Writing a gratitude journal simply involves putting down on paper a few of the things for which you are grateful. The idea behind this is that the more grateful you are, the less likely you are to be depressed. If you make some time every day to list all the things you appreciate and for which you’re thankful - like your friends, your family, your health, or even more trivial things like the good weather, or a good meal, or a book you’re reading and enjoying - it makes you focus on all the positive things in your life.
Fake it till you make it! Spending time focusing on positive thoughts and feelings means you’ve got less time to think about negative thoughts and feelings. New research shows that cultivating gratitude has effects on the brain which can lessen anxiety, depression and stress.
The idea behind affirmations is that by saying positive statements over and over, your brain is developing new neural pathways (rewiring your brain) to think positive thoughts.
Try setting aside 15 minutes every day to do your affirmations and gratitude list.
Be patient. It takes a bit of time for the benefits to become apparent - ideally, you need to do this every day for at least 4 weeks.
How to practice gratitude? I write a gratitude journal and list at least 3 things every day for which I am grateful. For example, “I am grateful to my wife for her love and support”, “I am grateful for the good weather we have today”, “I am grateful for my good physical health”. You can also do gratitude meditations and/or write letters of gratitude to people.
Keep affirmations short, positive and in the present tense e.g. “I am...”, not “I should be..” or “I will be”. Keep it short and positive and repeat at least 10 times. Personally I prefer to say my affirmations in front of the mirror but another good way is to sit down comfortably, take slow and deep breaths, and then repeat your affirmations ten times in time with your breath. The following are just examples which worked for me. If these don’t resonate with you then feel free to make up your own:
I am loving and giving
I am more than enough
I am calm and relaxed
I am strong and powerful
I am loved
How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain, Greater Good Magazine
Giving thanks can make you happier, Harvard Medical School
More information on writing a gratitude journal from Greater Good in Action.
Thanks! How practicing gratitude can make you happier, Robert Emmons
Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources, Barbara Fredrickson et al. in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2008.