You can listen to this post in audio, too. Click the player to download an mp3 file, or you can read below …

audio-play-bar

Today, I want to invite you to try a new twist on gratitude journaling.

I recently heard a friend say she’d started writing down not only what she was grateful for, but why she was grateful for it. This had really made a difference for her.

My occasional gratitude journaling had gotten a little dry and perfunctory feeling, so I was intrigued.

So, instead of my gratitude list looking like…

   •  Conversation with M
   •  Walk & coffee this morning
   •  Green chair family moment this evening

it looked like…

Conversation with M
   •  because something genuinely new happened in the conversation today
   •  because I have been pushed to grow so much in this relationship
   •  because it’s so great to finally be in the same geographic place with her

Walk & coffee this morning
   •  because of the silence and sweet alone time
   •  because of the adorable coffee shop
   •  because of the spring weather

Green chair family moment this evening
   •  because of feeling connected
   •  because of seeing the affection between my children
   •  because of the memory of seeing eric’s face watching them together

My experience in doing this was that it really amplified all the positive feelings I’d normally feel only a touch of when making a gratitude list. This brought more joy. More of feeling moved. More of that feeling of being strengthened and calmed as I wrote. A sense of my heart swelling in my chest.

Then, in editing this post, I went back and read the list above and I felt a desire to be even more specific.

The lists evolved to this…

Conversation with M
   •  because of that moment, when I heard myself say x, and I was looking at the sunlight on the road, and I felt so clear in saying it
   •  and then I heard her say y back, and it was clear – we really were changing our dynamic around this thing

Walk & coffee this morning
   •  because of the blue awning and the coal black sidewalk that greeted me
   •  because of the two golden dogs outside
   •  because of that feeling of freedom – walking, alone, the time and permission to do so

And as I went back and added in these details, the positive feelings only amplified more.

Not only that, but as I mined for the details, the experiences themselves seemed to expand. Instead of feeling like the day had just flown by again, it felt replete with vivid, rich experiences.

As I did a little more research, I discovered that the findings on gratitude practices are very in line with my experience: being more specific and including more details increases the impact of the practice.

And, sitting with the grateful feelings for a few moments, letting them flood the body, is what retrains the brain. It’s what causes gratitude practice to have an impact on our general mood and wellbeing as we move through our lives – not just in the moment of writing our gratitude list.

As Rick Hanson, psychologist and author of Buddha’s Brain, put it, “Really savor this positive experience. Practice what any school teacher knows: If you want to help people learn something, make it as intense as possible—in this case, as felt in the body as possible—for as long as possible.”

So this week’s practice: a few nights of the week try this out. (Research has shown you really don’t need to do this every day to get the benefits, so perfectionism – be gone!)

Journal about a few things you are grateful for, but take time to identify and write down the reasons why you are grateful for each.

Let us know what your experience is like in our Weekly Practice Facebook group here.

And, for more tips on making a gratitude practice effective (there are a lot of nuances beyond just writing a gratitude list), visit here.

With love,

Tara