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Mental resilience toolkit #1: Gratitude journal

Taking a moment to mentally reflect on positive things every day is a powerful tool to nudge our mind-set into a more positive outlook.

For the next 14 days, try setting aside 5 minutes to keep a daily journal where you write down 3 good things: something positive that happened, or something that you are grateful for.

Heart and brain

We are hardwired to remember negative things better than positive things. The negative things are threats in our daily lives that we had to avoid, back in the caveman days. Focusing on the threats helped our survival. Today it adds unhelpful stress. The positive memories are pushed aside by negative ones, and we are left with more negative memories and thoughts at the end of the day or week.

Writing down positive things or things that we are grateful for can help us notice all the good things in our lives. When we can read through and look back at these at the end of the week, it helps us see more of the good stuff, and that affects our mental balance.

I find it helpful to do this in the morning before I start working. At the end of the day before you go to sleep can also be a good time.

Here’s an example from my journal:

  1. Grateful I have a place to stay & access to clean water during pandemic.

  2. I talked to a friend I haven’t talked to for ages.

  3. I finished a work task I’ve been struggling with and am satisfied with the result.

This is a habit that doesn't take up a lot of time, and it can have many positive knock-on effects by giving us a bit more energy and motivation to deal with different challenges in our daily lives.

Read more on the research on the effects of gratitude:

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