Updated: May 15
(Q) Do gratitude journals and vision boards work? Is it the same principle as the Law of Attraction?
(A) They do work. Some of the time. For some people. A healthy attitude and a basic understanding of how nature’s laws work helps. the Law of Attraction wins the popularity contest, but the other laws are just as important. They work together.
If you like affirmations, you will like the positive feelings associated with gratitude journals. Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation or thanks. Most of us are grateful to specific people or events in our day. I am sometimes just as grateful for a non-eventful day.
While considering your question, I visited a local bookstore and was surprised to find over 25 different styles of gratitude journals, which tells me it’s a thing (again) now. Journaling has earned a place in the marketplace of popular things. Some of the ones I saw were just blank pages bound in beautiful covers, others had elaborately designed pages and included instructions on how to use a gratitude journal. The third category began with an introduction to positive psychology, followed by inspirational quotes, affirmations, and pages with prompts in case the journalist needs a little help getting started. The first lines of every page began with something like, Write down one word to describe your day … Emotions I felt today include . . . My biggest challenge today was . . . I’m proud of the way I . . . Something that bothered me today was . . . Three beautiful moments that stand out today are . . . etc. There were no blank pages. I wondered which style you would choose.
On the shelf next to the gratitude journals were books endorsing the science of positive psychology, and a few describing how journaling can be harmful. These books suggested that journaling can cause you to overthink your life, that it can be too confronting at times, and that writing about negativity might cause you to spiral down. One book suggested that journaling should only be prescribed by a licensed professional and otherwise avoided. I buried that one at the bottom of the stack and hoped nobody would find it.
I have kept a gratitude journal at various times in my life. I tend to buy ones that are very sturdy or lightweight enough that they can be tossed into a bag. I never buy the embossed, leather-bound designer ones, as I could not imagine scribbling in them or crossing anything out. I’ve been gifted a few and they are still sitting on my shelf. I may re-gift them.
I can remember days when the only thing I wrote was that I was grateful there was still time to figure out where I went wrong. Did it help? Yes, because I was able to express feelings that I did not want to say out loud. There were also long stream-of-consciousness pages full of flowery, poetic expressions of gratitude. To be completely honest, I should also say that there were pages with only a person’s name and a smiley-face or a stick figure with devil horns added for emphasis. Do any of your pages look like that? I hope I’m not the only one!
Gratitude journals do work. So do stress and anxiety journals, motivational lines, affirmations, personal mottos, and trendy quotes. They work if we remain attentive to them and use them as a creative outlet. But once they become the, one more thing I have to do before I can go to bed, or the last thing I have to do before I start my busy day and I’m already running late, they stop working. At the bookstore I visited, there were just as many books on how to keep a gratitude practice going.
Gratitude is a remembering process. It is a personal realization and a heartfelt activity. It is also a popular social theme and a product. So, the key with this and with all things is to keep it real. For me, that means expressing gratitude silently or aloud in every moment that I become genuinely aware of that someone or something. These days I am genuinely thankful when my favorite coffee haunt is open and not closed due to staffing shortages. I am grateful when I find Arlo's (my cat) favorite brand of food on the shelf. So is he!
In these challenging times I try to smile more, really look and listen to people, do one more thing so someone else can do one less thing, and other simple expressions of kindness. I try to remember faces and names and recall them to memory the next time I see the same person. I am grateful when my new plantings don’t die in the unexpected frost (I tell them so every morning.) When I am successful in these thoughts and activities, there is nothing left to journal about – I can write about other things, read a book, go for a walk, play a game, visit with a friend, watch TV, or do absolutely nothing.
Of course, every day doesn’t go like that. For instance, I currently have an ongoing battle with a delivery company that seriously messed up. Even though fixing the problem is high on my priority list, I won’t call them on a Monday or first thing in the morning. I know that if it doesn’t go well, it will influence everything else. These are my examples. They work for me. Yours may be completely different. There’s also something appealing about the look and feel of a fresh new book to write in, a new start. Sometimes, this is reason enough to get a new journal!
Vision boards are fun, and they do work. I have led a few workshops on these with guided help from Gaia. The first thing we did was make sure we were projecting our own life onto the board, and not trying to trade it in on another life (or body). Most of us use pictures as visible examples of what we would like to manifest. This is a great idea if we can visualize ourselves being and becoming a version of ourselves that we will enjoy and take pride in. There are so many interesting ways to make vision boards. I keep a small version of one in a scribble notebook that is always nearby. I like the large ones too, but mine wound up behind the sofa when I was tidying up. Others have found a place in my closet or on the backside of a door. They probably didn’t get the attention they deserve, and it was not an accurate representation of what I hoped to manifest.
Vision boards are different from gratitude journals, but they complement each other nicely. Gratitude journals work from the inside out. We think about or picture events that have happened and then out-picture them into the world, adding words along the way. They become part of our lived experience. Vision boards start out on the outside. We find words and pictures that represent what we would like life to look and feel like. This transmits the idea to our creative inner process, where our subconscious begins to make our outer pictures part of our future (or something like it). Both are fine examples of participating in life.
Do these activities have something in common with the Law of Attraction? They do! The key to the Law of Attraction is to understand it within the context of other natural laws. I love this subject, but I don’t love the Hollywood version of it. A very basic description of the Law of Attraction is that positive thoughts bring positive results. This makes perfect sense because the subconscious creative process doesn’t understand, No, Not that, Never, Maybe, or If only. These are conversational words, but they are not specific and they are not inspiring to Spirit.
Nature's laws are perfect. They are not right or wrong, better, or worse. They are Universal Laws expressed in human terms. Universal Laws apply equally everywhere and to everything. If one works, they all work. So, when someone describes the Law of Attraction as magical, miracle-making, and the most powerful law of them all, I start looking for the exit sign. Gravity is also based on natural law, but we rarely think about it. Without going into detail, here are a few other (non-negotiable) universal laws. Natural law refers to how they are expressed on earth.
· Law of Divine Oneness (everyone, everything, everywhere is connected)
· The Law of Energy or Vibration
· The Law of Correspondence
· The Law of Cause and Effect
· The Law of Compensation
· The Law of Attraction
· The Law of Relativity
· The Law of Polarity
Ancient teachings refer to the inner workings of these laws. Teachers demonstrated how they are related to each other and to us. They urged aspiring students not to take them any of them for granted. Fast forward to our time and things look different. But we are still consciously and unconsciously working within the boundaries of these laws. We do tend to concentrate on areas where we need help, but help often arrives because the other laws are also at work.
I’m a fan of the Law of Attraction. It is powerful and understands words like enough and plenty. The law works best when we are clear on what those words mean to us, as they are very subjective. It also helps to be clear about things like money vs abundance, love vs relationship, wellness vs longevity, awakeness vs enlightenment. These are just a few examples, I’m sure you can think of more. Put these great laws to work, and don't hesitate when they ask the same of you!