Tracking Happiness Every Day: Gratitude Journals

Often, we women get wholly absorbed in the busyness of our days. Most of us have a full-time job for which we strive to perform well, perhaps putting more effort into our work than our male colleagues in order to get noticed and eventually promoted, since gender bias at work is a well-documented phenomena by now. Furthermore, we have families that we feel responsible for taking care of, friends and significant others we want to spend time with, and our hobbies, favorite TV shows, yoga/fitness classes that we struggle to make time for. In this craziness of a day in our life, it is very easy for us to criticize ourselves for not being productive or self-motivated enough to achieve all of the goals we set for the day. It is even easier to disregard the small things that happened during the day that made us happy, and concentrate more on what could have gone better to make our day more productive, happier, “perfect”.

Around the time when I had too many of such days I met a new psychological movement: Positive Psychology. Even though my life took a slightly different path from my undergraduate concentration Psychology after graduation from college, I kept following the discipline just to keep my interest alive. Positive Psychology, a movement started by Dr. Martin Seligman and his colleagues at University of Pennsylvania, grabbed my attention with its founding principle of focusing on and trying to foster things that are going well instead of trying to fix things that are not going so well.  I bought one of his books on the subject, Flourish, and flipped through the pages to learn how I can flourish in my life while focusing on happiness.

Image from Amazon.com

“Flourish” by Dr. Martin Seligman. Image from Amazon.com

In his book, Dr. Seligman introduces several scientifically proven techniques to focus our attention to what goes well in our lives. One of these techniques is keeping a gratitude journal. Every day before going to bed, you would write 3 things that went well on that day. These can be as minor as: “I cooked a great pasta for dinner” or as big as “I got promoted to the position I wanted!!!”. This removes the pressure of sitting around and thinking “Absolutely nothing good happened today!” because it shifts our perception of happiness from big life events to quotidian activities that keep us going. Since happiness is relative, recognizing that you cooked a great pasta one day might actually make you equally happy to getting a promotion on another day! The key is to catch those happy moments, and fall asleep with the thoughts of them.

Image from Google Images

Handmade Gratitude Journal. Image from Google Images

A gratitude journal could be anything from a regular notebook on which you scramble your happies moments every day to an actual journal made for this purpose, which has separate pages for each day of the year and sometimes even numbered rows for your moments of happiness. If you are not the old school journal type, there are gratitude journal apps too. For example, Gratitude365, a free app, allows you to write as many gratitudes as you want in a day, keep track of your gratitudes, and support those entries with photos in case you want to keep the snapshot of those happy moments forever.

Image from gratitude365app.com

Gratitude365 App. Image from gratitude365app.com

Especially in these cold winter days when it can be difficult to think of something to be grateful for, I encourage you to take five minutes every day to jot down several things that help you deal with the stress of the day. You would be surprise what you will earn in return of those five minutes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: BERFU NEGIZBerfu Negiz

I am from Istanbul, Turkey and I’ve been living in New England for the past 5 years. I’m a recent college graduate with degrees in Psychology and Economics, and I am planning to get an advanced degree in Marketing and/or Management. I’m currently working as a strategy consultant specialized in pharmaceutical industry. In my free time I like to experiment with cooking traditional Turkish food, attend salsa and yoga classes, try to pick up playing clarinet from where I left off, and discover new places around Boston!

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Read more about and from the author: Berfu Negiz’s WiLab Profile