Most people have an understanding of the idea of gratitude, that we should be grateful for what we have and thankful for the good things that happen to us, but how many of us actually put this into practice?
Perhaps more people would if they understood the significant benefits of gratitude journaling, and how easy it is to do!
There’s a reason your best friend always tells you to journal when you’re feeling down- it really works! And science backs it up.
Studies have shown that gratitude journaling can lead to increased feelings of well-being, increased resilience in the face of stress, and even improved physical health.
So what exactly is gratitude journaling, and what kind of benefits can you expect to see in your life?
What Is Gratitude Journaling?
You know that feeling when something good happens and you just can’t help but smile from ear to ear?
Or when you finally cross something off your to-do list and it feels like you can conquer the world?
Well, gratitude journaling is kind of like that, but on paper.
The goal of keeping a daily gratitude journal is to reflect on the good things in your everyday life, no matter how big or small.
This can be anything from your health to your morning cup of coffee. Really, anything!
And don’t worry if you have a hard time thinking of things at first. Just like with anything else, the more you practice, the easier it will become.
One of the most noticeable things that happen when you start a gratitude journal is that you actually start to notice more things throughout your day to be grateful for, and this is all because of your incredible brain!
The Effects Of Gratitude On The Brain (Science Behind Gratitude Journaling)
Being grateful has a myriad of benefits- it makes us feel good, enhances our well-being, and even strengthens relationships.
But did you know that gratitude also benefits the brain?
Studies have shown that gratitude can increase levels of dopamine, which is known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter.
Additionally, gratitude has been linked to increased levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter associated with happiness and well-being.
But how does this happen?
Researchers believe that gratitude activates the brain’s “reward system,” which releases dopamine and other feel-good chemicals.
These are the same neurotransmitters that are activated when you eat chocolate (yum) and are also responsible for contributing to addictions (hence why we become addicted to chocolate…).
The exciting part is, these neurotransmitters send a signal to your brain saying ‘yeah, that was good, let’s do that again’ (aka, addiction), which means you’re more likely to express gratitude again, leading to a positive cycle of gratitude and feel-good rewards.
21 Benefits Of Gratitude Journaling
The benefits many people experience with gratitude journaling go well beyond simply feeling good and a boost in mood.
These benefits are felt in many different areas of your life, and some of the common benefits include:
Physical Benefits Of Gratitude Journaling
While we are often quick to think of the mental health benefits of journaling (that’s coming up next), it’s often the physical benefits that are noticed first.
These are some of the physical benefits you might experience with gratitude journaling:
1 – Helps You To Sleep Better
If you’re struggling to sleep at night, gratitude journaling can help.
Taking 10-15 minutes before bed to write down everything you’re grateful for can help to ease anxiety and clear your mind, making it easier to fall asleep.
2 – Reduces Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is linked to a number of different diseases, ranging from heart disease to arthritis.
But gratitude journaling may help reduce inflammation.
One study found that people with asymptomatic heart failure who journaled about their gratitude may have lower inflammation levels and reduced biomarkers for heart failure morbidity.
3 – Boosts Your Immune System
Your immune system is responsible for keeping you healthy and fighting off infection.
And studies have shown that gratitude journaling can help to boost your immune system, making you less likely to get sick.
4 – Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other serious health problems.
But gratitude journaling can help to lower blood pressure.
One study found that people with hypertension (chronically high blood pressure) who were told to “count their blessings” at least once a week experienced a significant reduction in blood pressure.
5 – Improves Your Heart Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but gratitude may help to improve heart health.
Research studies have shown that gratitude is linked to lower levels of inflammation, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
Additionally, gratitude has been linked to lower levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and higher levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
6 – Reduces Cortisol (Stress Hormone) Levels
Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released in response to stress.
Chronically high levels of cortisol have been linked to almost every chronic health condition including cardiovascular disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer. It’s also linked to a higher risk of anxiety and depression.
But gratitude journaling may help to reduce cortisol levels.
Study participants who kept a gratitude journal for just two weeks can lower cortisol levels by up to 23%.
