Modern psychologists suggest that our overall personality is relatively fixed and stable throughout life. But the brain possesses the remarkable capacity to reorganize pathways and create new connections. This is called neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity.
Modern research has demonstrated that the brain continues to create new neural pathways and can alter existing ones in order to adapt to new experiences, learn new information, and create new memories. So, we may not change our core personality but researchers do believe that there are things you can do to change certain parts of your personality that can result in real changes to the way you act, think, and function in your day-to-day life. Our beliefs shape so much of our lives, from how we view ourselves and others, how we function in daily life, how we react to life’s challenges, and how we connect and relate to others. If we can create real change in our beliefs, it is something that might have a resounding effect on our behaviors and possibly on certain aspects of our personality.
So how does therapy help to create change? You only spend 1 hour a week with a counselor but have 168 hours between sessions to reinforce the changes you define in your session. This kind of directed therapeutic work outside the therapy office is vital to making the new neural pathways of sustainable change. Turning knee-jerk negativity into increased positivity, both in thought and action.
One of the most basic and reliable concepts towards positivity is gratitude. Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful; a readiness to show an appreciation for and to return kindness.
- When we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel ‘good’. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside.
- By consciously practicing gratitude daily, we can help these neural pathways to strengthen themselves and ultimately create a permanent grateful and positive nature within ourselves.
Gratitude Improves Health
- Gratitude impacts on mental and physical well-being. Positive psychology and mental health researchers in the past few decades have established an overwhelming connection between gratitude and good health. Keeping a gratitude journal causes less stress, improves the quality of sleep, and builds emotional awareness.
- Gratitude is positively correlated to more vitality, energy, and enthusiasm to work harder.
Gratitude Improves Relationships
Simple practices like:
- maintaining a Gratitude Journal
- complimenting the self, daily affirmations
- sending small tokens and thank you notes
Can make us feel a lot better and enhance our mood immediately. Couple studies have also indicated that partners who expressed their thankfulness to each other often, could sustain their relationships with mutual trust, loyalty, and had long-lasting happy relationships.
What is a Gratitude Journal
- A tool to keep track of the good things in life. No matter how difficult and defeating life can sometimes feel, there is always something to feel grateful for.
- Regularly journaling about the good things in your life can help prepare and strengthen you to deal with the rough patches when they pop up.
- Regular use over time can encourage positive neural pathways.
Writing can sometimes flow very easily and sometimes not. If you get blocked and are finding it difficult to get the creativity flowing here are some prompts to get things going:
- List five small ways that you can share your gratitude today.
- Write about a person in your life that you are especially grateful for and why.
- What skills or abilities are you thankful to have?
- What foods or meals are you most thankful for?
- What elements of nature are you grateful for and why?
- What part of your daily routine are you most thankful for?
- Write a letter to someone who has positively impacted your life, however big or small.
- What is something you are grateful to have learned this week?
- List five parts of your body that you are grateful for and why.
Gratitude Journaling Formats
People can get pretty creative with how they format their journal. Here are some examples:
- Write an essay
- Use a Gratitude Worksheet
- Use an APP
- Do a photo journal
- Use Bullet Point journaling technique
A gratitude essay is a more detailed account of your life and requires more involved writing. It is a declaration, a reflection, and an acknowledgment of what you have to be grateful for and, indirectly, who you are. As you choose your gratitude memory, you really put it through some reflective filters and eventually learn a lot about yourself in the process.
If you reflect back on a moment where someone went above and beyond for you, you may come to realize that you value people that are unselfish, kind and generous. And may be inspired to do the same for others.
The point is that writing a gratitude essay is not just a great way to acknowledge and reflect on some of the most important or defining moments of gratitude in your life, it is also a way to learn about yourself.
There are many templates online for us to download on this topic. (Google Gratitude Worksheets). It is worth your time to check out some of the formats and try a few out to see which ones work best for you.
Some that I have found are basic calendar-type worksheets that list each day of the week, with 3-5 spots to list what I am grateful for. If that sounds too plain for you, there are some that have designs and more prompts within the worksheet.
There is a fun worksheet that is has 3 areas:
- What I learned today.
- My favorite part of the day.
- Three things I am grateful for.
This has a variety of options in the APP STORE. Just type in the search: Gratitude Journal and many APPS will pop us. The good news is that many are free, and some are at least offering a free trial. Try a few out and use the one that works best for you. Here are some common features:
- Able to take this journal everywhere you go with your smartphone in your pocket.
- You can set notifications for reminders to journal on the app.
- You can track your progress and gain insight on your feelings.
- Motivational quotes.
- Click up to ten emoji images of topics you are grateful for or can type it in. You can also click emojis about how you feel about the things you are grateful for.
- Write about your day up to 100 words.
- Add pictures from your phone onto your daily journal entries.
- Send gratitude messages to others.
If you aren’t keen on writing or find yourself short on time, you can still get the benefits of journaling by using the gratitude bullet journal format where you basically list at least one thing you are grateful for each day, which may make it easier to start if you are struggling to come up with five items each day. The whole idea is to still scan your day and pop into the positive zone on a regular basis.