Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful, the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. It is a simple concept with great benefits. Yet, often individuals do not find themselves including it in their daily lives.
Gratitude journaling is a simple, yet effective method of incorporating a culture of thankfulness into one’s daily life. A gratitude journal is a habit of logging and reflecting on a few things that one is grateful for each day.
And the art of being grateful has numerous benefits. Various studies have shown that gratitude can help with emotional, physical, and social health. Essentially, by focusing on the good things in life, you shift away from negative and toxic emotions. Those who write gratitude journals use less negative wording, helping them concentrate on the positive in their life.
The Science of Gratitude
Greater gratitude has been associated with greater levels of happiness and satisfaction.
In fact, a study of 300 participants in mental health counseling services found that those who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health four weeks and 12 weeks after their writing exercise ended.
Being grateful increases feelings of positivity, which reduces negative feelings such as resentment and envy. Focusing on one’s positive emotions and experiences makes it more difficult to mull over negative experiences.
These benefits of gratitude show the importance of a gratitude journal.
The Effects of a Gratitude Journal
Improved Self Worth
Gratitude journaling allows for one to better understand themselves. This improves self worth as one is more clearly aware of their own self and what makes life worth living. Reflecting on times when one was treated well by others can be a reminder of one’s self worth as well. Along with this, one can freely write about their accomplishments and achievements, allowing for non-judgemental appreciation of one’s self.
Strengthens Positive Emotions
By reflecting on what one is grateful for, individuals develop a more optimistic attitude towards life, as they tend to focus on the positive aspects. It shifts attention away from negative emotions. This also strengthens relationships.
Gratitude journaling on a regular basis has been shown to result in a 5% to 15% increase in optimism. When journaling, as aforementioned, the pessimistic emotions are replaced with more optimistic ones. This allows one to focus more upon positive experiences. Additionally, when one has a more positive attitude, it attracts more people. Those who are more grateful have been shown to be more friendly, increasing the chances they may lend a hand or provide moral support.
Being grateful also makes the body healthier. A study from the APA found that those who were more grateful had a plethora of health benefits, including a healthier heart. Additionally, they had a less depressed mood and more energy. Being grateful can also help improve sleep, as almost 70 million Americans suffer from poor sleep.
How To Start
Now that we have covered the importance of a gratitude journal, here are some steps on how to start journaling!
1. Chose a method of journaling
The first step is to choose a method of journaling. Oftentimes, journaling is associated with writing. However, journaling can also entail speaking out loud or typing as well.
2. Decide on a journaling style
There are many ways to format your journaling—it all boils down to their individualistic writing style. Some may want to simply jot a few bullets while others may prefer a longer, paragraph style entry. Any type of format is acceptable, it just has to ensure you write about your gratitude regularly.
3. Pick a journal format
There are many types of journals available in the market. If you prefer to freestyle your writing, you can simply obtain a plain notebook to write in. On the other hand, if you have trouble getting started with writing, you can find journals on the market that include prompts to stimulate your mind. There are also apps that send reminders and prompt you to journal each day.
4. Find a time in the day
To ensure you journal regularly, it is important that you find a time in the day when you can peacefully reflect. Many people find that the morning or night time is the best time to journal. It can also help to place your journal in a location that will serve as a reminder. For example, keeping your journal on your nightstand will remind you each night to journal.
And while journaling can assist in expressing your gratitude for the world around you, it is important to note it is not the only way.
Expanding the Gratitude Beyond the Journal
To see the effects of journaling, make an effort to recognize gratitude in the moment. Additionally, find more ways to be grateful and showcase that in your life.
- Write a gratitude letter to someone (no obligation to send it, you’ll still feel its effects)
- Give someone you’re thankful for a thoughtful gift
- Help out a friend or family member that you’re thankful for with a task
If you do not notice the effects of your newfound habit right away, do not be discouraged. There can be an initial happy “boost” due to the excitement of starting a new habit. However, learning to focus on the good may call for more patience.