Gratitude journals are diaries meant to document what you are most grateful for. The concept became widely popular after talk show host Oprah Winfrey promoted the idea, writes Elianna Lev on http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/life/health/gratitude-journals-can-inspire-new-outlook-on-life-though-experts-disagree-116410544.html

Sethi founded Happyrambles, a free website that emails users the question “What are you happy for today?” Their responses are stored in a private online gratitude journal, and they have the option of sharing it with friends.

He said by being notified by email, which is sent in the evening — though users can change the time of day — the website is actively engaging users to think and then write about what they’re most grateful for each day. Sethi said his website is more environmentally friendly than a physical journal since it saves on paper and is more secure.

Happyrambles was officially launched in January. It’s currently in the beta phase and has 1,000 users around the world.

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Mark Holder is an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, who specializes in positive psychology. He acknowledged that gratitude is linked to “positive flourishes” and research suggests that people who engage in gratitude activities are happier. However, Holder questioned the structure of Sethi’s website.

In researching other studies on the topic, Holder found that people are happiest when they show gratitude for three things, once a week. He noted that it’s also key to add variety.

“You have to change the dimensions,” he said. “One day I’ll be happy for something physically, one day I’ll be happy for my path, or something I’m looking forward to in the future, or community, friends or family. You’ve got to switch it up.”

Holder said that if a user is encouraged to write something every day, it can eventually be a burden.

“It can be seen as a chore and if you do it too often, it can actually reduce happiness,” he said.

Holder recommends taking a different approach, by asking family or friends what they are grateful for on a weekly basis, perhaps at the dinner table. He also suggests starting a gratitude album, similar to a scrapbook, with tactile pieces from happy memories or writing letters to people who’ve had positive effects in your life.

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