I think I first heard of a gratitude journal many years ago on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Oprah espoused writing down something for which you were grateful each day. Being grateful, it has been proven, leads to increased happiness because it helps us to focus on what we have versus what we don't have. It helps us to put things into perspective.
However, I know that keeping a daily gratitude journal can lead to burnout for some people. it did for me. Rather than focusing on the things for which they are grateful people begin to focus on the task of writing down things down. The list becomes the thing, instead of the gratitude. When this happens, the focus shifts, and people either lose momentum or don't get the intended impact that comes from actually being grateful. So, while expressing gratitude has proven benefits, such as an increased sense of well being, a gratitude journal is not the only way to express gratitude and it may not prove effective for everyone.
Last weekend, my sons and I expressed gratitude to one friend by hosting a dinner party in her honor. We selected the items we would have on the menu, which required creativity and thoughtfulness. And we made paper crafts, something which she loves. We made origami cranes and rabbits to adorn the table and strands of pennant banners to hang around the room. We paid attention to the details to show her how much she was appreciated.
We have other friends to thank, and are trying to think of personal ways to thank each of them. Expressing gratitude by honoring someone feels good to the the one being honored, but we benefited as well. This kind of "active gratitude" made a tremendous impact on my sons, increasing their awareness and acknowledgement of how much this person did for us and how much we appreciated her.
And then there is the thank you note. In an age of digital technology, sending a thank you can be as quick and immediate as shooting off a text, but it's not the same. Taking the time to carefully write out a thank you note makes a difference. I will go the extra step of addressing the envelope beautifully and choosing just the right stamp. Nothing makes me happier than to hear that my thank you note brought the recipient to tears. When that happens, I know it's done its job and I have really let that person know how much they mean to me.
Try to think of different ways that you can incorporate gratitude into your own life, so that you can experience the beauty of it.