The Importance of a Gratitude Writing Practice
By Haeon Kang
It’s the season of Thanksgiving and the annual reminder to be grateful has rolled around once again. For many of us, it’s not hard to find something to be grateful for, even if we don’t feel particularly grateful. All we have to do is look at the things that sustain us from moment to moment and there is usually something there we can identify as miraculous and good. Goodness is woven into the fabric of existence, and it only benefits us and those around us for us to see it and cherish it.
As many of you already know, gratitude is a practice that has countless benefits. It has been correlated with improved mood, sleep, and immunity, as well as more satisfying relationships and a general sense of well-being. Practicing gratitude also changes our biology. Relaying gratitude to someone releases a hormone called oxytocin, which creates a closer sense of connection to others. This can have major impacts on our mental and physical health. Healthy connections correlate with healthy lives.
Not only is gratitude a beneficial and pragmatic practice for our lives, but it is also a way to connect spiritually with God, the Source of all good things. Seeing the goodness in our lives is identifying the fingerprints of God in our lives. And seeing someone is the first step to knowing them. Gratitude is a spiritual practice that not only yields physical and social benefits but is also one that brings us closer to God. Perhaps this is why Paul wrote, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV).
But how do we cultivate a gratitude practice? Feeling grateful in the moment is wonderful, but like any practice, you need to, well, practice. One of the best ways to do this is through writing out what you are grateful for at the end of each day in a gratitude journal.
Writing out your gratitude has many benefits. Writing it out is a tactile experience that raises a metaphorical Ebenezer in the form of written words on a page. It makes the fleeting thoughts of gratitude in your mind more permanent and visible and as such, it helps you to remember what you have been grateful for, sparking more gratitude in the moment. You can go back to your journal and be inspired by all the good and beautiful things God has placed in your life. If you cultivate this practice daily for a long time, you will create a continuous list of things for which you can praise God and remember God’s faithfulness. By doing this, we become witnesses to the things God is doing in our lives and in the world.
What if we don’t feel particularly grateful? The great thing about a practice is it doesn’t matter how you feel. You just do it anyway. If you can simply think of things to be grateful for, even if it’s just the air you are able to breathe, it primes you to find other things to be grateful for and increases your sensitivity to the goodness around you. You may not feel grateful in the moment, but gratitude, like love, is not always a feeling, but a commitment and a practice.
A pro tip for the days you’re not feeling grateful is to take the time to read past entries and remember the reasons why you were grateful for the things you wrote down. If you feel too tired to come up with new things to be grateful for, simply write down some old ones you’ve looked back on and remembered. You can be grateful for things in the past, present, or future. You do not need to be bound specifically to the present.
As we build our repertoire of gratitude, our perspective will likely change. We may become better at identifying the good in our lives. We may feel gratitude more frequently. Ultimately, the consistency of this practice points to the goodness of God, and practicing gratitude helps us to see more of the good things God has done, is doing, and will do. Our perception or ability to feel the goodness in our lives may wax and wane, but God’s outpouring of goodness never changes.
So, let me challenge you today. For thirty days, find a notebook and write down one to three things you are grateful for each day. At the end of the thirty days, reflect on the process and how you’ve changed, looking through all your entries. At the very least, you’ll have a tangible record of the many things you are thankful for. And perhaps, by grace, your eyes will be opened to more of the goodness that surrounds you each day.
About this Contributor:
Haeon Kang is a Project Manager with Word Alive Press. She has a master's degree in theology and loves to read, create art, and play with her dog and bird during her down time.