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Gratitude: The Art of the 5-Minute Journal

“You should be grateful for the food on your table!” my grandma shouted at me as I inevitably left scraps of food on my plate. I used to question lots of her practices. Why did she insist on praying the second she awoke in the morning? Why did we have to tiptoe around her at night while she murmured all of the things she was grateful for during her nightly prayers? But the more I learn about gratitude and what it means to be grateful, the more I have come to see my grandmother’s eccentricities as contributing factors to her current longevity and general happiness with life.

What exactly is gratitude and how is it different from feelings of happiness or devotion? According to Webster’s dictionary, gratitude is to be “appreciative of the benefits received.”  However, I have come to understand gratitude to be a little more complicated than that.

“Gratitude is acknowledging things that have come to you that you may or may not have worked for or deserved. Gratitude is more of a lens or a way of seeing the world that involves recognizing others and their actions that have positively affected your life.”

Unlike happiness, which is a temporary state of being that may or may not acknowledge how or why you feel that emotion, gratitude may be felt even when you aren’t particularly happy.

Related: Flipping the Script: “Have To” vs “Get To”

Studies have begun to uncover the many psychological and physiological benefits to practicing gratitude.  The practice of gratitude has been shown to activate neuro-transmitters associated with positive mood and has the potential to rewire the structures of our brain to develop more empathy for other people. Expressing gratitude can also lesson levels of depression, anxiety, and stress while decreasing hormones like cortisol that cause stress to the body. Decreasing total stress to the mind and body may lesson the likelihood of developing stress-related chronic diseases.

“Other positive correlations with gratitude include increased quality of sleep, fewer symptoms of illness and improved performance.”

There are, of course, many ways to practice gratitude but my goal is to provide you with at least one tangible way to practice gratitude that will help you reap all of the physical, social, and emotional benefits.  Behold! The 5-minute Gratitude Journal! I have altered the format to my liking, so please feel free to do the same.

I am grateful for…

Begin and end your day by writing three things you are grateful for.  Consider describing tangible, in the moment things (i.e. I am grateful for this delicious cup of hot tea). That way, even if you aren’t feeling particularly grateful for anything, you can use your senses to become more present.

What would make today great?

Next, “prime” or “pre-frame” your mind for seeing opportunities to make your day as successful as possible. By writing down what you want to happen to make your day great, your mind is more likely to point out those opportunities to you. Think of the car effect. When you buy a new car suddenly you start seeing that car everywhere. Your mind has retrained itself to SEE that particular car, and that’s the exact kind of thing we are trying to do in the gratitude journal.

Daily affirmations…

End your morning journal with some daily affirmations that guide how you would like to see yourself. These can be simple and are meant to help remind you to make decisions throughout the day that reflect your values.

How could I have made today better?

The evening portion of the journal is used to reflect upon your day. It is a space to write down the things that may have bothered you and to come up with solutions to address those issues. Sometimes just getting your frustrations down on paper can be enough to let you have a decent nights sleep.

Three awesome things that happened today…

Lastly, I like to end with happy thoughts, as I’ve found that forcing myself to think of the reasons why I should be grateful has oftentimes lessened feelings of sadness or anger.

Tips For Success

  1. Streamline your journaling process. Make sure to set-up your journal ahead of time. For some people, this may mean investing in pre-made gratitude journals easily found at your local bookstore.

  2. Consider multiple journaling avenues. I have also found that keeping a journaling app on hand has enabled me to still undergo a daily practice of gratitude, even if it’s not as detailed as the 5 minute journal. I personally use the Gratitude App, where you literally just add what you are grateful for that particular day. It takes about 30 seconds, must faster than any WOD you have ever done.

  3. Find yourself an “accountability buddy.”  Be it a partner, child, friend, coach, or a classroom of students, letting other people know about your goals and even asking them to join in with you can mean a higher likelihood of success for you.

“You can express gratitude to basically any external force that may have contributed to something beneficial in your life. “

My challenge to you is to try to find a way to incorporate gratitude throughout your day, whether it’s through something like the 5-minute journal or quickly scribbling down something you are grateful for on a piece of paper. Refer to the blog post How Do I Stay Consistent with my Fitness? to learn how to begin making the gratitude journal a daily habit.

If you need help setting up your journal or brainstorming other ways you can incorporate gratitude in your life, email me at jasmine@crossfitslipstream.com

—Jasmine Gerritsen


CrossFit Slipstream