Keep a Gratitude Journal

Being grateful can sound like a cliché, but according to several studies practicing gratitude (and keeping a gratitude journal) can have a positive effect on your health and happiness.

In their research published in 2020, Ernst T. Bohlmeijer, Jannis T. Kraiss, Philip Watkins and Marijke Schotanus-Dijkstra aimed to assess the impact of a 6-week gratitude intervention on mental well-being, depression, anxiety and gratitude. Their study suggests that practicing gratitude for 15 minutes a day, five days a week can enhance mental wellness. Due to its mental health benefits, gratitude can also positively affect one’s physical health.

The American Psychological Association defines gratitude as a sense of happiness and thankfulness in response to a fortunate happenstance or tangible gift. Practicing gratitude means regularly focusing on the positive parts of your life and appreciating all the good things you have. We often take things for granted and only notice their value when we are in danger of losing them. It is good to remind yourself from time to time of all the great and positive things you have in your life. Sometimes life can feel very difficult and heavy, but often there is still something to feel grateful for. When practicing gratitude, you should recognise that things aren’t perfect, but there are still some things that are worth appreciating.

That being said, giving unsolicited advice and urging someone to be grateful, if they are experiencing depression or other similar problems, is just rude and dismissive. We are not always in such a place in our lives that we can focus on something like gratitude, and that is absolutely fine.

Positive effects of practicing gratitude

According to studies, practicing gratitude can have many positive effects. These are some of the most important ones:

  • Relieves stress
  • Reduces depression
  • Helps with anxiety
  • Produces higher levels of positive emotions
  • Helps feeling more optimistic and happy
  • Boosts immunity
  • Supports heart health and lowers blood pressure
  • Improves sleep
  • Helps being more outgoing and forgiving

What is a gratitude journal and why is it good to keep one?

You’ll get the biggest health benefits of gratitude when practicing gratitude becomes a habit and part of your thought process. One way to move towards this is to keep a gratitude journal and reserve some time every day to write down your thoughts. A gratitude journal is exactly what it sounds like; a simple tool to keep track of the good things in your life. It is a diary you can use to write down everything you are grateful for. A gratitude journal is an easy way to incorporate gratitude into your day-to-day life.

In an article published in Harvard Health Publishing the author introduces a research done by psychologists Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough. In one of their studies, they asked participants to write down a few sentences every week, focusing on their assigned topics. One group wrote about things that had irritated or displeased them. The second group wrote about positive, negative or neutral events that had affected them. The third group wrote about things they were grateful for that week. After 10 weeks of following this routine, the participants in the third group were feeling more optimistic and felt better about their lives. They also exercised more and had fewer health care related visits than those participants who focused on sources of aggravation.

To me these sound like pretty good reasons to try to keep a gratitude journal, and this is one thing I will incorporate into my day-to-day life this year. After having had some health problems the past year and a half, I have been feeling incredibly grateful for my regained health and life in general. I want to retain this feeling, but I also know how easy it is to forget how lucky I am and slip back into old habits.

Take time every morning or night to write down something you were grateful for that day or the day before. This doesn’t have to be a big or profound thing every day, even small everyday stuff counts. And I feel that those are often the things we forget and ignore, even though our lives consist mostly of those mundane little things. Dedicate a notebook or journal or a section of your bullet journal to gratitude, that way you can easily reflect and remind yourself of those moments that filled you with gratitude.