How much difference can three weeks make in your life? If it’s three weeks of consciously practicing gratitude, it could be a real life changer. The benefits of gratitude — or more specifically, of consciously practicing gratitude — are fairly well documented. If you’re looking for ways to foster a positive attitude and get more enjoyment out of life, try the 21-day gratitude challenge and find out for yourself how much better life can be when you make gratitude a priority.
The Benefits of Gratitude
There’s a surprising amount of research on the benefits of gratitude on health, relationships and general well being. Some of the results seem fairly intuitive - people who are thanked for helping someone are more likely to help another person in the future, for example. But did you know that people who make it a habit to cultivate a grateful attitude sleep better at night? There’s research that proves it. Or that people who express a grateful attitude are more patient and may make better decisions as a result? Gratitude can help deepen relationships and improve your physical health. Even more specifically, keeping a gratitude journal not only helps people feel more positive, it has positive effects on their physical well-being. In a study by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, college students who wrote a few sentences about gratitude each week for 10 weeks were more positive and optimistic about their lives than those who wrote about irritations and frustrations. They also exercised more and had fewer visits to the doctor. Being grateful is just good for you all around.
What is the 21-Day Gratitude Challenge?
What if you’re just not a naturally grateful person? Luckily for you, you can “learn” gratitude by practicing it. The 21-day gratitude challenge helps you foster a new attitude of gratitude by pushing you to look for the good around you and express thankfulness for it.
There are multiple versions of the 21-day gratitude challenge floating around. While each is a little different from the next, they all share the same idea. Each day for three weeks, you focus on finding things (or people) you’re grateful to have in your life, and then you express your gratitude for them. Some give you specific exercises to follow each day. Others are far less structured — some as simple as “write three things that made you happy each day for three weeks.”
So which is the right one for you? If you’re new to the idea of practicing gratitude, a more structured challenge can help you get past the “I’m grateful for my family and the roof over my head” stage, and start really paying attention to the world around you. It helps you cultivate a state of mindfulness and appreciation for the simple things, and to recognize the positive aspects of even the most difficult and challenging situations. The great part of gratitude journaling is there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Simply starting and finding what comes most naturally to you is the best start.
How to Keep a Gratitude Journal
Your gratitude journal should focus on just one thing - gratitude. It should be easy for you to use, and easy for you to keep separate from other types of journaling - daily planners, to-do lists, diaries, and the like. It doesn’t have to be written — there are apps for gratitude journaling, even ones specific to the 21-day gratitude challenge, which will send you prompts every day. Writing things tends to slow you down, though, and make you fully appreciate what you’re thinking and doing. You also don’t need a whole new book just to keep your positive thoughts in. If you use a journal like the Passion Planner, for example, you can easily set aside a section for your gratitude pages or use the back pages to create a “happiness journal.” Make it easy to find with colorful divider tabs or washi tape edging. And don’t forget, Passion Planner even has a place for journaling your gratitude in the Monthly Reflections.
A List of 21-Day Gratitude Challenge Prompts
Sometimes it’s easier to stay on track if you’re following a list of prompts. Sometimes you just need a little nudge to kickstart your gratitude instinct. Whether you’re looking for 21 days of prompts or an occasional jump-start, you’ll find something on this list to help you get started — and keep going — on your 21-day gratitude challenge.
Cultivating gratitude pays off in so many ways. Grab your favorite journal and make the commitment to find time every day to be grateful for some small thing, and you’ll be surprised to find out just how good your life really is.
Deb Powers is a freelance writer with much to be grateful for in her life. She manages social media activities and online for several nonprofit local advocacy groups, and has been keeping a gratitude journal for more than 10 years.