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« 5. How to use a gratitude journal »

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute. Author of "How to develop emotional resilience and manage your emotions".

Positive emotions play an important role in developing emotional resilience and being able to bounce back from stress.

Being able to develop positive emotions and emotional resilience is also part of the fifth emotional intelligence competency on the Genos emotional intelligence model: emotional self-management.

The ratio of positive to negative emotions you have is very important for emotional resilience. Barbara Fredrickson, a key researcher in the area, has found that a ratio of 3 pleasant emotions to every 1 unpleasant one is the tipping point for flourishing.

So how do you cultivate positive emotions? One way that has helped me enormously has been keeping a gratitude journal. It is also a key way of developing emotional intelligence and EQ.

How to keep a gratitude journal and develop positive emotions

This article is the second of a three part series on emotional intelligence and EQ focusing on how to use gratitude to help you build a strong base of positive emotions.

  • The first one looked at "What is gratitude?".
  • This one will consider the steps you can take to keep a gratitude journal, and how to use a gratitude journal to cultivate more positive emotions in your life and work.
  • The third article will look at how to practise gratitude in your daily life, (still to be written).

Positive emotions tip 1: Get a special journal you'll enjoy writing in.

Purchase a notebook that you will specifically use only for the purpose of writing a gratitude journal. This could range from a cheap A4 notebook to a beautifully artistic item. As you are using it to build self-confidence, choose a really nice one that you enjoy writing in and touching.

Positive emotions tip 2: Write down 10 things you're grateful for.

Each day write down ten things that you are grateful for that day. For example, you might be grateful for:

  • The things that you have.
  • The things that have gone right that day.
  • The aspects of your body that are working well.
  • The kindnesses that people have given to you or done for you.
  • The specific people in your life, whether your friends, colleagues, family, clients, or others.
  • The beauty in your home, garden or in the natural surroundings nearby.
  • The tasks that you have completed.
  • The income you have earned.
  • The colleagues you have helped.
  • The customers you have served.
  • The good decisions you have made.
  • The food you've eaten, the water you've drunk, and everything else that has nourished you.

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Positive emotions tip 3: Write specific aspects of each item.

In your journal, do not just list an item, e.g. "my dog" or "my job". Instead say something specific that you appreciate about your dog or job that day.

For example, if it was your dog, it might be:

  • "I am so grateful my dog was waiting for me when I arrived home from work"
  • "I am so grateful Rover let me pat him when I came home"
  • "I am grateful Rover sat at my feet while I watched the television", or
  • "I am so grateful my dog chased away the rabbit", and so on.

For example, if it was about your work:

  • "I am so grateful that Barbara sorted out the conflict in my team for me",
  • "I'm so grateful the Executive responded positively to my presentation",
  • "I am really grateful we have found a new HR manager with so much experience", or
  • "I'm really grateful we met the deadline", and so on.

Positive emotions tip 4: Write full sentences of gratitude.

Write a sentence in full for each item rather than listing single words or phrases. Write out whole sentences starting with phrases such as:

  • "I am grateful for ..."
  • "I am thankful for ..."
  • "I give thanks for ..."
  • "I appreciate the way that ..."

This means you will write ten full sentences each time. This makes practising gratitude more easily developed as a habit, and developing emotional intelligence requires you to develop good habits.

Positive emotions tip 5: Vary what you are thankful for.

Vary what you express thanks for each day. If each day you write the same thing the impact of the gratitude will diminish.

By writing about different items it will also mean that you will search for new things to be grateful for, and thus expand your ability to appreciate the different aspects of your life. Then you are increasing your chance of flourishing and having a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative emotions. Now that's emotionally intelligent!

Positive emotions tip 6: Re-read your journal.

Regularly read back through your gratitude journal. If you practise writing ten things a day that you are grateful for, you'll have a lot of items to read back through. At first you might re-read them each week, then maybe each month.

Just think how much appreciation you'll have. Your life will feel good, your positive emotions will develop and your positivity ratio will take you to flourishing and resilience. All of this will help your emotional intelligence develop to a higher level.

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How grateful are you?

Start writing your gratitude journal today and watch the changes in your emotional intelligence and emotional self-management.

"Cultivating positive emotions at work" - the benefits

There is mounting evidence that pleasant emotions in the workplace have a myriad of positive benefits. And, it's not just about making people feel good, it's about the financial impact.

Emotionally engaged staff who are working well together are more productive. This affects the bottom line. They are more likely to enjoy their jobs and that means less money being wasted on absenteeism. And, when people feel positive about their work they are more likely to stay in the job, meaning fewer staff recruitment problems and higher levels of staff retention.

How high is your emotional intelligence & emotional resilience?

There is so much that you can do to develop your emotional resilience and the E.I. Institute has a number of options to help you:

Worried that you don't have enough emotional resilience and that you need to develop your emotional intelligence more? Our unique, practical, 5-star emotional intelligence coaching package is available for you and includes the opportunity to have your emotional intelligence assessed. Boost your resilience now. Find out more here.