Thank Your Regular Stars: Why You Need to Start a Gratitude Journal Today

By Nicole Martin

August 4, 2016

One of the things that sort of drives me nuts when I see a Facebook ad about getting healthy is how narrow the perspective is.

For example:

Does losing six pounds per week necessarily make you healthy?

Probably not.

Or, at least, not in isolation.

We’ve gotten so far away from what health means in this country that ads like this can just pass us by in our daily feed scrolling that no real red flags come up.

Which is why, at the Wellness Training Institute, our approach to health is holistic. Health is an all encompassing thing.

Is it changing our diets so that we can lose weight and belly fat? Sure.

But it’s also learning how to breathe, how to move, how to get our thoughts in order, and how to just—well—be.

It’s about getting our bad habits shoved to the side and replaced with good ones.

Which is the main reason that when we begin working with someone—no matter where they are on their health journey, no matter how old they are, no matter what their end goals might be—we to start with a gratitude journal.

You’re probably thinking exactly what most of our members think at first.

A gratitude journal? Seriously?

Isn’t that for second graders? What possible good could writing down what’s going well in my life do when all I want is to get my weight under control, my heart disease reversed, or my diabetes managed?

So, I get it. But stay with me for a second.

Nothing exists in isolation. No matter how independent you might consider yourself, you still came from somewhere, you had two parents, you live somewhere now, you have to eat food and drink water and breathe air to live. You are not an island.

In the same way, neither is your health. You can’t break it down into parts and attempt to reverse, say, your autoimmune disease by only treating the physical parts of it. You can’t just replace the starter in your car if the whole wiring system has been chewed bare by that nest of mice living in your carburetor.

And that’s why we start with the gratitude journal. There’s something very powerful, and very effective, about getting your thoughts and emotions pointed in the right direction before starting in on any of the other repair work.

A big part of this—and I’ll ask that you please forgive my extended car metaphor here—is that true health happens when you get the maintenance schedule in order.

You don’t keep a car running for 500,000 miles by taking it into the shop whenever something breaks.

No, you keep it running for decades by being proactive and giving it regular tune-ups.

You fix the problems by not allowing the problems to happen in the first place.

I’m talking about habits.

And because the mind—your thoughts and emotions— control so much of what the rest of your body does (often automatically, without any thought at all), starting to get that system in order is really the first step in getting the rest of the system fixed.

There are three reasons for this:

Firstly, change is hard. So, it’s nice to start with something simple to get the ball rolling.

How we do the gratitude journal is this: Every morning you wake up, and the first thing you do is grab a pen and the pad of paper you keep on your bed stand. You then write down five things that you’re thankful for.

Five: That’s it.

They could be the big, obvious things: friends, family, pets, etc.

Or they could be small, but vital: The air you breathe, the warm patch of bed you’re currently sitting in thanks to the sunlight streaming in through the window, the fact that you’ve been blessed to have awoken to meet another day.

It’s easy (it really is, I promise). There’s no pressure. You can even repeat yourself. It doesn’t matter. Just get it down.

You do this every day.

And soon enough, it become a habit.

Which is the whole point. Health— and sickness, for that matter— are a matter of habits. Health is one set of habits. Sickness is another.

Which leads to the second reason for starting with the gratitude journal: Big, hard changes happen when you make a lot of little, easy ones.

It’s in the way we’re built as humans: We don’t go through complete overhauls overnight. Change—for good, or for bad—happens incrementally.

It’s the whole “frog in the cooking pot” adage. If you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, it’s going to jump out as quickly as it can. If you put it in cold water, however, and gently let the heat rise, the frog becomes so accustomed to the gradual change in temperature that by the time it realizes it’s in trouble, it’s already being served up with whatever condiments make frog meat even slightly palatable.

(If such a thing even exists. Gross.)

So. We change slowly. That’s how we’re designed, even from the start. They don’t call them “baby steps” for nothing.

So the gratitude journal is the first healthy habit we work to instill. It’s the first because it sets the tone for the rest.

Dave Ramsey is a pretty famous financial counselor. His systems are designed to help people pay down their debt, and his success rate is pretty impressive. Through his method, people have paid down hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. It’s impressive.

One of the first steps in his system is to pay down the smallest credit card balance you have. It seems kind of counterintuitive at first. Why wouldn’t you tackle the big stuff first, kill those dragons, and then move on the smaller stuff after that?

The reason is a question of positive momentum.

There’s something innate within us that needs smaller successes to build out upon. We’re way more likely to get past the third step if we take the first two one at time, rather than taking all three at once.

So, by doing the easy stuff first, getting focused on the journey ahead, and then gaining that first little bit of momentum early and often, we’re far more likely to push on towards realizing our bigger, harder health goals.

That’s why the gratitude journal is such an effective way to start any change you want to make in your life—especially when it comes to your health.

Which brings us to a pretty basic question: Why do you want to be healthy? Health for its own sake isn’t a terribly valuable thing. For example, say you’re healthy and active at the age of 110, but… all your friends and family have passed on and you live alone in a cave by sea. Your physical health, at that point, isn’t worth much.

So, it makes sense that a big part of overall health also has a ton to do with your outlook on life. You could call this your mental health.

That’s what the gratitude journal does, first and foremost. It gives you a positive perspective on your life. And, after just a few days, you’ll find that because you know you have to write down something positive the next morning, you’ll begin looking for happy things. Our perspective changes so much of how we live. A positive outlook—as cheesy as it sounds—serves as the first few bricks in the foundation of your health.

And that positive foundation is where healthy habits begin to accumulate. As they accumulate, you’ll be shocked to find how great your life can be!

I hope that you’ll take these ideas to heart. You’ll be surprised at how much this one activity, done diligently over the course of the next month or so, will begin to transform the rest of your life. And if you have any questions, or want to learn more, I encourage you to join us for a free dinner!

Want more great information about the foundations of a healthy life? Download the first installment of our NEW 7-part eBook series The 7 Habits of Highly Healthful People for FREE right now, right HERE!

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