How to Build the Habit of Gratitude Journaling?

In this post, you will find tips and tricks on building the gratitude journaling habit.

Illustration of a woman holding a big flower pot

Today we'll learn how to build the habit of gratitude journaling. Let's start with the 10th Apply Effect story (Maulik Unadkat, Speaking Tree).

10th Apple Effect

"A hunter once lost his way deep inside the jungle while chasing a deer. He used all his navigation skills but neither did he find any way out of the jungle nor could he find any food to eat for 8 days at a stretch.

He started feeling so damn hungry that he could eat an entire elephant at one go. Disappointed, he lost all hope. And that is exactly when an apple tree caught his sight. He collected a dozen apples to feed him for the rest of his search.

As he ate the 1st apple, his joy knew no bounds and he just couldn't stop feeling grateful and blessed. He thanked life. He thanked God. He could not believe his luck when he ate the 1st apple but he was less grateful while having the 2nd apple and even less grateful when he had the 5th apple.

Somehow, with each passing apple, the hunger still kept on increasing and the joy kept on reducing drastically. He just could not enjoy the 10th apple. Why? He had already taken for granted the gift of having found an apple tree in the middle of a forest after 8 long days of wandering with hunger.

When he took the 10th apple in his hand, he was still very hungry but he just did not feel like having it anymore. Economics calls this diminishing marginal utility. I would like to call it diminishing gratitude, in simple words, taking things for granted. Or let’s just call it the 10th apple effect.

The 10th apple did not lack taste, it did not lack the potential to satisfy his hunger but the only thing lacking was his gratitude for finding food in the middle of the jungle.

The hunter represents us. And the apple represents the gifts that life gives us. The 10th apple represents our lack of gratitude for these gifts of life and our ‘take everything for granted attitude. As we continue receiving the gifts of life, our hunger, our greed keeps on increasing and the joy we get from these gifts diminishes.

Imagine the joy you get when you deliver a baby and hold your baby in your hands for the first time. The gratitude you have at that moment, for life and for God is unmatched. But what happens as time passes? Do you get the same joy when you look at your child every single day? Do you still find enough happy time to spend with your kids?

Never let the 10th apple effect make you feel less grateful for the gift of a child. There will be no point in shedding tears when you lose your parents if you cannot love them today while they are with you. If your parents now seem to be bothersome to you, the 10th apple effect is getting on you.

You are taking for granted all the efforts that they took to raise you up and more importantly you are losing gratitude for the blessing of still having your parents alive. Our employees, house helpers, maids spend more time with us than their families. They keep your house spick and span.

They help you run your business. You are what you are because of them. They work for you as if you were their God and eventually become an extended part of your family. The salary can never pay for their sacrifices and for their love towards you. Just because you may be blessed with many good workers, never let the 10th apple effect make you take them for granted.

Do you remember the joy you used to get from cooking for your family and taking care of your house? It is still the same house, it is still the same family but do you still get the same joy being a homemaker, or does it now seem like a boring and daunting task to you? The 10th apple effect is fading away from the selfless joy with which you did the same things earlier.

You make your house home and there is no greater happiness than that. On the other hand, the first time that your mom or your wife made your favorite dish, you just couldn't stop appreciating it. When they still make the same dish for you, do you feel as happy? Do you still appreciate it?

Do not let the 10th apple effect make you take their efforts for granted. The 10th apple is as sweet as the first apple. If the 10th apple fails to give you as much pleasure as the first one, nothing is wrong with the apple, everything is wrong with you.

If you get bored on a dull day, it is not because the day is dull and boring. It is because your gratitude has become dull and boring. The gift of life for another day cannot be taken for granted.

The Nth year of life should seem as exciting as the 16th year, as the 25th year, as the 50th year. Never let the ‘10th apple effect’ make you take these gifts of life for granted. Never let your gratitude for life fade away. Happy life!"

Gratitude Journaling Habit

I think the primary reason I started to journal was that I wanted to bring a change in my mindset. It was easy for me to be angry, frustrated, ungrateful, and unhappy.

When the going was getting tougher, I would often self-reflect. And then it had dawned on me. I realized that I was doing a lot of self-harm. It was a realization that perhaps I wasn’t loving myself enough and not caring about my time and choices.

I needed to change; break my bad habits and build good ones if my circumstances were to change for good.

“The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.”
- James Clear (Atomic Habits)

After doing tons of research and self-reflection, I had become clear that I wanted to become a more grateful person. And journaling seemed like a very easy tool to bring that change.

I remember that I didn’t particularly create a strategy or read enough on how to build this incredible habit. But, I made some choices subconsciously which I can seem to connect with now.

1. What’s the smallest step you can take?

It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis.

The outcome of becoming a grateful person felt such a distant and difficult task when I started. Especially, since it came naturally to me to dwell on my negative thoughts and complain about everything. Subconsciously, I didn’t focus on the outcome but took it day by day.

I would commute to work every morning at 9 am in the office cab. I had made a small rule - Once I get into the cab, I’ll immediately open up my journal and write at least 3 things that I’m grateful for. And the post I write my journal, I’ll read up the daily news and the emails.

This was really easy for me because I didn’t have to make any detours to my daily routine. It fit well in between the two activities I was habituated to even before I started to keep a journal.

Plus, I had started noticing the blessing of having the cab for the commute so that would mostly be my first gratitude entry in my journal almost every day. And if I missed writing in the morning for some reason, I would definitely reflect back while commuting back home in the evening.

So, if you are looking to practice gratitude journaling and feel it doesn’t seem to stick, try putting in between two activities that you already do. Most of the avid Gratitude app users have told me that they have a morning and a night routine/ritual.

Gratitude journaling and affirmations are the first things they do before they get out of bed and the last thing before they go to sleep. To put this as a rule - After waking up and getting out of bed, I’ll immediately open up my journal and write my gratitude and affirmations. And post that I’ll head to brushing my teeth.

Similarly, a rule for writing in the night before sleep could be - Post I’m done with all my tasks for the day, I’ll get into bed and reflect and write my journal and look at my affirmations. And post that I’ll head to sleep.

2. Create an environment that nurtures the Gratitude emotion

When I look back, I realize that one of the primary reasons for my negative attitude or ungrateful behavior was the kind of thing I was feeding my mind. I was compulsively consuming information and content that would feed as a trigger for my negative emotions.

These channels did no good and were simply sources of noise. I didn’t have triggers that would instead remind me to self-reflect, spend my time consciously and feel grateful.

As I started journaling, I cut down on these channels and went on to find and join a couple of groups on WhatsApp and Facebook that were about Gratitude and Law of attraction. I follow Reddit so I joined a few subreddits including selfimprovement, bemotivated, lawofattraction.

So, even if I happen to spend my time on social media, I tend to see the posts from these groups, and that generally serves as a reminder to me to reflect and to be grateful.

Ask yourself this, What kind of triggers can I create for myself to nurture Gratitude and self-care? Tip: Make sure to set up reminders on the Gratitude app. The prompts sent by the app can be incredible triggers for you.

Some more suggestions that I have come across:

  • Keeping a Gratitude rock like the one mentioned in the book “The Magic”
  • Putting posters of quotes on the wall
  • Keeping Gratitude wallpapers on your phone and laptop

I hope you find some of these suggestions useful. Make sure to give yourself time and space to bring in the change that you desire. There are times during this journey when things don’t go the way you want and it’s easy to be hard on yourself.

I would leave you with a short poem by Nayyirah Waheed that I love:

“be softer with you.
you are a breathing thing.
a memory to someone.
a home to a life.”

👉 Continue reading:

11 Steps to Become More Grateful

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