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    I Tried A Daily Gratitude App And It Actually Helped My Mental Health

    And it only takes about 10 minutes to do. What are you grateful for today?

    Hi, my name's Victoria, and I first got into writing down things that I'm grateful for using the Two Minute Mornings journal. My first entry dates Nov. 2, 2018 (aka a gazillion years ago). Except I didn't carry the book everywhere, so I wasn't consistent.

    The writer holding the Two Minute Mornings journal
    Victoria Vouloumanos / BuzzFeed

    You can get the Two Minute Mornings journal from Amazon for $11.42 or Bookshop for $15.59 (to support local bookstores). It's an incredible and accessible way to start practicing gratitude.

    A few months ago, I began to want something that I could easily write in whenever and with less structure that would let me write a bit more freely. So I turned to gratitude apps.

    A phone showing the Presently app opened, it sits on top of the Two Minute Morning journal
    Victoria Vouloumanos / BuzzFeed

    There are a ton of gratitude apps out there with great reviews. I chose Presently (it's free and Android-only), because I like the simple design without the bells and whistles. Most apps, Presently included, let you set a reminder to journal and back up or export your entries. Some, like Gratitude (free on both iOS and Android), also let you add images to your entries and lock the app with a passcode. Others, like Day One (this one's also free, but iOS-only), even let you draw, record audio, tag locations, and more.

    After a few months of daily gratitude journaling, here's what I've learned:

    1. Right off the bat, I felt an increase in positivity — sorta like suddenly looking at the glass half-full. By actively recognizing the good things in my life, I felt better.

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    In the beginning, it was something I felt most strongly in that moment, as I literally typed out the things I felt grateful for. But once I left that bubble, it was like my "usual" reality hit and it never happened. I probably subconsciously felt a bit better, but it definitely took some time and consistent "gratituding" to regularly feel more positive.

    2. It was hard to break the ice at first. I hate to say it, but I was almost worried I’d ‘run out’ of things to be grateful for — like, how many times can jot down my family or friends or dog? Am I being too frivolous? But I realized that I needed to shift my perspective and dig deeper.

    One of the writer's entries is a bulleted list talking about her dog, the Mamma Mia sequel, and Cher
    Victoria Vouloumanos / BuzzFeed

    So I started to get more specific. If family or friends were on my mind, what exactly about them was I appreciating at that moment? (And my dog is always amazing in every way so… that’s that.) I began looking at the things that I don’t always recognize — like my bed or my clothes or even my coffee. Then, I started to look at less tangible things. Am I kind? Am I empathetic? Am I good at something? What do I like to do? Depending on my mood, I'd bullet things or write full paragraphs.

    But don’t force it: sometimes, we can feel bad and caught in some loop that we’re not grateful enough — especially if you’re suffering from anxiety or depression. So just take it easy, and write what comes naturally to ya!

    3. Sometimes, I felt bad and sort of ridiculous. Of course I should be grateful for my home and the people in my life! Like, is it asinine for me to even have to do this whole gratitude thing at all?

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    I know the point isn’t to turn this into the Misery Olympics(TM). It’s to be more conscious of these things and more conscious of my gratitude — exactly because I should be. And, after some practice, I started to have a more active gratitude for them.

    4. The act of writing down things that I’m grateful for made me feel more focused and gave me a sense of clarity — I became more aware of when I felt grateful in the moment.

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    I always think about that analogy where if you’re looking for red cars, you’re gonna notice more red cars. That’s how I felt doing this. Originally, I would try to list some things I felt grateful for in the morning to kick off my day. Plus, most apps let you set a reminder to write at a specific time — but I've seen that some people jot small things down when they occur! Anyway, I got a bit stuck writing in the mornings and would default to the obvious things. So I started to do it at night.

    5. It made me feel more satisfied about how I spent my time. Rather than just thinking, “Sure, today was a good day, another for the books,” I would replay my day in my head and pick out things that I'm grateful for (especially upon reflection).

    One of the writer's entries about laying poolside with her mom and enjoying feeling present
    Victoria Vouloumanos / BuzzFeed

    Point blank, I highly value productivity — it’s definitely linked to my self-worth-ometer. If I don’t think I did enough stuff, I get aggravated with myself. But, this helped me to regularly acknowledge all the other things that matter, too.

