This has been a rough year. The COVID-19 pandemic has people living in isolation. Unarmed Black Americans are being killed by police. And the nation is holding its collective breaths, while awaiting the outcome of the presidential election.

One might wonder what is the best way to keep my mind right and shift my focus to the good things in life? You may want to step away from the refrigerator and stop binge watching your favorite shows long enough to start journaling.

The private pastime gives one a chance to create a safe-care journey, while expressing gratitude along the way. Internet searches for mental wellbeing this year have reached their highest peak ever, with searches for “gratitude” up 61%, according to new research by Pinterest.

It’s simple and the benefits are equally rewarding to children, teens and adults. All you need is just 5 minutes a day. Don’t believe it? Search Google to see how gratitude journals have positively altered the life of Emmy award-winning host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey.

Where to Begin?

Getting started is the hardest part. Once you get going, it becomes easier and fun.

Start by purchasing a blank journal. You can find them as cheap as a dollar at a discount store or spend about $40 on one that’s fancy. If you want to go paperless, online gratitude journals can be uploaded on smart devices.

Morning, Noon or Night?

Choose the best time of day to clear your mind and meditate. Journaling in the morning is different from journaling at night. When you write in the morning, one starts the day being grateful and transitions those thoughts throughout the day.

Journaling at night is more reflective and may be a recap of the day. It’s a great way to record and celebrate anything that you are grateful for and to preserve memories.

Keeping a gratitude journal can improve your physical and mental health. So, if lunchtime or a school break works best, go for it. The key is to find the discipline to be consistent.

Simple as One, Two, Three…

Now, what to write? Start small so not to feel overwhelmed.

Then begin thinking of three things you are grateful for. Next, visualize three things that would make the day or upcoming day great. Lastly, complete two different personal affirmations. 

Be patient. Use this time as a way to check in with yourself, knowing what may have worked for someone else may not necessarily work for you. 

Try focusing on relationships, opportunities, events or simple things we may take for granted like breathing fresh air or the very pen you’re holding.

Need A Little More Help?

To avoid writing something down just to get it over with, take your time and be descriptive. Mental health experts also advise being personal and staying positive.

Got a raise? Journal it!

Tried a new recipe? Journal it!

Raised your math from a C+ to a B? You guessed it ꟷ Journal it!

Some other triggers to start the log may include writing about a person that makes you happy. Or writing about how your life is different from a year ago; what foods make you grateful; what made you laugh uncontrollably; or, what aroma brings a smile to your face?

Your gratitude journal is for your eyes only, so you can write anything you feel without worrying about judgment from others. 

Developing an attitude of gratitude. The benefits show it increases happiness; improves self-esteem; reduces stress; improves sleep; and increases mental strength.

Some say self-love is the best love. What better way to start or maintain a self-care and wellness journey than by way of a gratitude journal?  

(Yvette L. Craig contributed to this report.)