7 – Can Help Relieve Chronic Pain
If you suffer from chronic pain, regular gratitude practice may help to relieve some of your symptoms.
In one study of patients with fibromyalgia, patients with higher levels of gratitude experienced greater life satisfaction.
Mental Health Benefits Of Gratitude Journaling
In addition to the physical benefits, gratitude journaling can also improve your mental health.
Some of the mental health benefits you might experience include:
8 – Reduces Stress And Anxiety
Spending some time each day thinking about and writing down what you’re grateful for can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
While we know gratitude journaling can reduce the stress hormone cortisol, it can also reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and the effects these can have on your mental health.
9 – Improves Your Mood
If you’re feeling down or blue, gratitude journaling can help to improve your mood.
By bringing your focus back to what you are grateful for, you can start to see the positive aspects of your life and situation, rather than dwelling on the negative feelings.
Regular gratitude exercises, such as journaling or writing a gratitude list, can also help you actively look for the positive things that are happing in your daily life, increasing positive feelings and positive thoughts.
10 – Increases Your Self-Esteem
If you’re struggling with low self-esteem, gratitude journaling may help.
This is because gratitude can help you to highlight your positive qualities and the good things in your life, rather than focusing on your negative traits or experiences.
This can be even more powerful if you use positive affirmations as part of your journaling practice.
11 – Makes You More Resilient
Gratitude can help to make you more resilient, meaning you’re better able to bounce back from setbacks and difficult experiences.
Journaling requires you to reflect on experiences and events, and in doing so, can help you to find the positive aspects, even in tough times.
This means that when tough times arise again in the future, you’ll have a whole host of experiences to draw on to remind you that you can handle difficult situations and get through tough times – therefore increasing your ability to be resilient.
12 – Reduces The Risk Of Depression
Gratitude journaling has been shown to reduce the risk of developing depression.
One study found that people who kept a gratitude journal were less likely to become depressed than those who didn’t.
Other studies have found that gratitude interventions (such as journaling) can be just as effective as antidepressant medication at treating depression and reducing depressive symptoms.
Spiritual Benefits Of Gratitude Journaling
Lesser thought of benefits associated with gratitude journaling are the spiritual benefits that can come with expressing gratitude on a regular basis.
Some of the spiritual benefits you might experience include:
13 – A Deeper Connection To God/Spirituality
Gratitude has been linked to a deeper connection to God/ a higher power or spirituality.
If you’re struggling to feel connected to your spirituality, gratitude journaling may help.
This is because gratitude can help you to focus on the good in your life, and to see how everything is connected.
It can also help you to feel more connected to something bigger than yourself.
14 – A Sense Of Peace And Calm
Gratitude can bring a sense of peace and calm.
This is because it helps you to focus on the present moment and to appreciate what you have, rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.
If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, gratitude journaling may help you to find a sense of calm.
15 – A Greater Sense Of Purpose
Gratitude can also help you to find a greater sense of purpose in life.
By taking the time to think about and write down what you’re grateful for, you can start to see how everything is connected and how your life has meaning and purpose.
This can be a powerful way to find direction and meaning, even when life feels overwhelming or difficult.
16 – Greater Insight And Clarity
Gratitude journaling can also provide you with greater insight and clarity.
This is because it allows you to take a step back from your life and see the big picture.
It can help you to identify what’s important to you and what your priorities are.
This can be an invaluable exercise, especially when you’re feeling lost or confused about your life.
17 – Greater Intuition And Guidance
Gratitude can also help you to tune into your intuition and guidance.
This is because gratitude helps you to focus on the present moment and to connect with your inner wisdom.
It can also help to clear your mind of negative thoughts and emotions, which can block your intuition.
If you’re looking for guidance or answers, gratitude journaling may be a helpful tool.
Overall Well-Being Benefits Of Gratitude Journaling
While we’ve covered a wide range of benefits so far, there are some additional overall well-being benefits you might experience when you start gratitude journaling.
This could include:
18 – A Deeper Connection To Yourself
Gratitude can also help you to develop a deeper connection to yourself.
This is because gratitude allows you to appreciate all aspects of yourself, both the good and the bad.
