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Gratitude Journaling - How this practice can change your life

Updated on: 15 June,2020 12:00 AM IST  | 
Dalreen Ramos |

Being grateful is not a cliche and a recent study has revealed that it is good for your mental well-being. With gratitude journaling top of mind during the pandemic, three professionals share how the practice can change your life

Gratitude Journaling - How this practice can change your life

You can either complain that you can-t go out of the house or you can be grateful that you have a house." With this example, Dr Sapna Bangar, psychiatrist and head, Mpower – The Centre, stresses on the fact that gratitude, more than just an expression of thanks, has a lot to do with seeing the glass half full or half empty. And it is this stream of thought that researchers at the University of Twente in The Netherlands have tackled.

A study by Glassdoor revealed that employees were motivated to work when their bosses conveyed appreciation
A study by Glassdoor revealed that employees were motivated to work when their bosses conveyed appreciation

In a study published last month in the Journal of Happiness Studies, 217 participants had to train their "sense of gratitude" for six weeks and results showed that those who lead their lives with this sense are happier and less likely to suffer from psychological problems. Meanwhile, social media has been abuzz with self-care hacks in the pandemic world — gratitude journaling included and three professionals tell us why it works.

Reeti Roy

Honest account
CEO of Aglet Ink and a tour guide, too, Reeti Roy, 31, first began gratitude journaling a decade ago, as a student at the London School of Economics. A riot induced by police brutality had broken out. "I felt lucky to be alive," says Roy over the phone from Kolkata, where she is currently spending time with family. In a people-centric profession, she finds this form of journaling an outlet for self-expression. "There-s this tendency to be a people-pleaser professionally; the main challenge with writing what I-m thankful for was being honest with myself. Sometimes, you also treat yourself badly and determine your self-worth through external factors. So, putting down words helps you rethink why you think a certain way. Gratitude journaling brings out the unfiltered you and helps you to be gentle to yourself."

Dr Janice Morais

Magic in the mundane
When Dr Janice Morais, a dentist based in Chembur, took to being thankful on paper a little over a year ago, she found it challenging because she was looking for something extraordinary to be grateful for. Little did the 33-year-old know that finding a parking spot could be extraordinary. This practice soon became routine. "I don-t make bullet points but write paragraphs. There-s no format; this isn-t an exam. All you have to do is grab a diary and pen, and pour your heart out," she shares. As a mother of three-year-old twins, she makes it a point to discuss gratitude verbally with her kids before bedtime, hoping they pick up journaling in the future. "Because of this, I-ve noticed that everything eventually falls into place," she says.

Dr Bangar mentions the Christian tradition of saying the grace before a meal as an exercise in gratitude
Dr Bangar mentions the Christian tradition of saying the grace before a meal as an exercise in gratitude

Managing anxiety
"I-ve struggled with anxiety since I was five, and I-ve been ruled by a sense of dread about things throughout my life. Journaling helped me to see through the black and white-ness of extreme thinking — for instance, if I-d notice one bad thing, then I would think that everything was bad. This thought process was quietened. It is a profound way to focus on what is going right instead of what is going wrong," says Pune-based Sheena Dabholkar, the founder of Mindful and Body, a well-being platform. She started gratitude journaling five years ago and has been doing it regularly for the past three years. A lot of journaling as a practice, she says, is taught as -Oh, just write down your worries,- but now that she has begun to teach the practice via a five-day email-based course as well as a workshop on Zoom, she discovered that there are a million ways to journal. Dabholkar, 34, maintains that the workshop is not just about making a mere list of what you-re grateful for, adding, "Sometimes, people don-t know what they are grateful for and so, they learn to practise ways to achieve gratitude. The e-course was started last September. Usually, there are 10 to 15 participants in each session and it-s amazing to see people coming from all around the world — from small towns in Tamil Nadu to Singapore."

Sheena Dabholkar

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Cost Rs 800 for the e-course where 50 per cent proceeds go towards COVID-19 and Amphan-related relief efforts; Rs 500 for the workshop in June

Ways of saying thanks

Dr Sapna Bangar

. To begin your gratitude journaling journey, maintain an account on a weekly basis, detailing 10 things you are grateful for. After that is done, reflect on what they make you feel. If you cannot think of 10 things, just ask friends or family what they think you should be grateful for — a perspective change can be good for your thought process.

. Connect with your friends and family. Call them and share your happy memories.

. Create a weekly timetable with activities of gratitude corresponding to each day — for instance, for one day, don-t say anything negative or complain. On another day, try sending five thank you notes to your loved ones and write an appreciation for even the tiniest of things like "Thanks for standing by me when I was down."

. Practise meditation and mindfulness for 10 minutes a day. These are closely linked to gratitude. While meditation comprises deep breathing exercises, mindfulness includes concentration on the here and now. For example, if you are eating, don-t watch television or indulge in any distractions but simply relish the food that is on your plate. You could pursue this exercise near the balcony or window so you appreciate nature, too.

. Don-t express gratitude only to earn something in return or because you want someone to be nice to you. There is no guarantee that the receiver will reciprocate your gesture, and it might be disappointing. So, do it for your joy and mental health.

Dr Sapna Bangar

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