In honor of the holiday, I'm posting an excerpt from Carole's book, A Thankful Heart. This is Week Ten called Creating a Thankfulness Journal:
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever. Psalm 30:12
One of the easiest ways to foster an attitude of thankfulness is to create a thankfulness journal: a separate place to record those simple, everyday things for which we are grateful. Even though we already make daily entries in a prayer journal or spiritual diary, keeping a thankfulness journal is an essential exercise in developing a heart that gives thanks in all circumstances. Unlike other forms of journal writing, a thankfulness journal is for the explicit purpose of recording the things for which we are thankful. It serves as both an acknowledgement of what God has done for us and a daily challenge to recognize things for which we can be thankful, even on bad days.
Perhaps keeping a written list of “what I am thankful for today” seems too simplistic to be effective. Yet study after study has proven the positive impact of maintaining a thankfulness journal. Researchers have discovered that those who keep thankfulness journals on a daily basis also exercise more regularly, have fewer health problems, make greater progress toward important personal goals, experience less depression, handle stress more effectively, and have more energy and vitality. They even sleep better at night! Spiritual masters throughout the ages have maintained that those with thankful hearts reap God’s choicest blessings. Isn’t it amazing that something as simple as keeping a thankfulness journal can change the quality of life so drastically?
Another plus is that keeping a thankfulness journal is not only beneficial, but it is also fun! I've outlined some basic steps that will help you get started on your thankfulness journal today.
Start it Now
Any kind of notebook will suffice for your thankfulness journal. The important thing is that your pages of gratitude are bound together and kept in a safe place rather than randomly scribbled on loose pieces of paper.
Keep it Simple
Unlike other spiritual journals, a thankfulness journal is not a place to process your feelings, cry out in lament or pour out your heart to God. The whole purpose of a thankfulness journal is to thank God for blessing you in ways too numerous to ever adequately recount. The pages of this journal will consist largely of one- to two-sentence statements beginning with “I am thankful for . . . ” Place a Scripture heading at the top of each day’s page to remind you exactly Who you are thanking. Searching the Scriptures for thankfulness verses each day and committing some of those verses to memory will play a key role in developing a lifestyle of thankfulness.
Keep it Private
This is your journal, with your personal thoughts, recorded for your benefit and God’s glory. Keep it in a safe place. If you write thinking others might read your words, you will tend to write what you want them to hear. You can share thoughts with trusted others, but the pages of this sacred journal are intended for your eyes only.
Keep it Honest
Only you and God are see what is written on these pages, so you have absolutely no reason to exaggerate, minimize or force your feelings. List only those things for which you are genuinely grateful. God knows your thoughts before you even write them on the page (see Psalm 139:4). This is not a place for pious platitudes or lofty idealism. Heartfelt gratitude is always about the truth as it applies to your life in the present moment.
Keep it Specific
Rather than writing generalized statements such as “I am thankful that God is faithful,” write about a specific instance that reminded you of God’s faithfulness. Perhaps you saw or heard something today that brought God’s loving-kindness to memory. For example, rather than being thankful for the sun, write about how the sun touched your skin and brought warmth to your soul.
Keep it God Affirming
We should only be grateful for sources of health and healing, never for anything that erodes our relationship with God, damages His creation or harms our neighbor. Likewise, we can never be truly thankful for anything that harms God’s Holy Spirit, who resides in our hearts, or that destroys our body.
Keep it Consistent
Make adding entries to your thankfulness journal a daily habit. Begin by writing down five simple pleasures for which you are thankful each morning when you first wake up. Before you go to bed that night, record another five things for which you are thankful. Five each morning, five each evening, seven days a week; perhaps you are thinking, I couldn’t possibly find 70 things to be thankful for each week! Remember, we are training our minds to develop a lifestyle of thankfulness. We must fight the scarcity mentality that makes us fear that we will not have enough thankfulness to write 70 “I am thankful” sentences each week. Just write down five in the morning and five in the evening today and trust that there will be five in the morning and five in the evening again tomorrow.
Review it Often
Reread your thankfulness entries often, especially on days when you need to be reminded of God’s faithful love. On a day when life is dark and gloomy, you can begin your thankfulness entries by thanking God that He has given you the grace to keep a thankfulness journal to read!