five things to be grateful for – health, family, friends, clean water. On the brightest days, the joys of the world feel magnified. I know life is good because I write it down.
Although giving thanks is important, the practice of writing it down is what changes the wiring in your body – you will change your brain and bodyat the cellular level through gratitude.
My gratitude journal is the last thing I do before I go to sleep every night and I do not compromise. Even on days when I don’t feel happy, gratitude brings me back. I preach about it in classes and constantly ask my students if they have a gratitude practice.
In over 20 years in the fitness industry, few people have told me that my spin class changed their life; every single person who started a gratitude journal told me it changed them.
The health benefits are clear:
- Gratitude helps you sleep
- Gratitude improves your heart rate
- Gratitude is a form of mindfulness, which has benefits for heart rate function.
- Gratitude can help alleviate depression, stress and anxiety
- Gratitude improves your relationships with others.
How do you start? Easy: Buy a journal and write down 5-10 things you are grateful for each night. They can be the same things. Once you get into the groove, write one really challenging thing you went through that day and the lesson it is trying to teach you.
We live in a world of not enough – we always want more. Take time to understand the principle of gratitude and then put it into practice: This one small act will be the biggest step on your health journey.