The beginning of the month is always special for me because it gives me a chance to look back at the previous month, and evaluate what I can do differently going forward. Even though I believe every day is a fresh start and you can begin making changes right away, looking back over a 30-day period allows me to build a pattern and understand those habits which held me back. This has been something I’ve been doing for 2 years and I’m finally ready to write about it. Why? Because making a single small change every month can combine into something great transformation, changing you into a completely different person. That’s right, I try and make one change each month, small or big, which improves me as a person. Specifically, the change centers around what was holding me back the month before. For example, if punctuality caused me to lose great opportunities with work, friends or family, then the following month I would work hard at being on time the next month so it’s ingrained into my character going forward.
April 1, 2017 marked a new month, and this month I’m going to be focusing on the concept of gratitude.
“Gratitude is a personality trait, a mood, and an emotion. As an emotion, gratitude is a feeling of happiness that comes from appreciation. While under a grateful mood, grateful emotions are more likely to traffic. Likewise, those with a more grateful personality are more likely to experience grateful moods and emotions.” – happierhuman.com
However, this month is going to be different because I want all of us to do it together. When I first started this blog, I promised every one of you that we’ll progress together and that I’ll share anything with you guys which has made a significant positive impact in my life. So, for this month, we’ll be focusing on being grateful for what we have.
April 2017 – Gratitude
Starting right now, we’ll keep a gratitude journal and then share it at the end of the month. In the journal, you’ll write down one thing you’re thankful for. It doesn’t have to be a big thing and nothing which requires more than 10-15 minutes of writing. In other words, don’t make a huge film or production out of it. It’s supposed to be a simple journal entry. You need to write a different thing every day.
Don’t overthink this commitment because it’s meant to be simple. For example, here’s what I’m grateful for:
- Waking up in the morning
- Having a job
- My nephews
- Mom and dad
- Having my favorite food today
- Having time to read my favorite book
- Writing this content for all of you 🙂
The point again for the exercise is to be grateful for everything, big or small, so we recognize how lucky we are in life.
The process of taking the time to write down what you’re grateful for will force you to focus your mind on the great things you have going on for you. It will force you to break your current mode of thinking, and sharpen your focus on one awesome thing you have in your life. It’s hard to just think and give thanks because anything can disrupt that thought pattern, but writing it down will force you to zoom in and stay focused on the thought. Soon, you’ll notice that when you commit to seeing the good in your life, you’ll develop a positive habit of doing this every day on your own.
I also want every one of you to commit to keeping a journal because it causes a chain effect to take place. For example, the fact you are following through on your commitment will increase your confidence, knowing you completed something you set your mind to. It will also get you in the habit of writing down other important things like monthly goals, to-do lists, etc. You’ll increase your ability to focus on a task at hand because it will require sharp focus every time you fill out your journal.
To know how science has backed up the benefits of gratitude, here’s something I found during my research:
“A 2006 Northwestern University study by Monica Bartlett and David DeSteno found that gratitude fosters upstream reciprocity, which you may know by its street name: paying it forward. The grateful among us enjoy higher self-esteem and are generally in better moods. They’re more empathetic and less inclined to vengeful retaliation. They experience fewer physical aches and pains, partly because—being in positive frames of mind already—they exercise and visit doctors regularly. In a famous example, renowned gratitude expert Martin E. Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania experimented with a number of positive psychology interventions; the most successful involved participants who wrote and hand-delivered notes of gratitude to someone who had influenced their lives.” – Success.com
What to Do Next
The best thing about gratitude is that you’re free to be thankful whenever you like. I begin the day by being grateful, and have started writing my journal first thing in the morning without even getting out of bed. Smartphones have made it much easier because you can download applications and keep your journal on your phone. Here’s 3 I recommend:
- My Wonderful Days Lite: Private Daily Journal/Diary
- Grid Diary – Simple Way to Journal
- Secret Diary with Lock (Apple)
- Secret Diary with Lock (Android)
If you don’t want to download a journal application, then you can get started with a piece of paper and a pen…that’s all! Here’s a downloadable blank gratitude diary sheet. (right click and “save image as” to desktop)
So, here’s everything step-by-step…
1) Every day you’ll take time to think about 1 thing you’re grateful for; it can be small or big.
2) Write down what you’re grateful for on a piece of paper or on your mobile journal application.
3) You commit to do this for 30 days straight without missing a day.
4) Every day write down something different you are grateful for (no duplicates).
Recommendation – I always add an entry first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. I’ve noticed this aligns my day and gets me off to a fresh, positive start. It also ensures I fill out my diary before getting wrapped up with my work, decreasing the chances of me forgetting to fill out my journal. This is especially important when starting out because you haven’t created a habit of doing this so you can easily forget.
I will post a different challenge in the beginning of every month, which we’ll start together. The idea is to improve each month by understanding how fulfilled our lives already are. For example, we already have a lot going for us, which we should all be thankful for; however, we don’t pay attention to what we have and direct our attention on what we don’t. This gratitude challenge will help us be thankful for all the small and big things we have right now but fail to pay attention to.
Get started right now by downloading the sample gratitude sheet or mobile application, or putting a piece of paper on your desk.