    Sometimes, it was a compliment or gesture from a stranger (ty, kind sir, who swiped for me when my MetroCard was being annoying). Other times, it was getting something done (like, unfortunately, finally sending a text). On lazy days, I was (reluctantly) glad that I just had the time to do nothing without consequences (even if my brain felt like I wasted the day). Overall, I was able to focus more on these things in real time and seek value in them.

    6. And by journaling at night, I’m pretty sure I slept so much better. It’s strange, I guess it’s a mental thing. But I think my mind was just clearer and more relaxed.

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    I wasn’t just staring into the ether or passing out after I dropped my phone on my face. I actually had good things to reminisce about and doze off to. Of course, you’re not limited to the things that happened that day. A few weeks ago, Google Photos reminded me of a trip I took to Thailand exactly one year to the date, and that 1,000% counts for me.

    7. Speaking of memories, I started to remember good things from my past, too. From childhood memories, time spent with loved ones, and cool things I did.

    Victoria Vouloumanos / BuzzFeed

    Okay, we all know roller skating and blading is back in, so I love to remember teaching myself to roller skate on my grandparents’ driveway, or learning to Rollerblade at the park, or even blading around my neighborhood (yeah, I’m grateful to be so cool).

    Anyway, thinking about my past with the gratitude-colored glasses on really let me appreciate time and experiences for what they were, too. Even if the places and the people aren’t around anymore, I was able to enjoy the good moments we shared together. Pro-tip: Certain gratitude apps let you add pictures to your entries!

    8. Of course, this also really helped me appreciate the people in my life more. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day — between work or school or exhaustion or being stuck in your head. And sometimes, we take people for granted or get so used to having them around.

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    Thinking about specific people I’m grateful to know or have known made me feel so fortunate and loved. I’d journal about things I’ve done with people, conversations we’ve had, and places we’ve checked out. TBH, some gratitude apps actually let you share your entries, so you can send them to the friend who got you through that breakup.

    9. Two words: Less stress. In a weird way, I really think practicing gratitude helped with my anxiety, because it was a way to recognize, “Hey, everything’s OK, because look at this thing to be grateful for!” and “Well, you’re still kicking, so it’s obviously worked out enough.”

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    I like to tell myself that everyone appreciates a modicum of control of their life — in not-a-toxic-spouse sorta way — to feel safer and know what’s coming. And not knowing or feeling that way can be a major source of anxiety, at least for me. But by writing down things that I feel grateful for, I was able to take a step back and look at things a bit more objectively. I could see what I have, what I claim, and what I appreciate — and use that to anchor myself and trust the process. And that’s a comforting thing.

    10. Over time, practicing gratitude journaling made it easier to let go of toxic, stagnant thoughts and feelings.

    One of the writer's entries discussing a mental slump but being grateful to push through it
    Victoria Vouloumanos / BuzzFeed

    Ultimately, I think I felt more grateful and secure in what I have. I don’t feel as frustrated, whether it was with a person or at a situation, because I’m not as focused on them or their negative aspects. It definitely shifted my mentality.

    11. My entries also help guide me going forward. If I’m feeling down, it’s comforting to scroll through my old entries and remember those feelings. It also reminds me of the person I want to be and what I’ve learned about myself.

    The writer's phone, showing recent entries in the Presently app, sitting on top of the open Two Minute Morning book that shows old entries from May 2019
    Victoria Vouloumanos / BuzzFeed

    Practicing gratitude doesn’t make everything better or mean that I’m about having a PMA (that's positive mental attitude) all day. Life happens, and that’s okay. But in the moments where I don’t feel grateful, it really helps to look back and see that I’m capable of feeling grateful and have things to be grateful for.

    TL;DR — Using a gratitude app made me feel more grateful. :-D Ok, but really, as corny as it may sound, it made me feel more positive, present, grounded, and gave me a deeper appreciation of life. So, needless to say, I def recommend you try one (or whatever form of gratitude journaling) that works for you!

    The phone with the presently app laid out next to the Two Minute Morning journal
    Victoria Vouloumanos / BuzzFeed

    It's no secret that life can be overwhelming (@2020), but actively practicing gratitude has really helped keep me grounded. It can take some to consistently do, but once you get into the habit of it, it becomes second nature. And, if ya give it a go, I bet you'll begin to feel more grateful throughout the day, too!