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Savor the Thanks, But…
Avoid Overachieving the Gratitude Journal
I believe myself to be a grateful person and strive to express my appreciation to others on a regular basis. I also believe in the power of gratitude on your wellbeing and have often thought of starting a gratitude journal. I know people who have found the practice very impactful and rewarding.
But I resist. Many (official and unofficial sources) encourage writing in it every day, and it feels like yet another thing to add to my already too-long, to-do list—a chore. Then I would wind up feeling guilty about not doing it. Kind of feels like it defeats the purpose, no?
Well, here’s the good news. According to Robert Emmons, the leading expert on the science of gratitude, you only need to write in the journal once or twice a week (despite what popular psychology resources like to espouse). Turns out that there are diminishing returns in journaling more often than that.
In fact, it is better to go deep than wide. For example, focus in more detail about why you are grateful on just a few items. Studies show that this has a greater boost on happiness than creating a long, superficial list of all of the things you are happy for that day. Also try to focus on the unexpected or surprising moments as they appear to evoke stronger levels of gratitude.
In the end, expressing gratitude (and writing it down) focuses you on the good things in life that you might take for granted. When you can see the richness in your life, it boosts your spirits and focuses your brain on the positive.