I heard someone mention recently that it takes 21 days to build a habit. This idea has stuck with me as I’ve been incorporating some healthy activities into my life more consistently over the past few months. Mainly things like meditation and exercise, which I tend to go through off and on phases with. The thought is that if I can do it for 21 days consistently, I’ll turn it into a habit that becomes part of my life.
Psychological studies show that happiness stems not from being the best, most successful, or most attractive, but from gratitude. I started a gratitude journal a few months ago. In my quiet time each morning, I write down 10 things I am grateful for. Actually 11, because I always write one more that is something I’m specifically grateful for about myself. My goal was to do this for 21 days.
Starting a gratitude journal has a deeper purpose than just reminding yourself all you have to be thankful for in life. It’s about shifting your focus or your energy. It’s retraining your brain to look for the things that are working in your life. All too often we have this tendency or habit of focusing in on the negative, looking at what’s wrong, worrying about the ‘what-ifs’, and stressing about the ‘should-haves’. The gratitude journal is a simple tool to help us create a new habit.
It has shifted my energy. Not just when I’m writing in it, but throughout most of my day as well. It’s a subtle, inner shift. I just feel lighter and calmer and more satisfied inside. I didn’t stop after 21 days. I like focusing my attention on what’s working. It helps me find the opportunities, even in the challenges I may face.
The reality is, there are always going to be challenges we have to face and situations we don’t feel happy about. We are always going to have negative and positive thoughts about things. That’s normal. We do, however, have a choice about which thoughts we’re going to feed. Are you going to continue feeding the thoughts that bring you down and stress you out? Or, as those thoughts come in, can you just as quickly let them go and feed the thoughts that lift you up, bring you peace, and help you see the opportunities and solutions already present?
This November, I hope you’ll really think about gratitude. Not just on Thanksgiving Day, but how you can experience and express it everyday!
Be Well ~ Christina
(Originally posted on Be Well Therapeutics, November 4, 2013)