Gratitude journals seem like a pretty solid idea – taking time every day to document the small things that we are thankful for. It is said to increase our happiness, creativity and self-awareness. However, constantly feeling the need to be grateful can cause us to overlook our other emotions.
Gratitude journals can force us to find the positive in EVERY situation and this isn’t always necessarily a good thing. For example, if you lost out on a promotion at work, you might write that you are still “grateful to have a job” but this discredits the negative emotions you are feeling over the loss.
This can become dangerous if we start to overlook how we are being treated by other people. For example, if a partner treats us badly, we shouldn’t ignore this in favour of being “grateful that we have a partner at all”. This constant belief that “things could be worse” can prevent us from truly expressing our grief, sadness, anger or confusion.
Tossing these emotions aside in favour of continuous positivity means that we don’t truly learn to address or understand these experiences.
This doesn’t mean that gratitude is a worthwhile trait. In fact, it’s probably one of the most desirable traits there is. Just reminding yourself of all the good things in life can have a hugely positive influence on your health and happiness. It can help you better appreciate the people around you as well as helping you focus on what you want more of in your life.
However, in practice gratitude is better understood as an emotion to feel and live by, rather than something you need to document. So maybe instead of committing to gratitude journals, we should commit more to practicing gratitude. For example, if someone does something nice for you, you could send them a thank you text rather than just documenting it in a journal.
Gratitude journals aren’t bad. They can be a good way of reminding ourselves to be more appreciative of the things around us. However, thinking about gratitude and documenting it should only be the first step. It is best when combined with other journaling practices and open conversation. This ensures that we admit to, and address, all of our other emotions.
So, if you want to start keeping a gratitude journal, or already keep one, then go for it. Enjoy it! We just need to make sure that in our quest to fill our gratitude journals that we don’t undermine or discredit our negative emotions in the process.