It can also help you to see how your experiences have shaped who you are today.
This can be a powerful way to develop self-awareness and learn more about yourself.
19 – A Deeper Connection To Others
Gratitude can also help you to develop a deeper connection with others, helping you to create strong relationships and social connections.
This is because gratitude allows you to see the good in other people, even when they’re going through tough times.
It can also help you to appreciate the role that other people play in your life.
This can be a valuable exercise if you’re struggling to connect with others or if you’re feeling disconnected from the people in your life.
It can have a positive impact on your romantic relationships and foster more feelings of gratitude to your romantic partner.
20 – Greater Compassion And Empathy
Gratitude can also help you to develop greater compassion and empathy.
This is because gratitude allows you to see the humanity in other people and to understand their experiences, both negative experiences and positive ones.
It can also help you to be more forgiving and understanding, even when someone has hurt you, and allows you to appreciate the individual differences each person has.
If you’re struggling with compassion or empathy, gratitude journaling may be a helpful tool.
21 – A More Positive Outlook On Life
Finally, gratitude can also help you to develop a more positive outlook on life.
This is because gratitude allows you to focus on the good in your life and helps you focus on the positive emotions, rather than dwelling on the bad things that may happen and the negative emotions that can come with it.
Plus, knowing you’re going to be journaling about something you’re grateful for will increase your awareness of the things in your life that you are grateful for, helping you adopt an attitude of gratitude in your day-to-day life.
It can also help you to see the silver lining in difficult situations and to find hope when things are tough.
If you’re struggling with negative thinking or a negative outlook on life, gratitude journaling may be a helpful tool.
Now that we’ve covered the many benefits of gratitude journaling, let’s take a look at how you can get started.
How To Start Gratitude Journaling
Gratitude journaling is a simple practice that anyone can do.
All you need is a notebook and a pen (or any other writing implements that you prefer).
While there are a lot of different ways to journal, the great thing is that there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
But there are a few things that you might want to keep in mind as you get started.
Here are a few tips:
1 – Set aside time each day to write in your gratitude journal.
This can be first thing in the morning, the last thing at night, or whenever you have a few free moments during the day.
The important thing is that you make your practice of gratitude happen on a daily basis (and the best way to do this is to journal at the same time each day).
2 – Make a commitment to yourself to journal for a certain period of time.
This could be for a week, a month, or longer.
You can even create a reward for yourself a the end of your commitment to increase your motivation to stick with it.
3 – Keep your journal entries short and sweet.
You don’t need to write War and Peace – just a few sentences will do.
If you love to write, you can keep on going, otherwise setting a timer for 10 or 15 minutes is a great strategy too.
4 – Don’t worry about writing perfectly or using “correct” grammar.
This is for your eyes only, so just let your thoughts flow onto the page.
5 – Be honest with yourself.
If you’re feeling angry, frustrated, or sad, that’s OK. Just let it out on the page.
You’ll feel the most benefits when you’re honest. You can be grateful for something, and express your gratitude, and still feel frustrated about other details surrounding that event or circumstance.
Journaling can help you process all of this.
6 – Be specific about what you’re grateful for.
Instead of just writing “I’m grateful for my family,” try to think of specific things that you’re grateful for, like “I’m grateful for my mom’s cooking” or “I’m grateful for my sister’s support.”
7 – Write down both big and small things that you’re grateful for.
You don’t have to wait for a life-changing event to happen – even the small, everyday moments can be worth journaling about.
8 – Don’t be afraid to experiment.
If you find that you’re struggling to think of things that you’re grateful for, try using prompts or writing about specific topics.
9 – Be patient with yourself.
Gratitude takes time to cultivate, so don’t expect to feel happier overnight.
Just keep at it and trust that the benefits will come in time.
Gratitude journaling is a simple but powerful practice that can have a big impact on your life.
There are so many fantastic benefits of gratitude journaling, and many of them are incredibly significant to your physical and mental health.
If you’re not already doing it, I encourage you to give it a try.
Trust me – you won’t regret it!
Now go forth and start reaping the benefits of this amazing practice!