Most of us are familiar with gratitude, the feeling that we often equate with being grateful or thankful. However, few are familiar with gratitude journals and how they can make those gratitude-filled moments in our lives even more impactful.
That said, evidence suggests that writing down the feelings we associate with these acts of kindness can positively impact. Furthermore, we feel those effects on our health in a variety of ways.
WHAT IS A GRATITUDE JOURNAL?
In short, a thankfulness-based journal is a personal diary that is used to chronicle and later reflect on meaningful moments in one’s life. And they don’t always have to be monumental. It could be something as small as the cashier at the local grocery store asking about your day. Or, it might even a friendly hello from a stranger.
While these kind acts do make us feel good while we are in the moment, we often forget about them as the day goes on. Writing about these experiences is a great way to reflect on them when we are feeling low and need a reason to smile. Also, note that this is not all rooted in hyperbole. Indeed, there is a considerable amount of scientific evidence that substantiates these claims.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND GRATITUDE-BASED JOURNALING
So writing down the things that we are most grateful for can trigger positive vibes. However, there is much more to the equation.
Feeling truly appreciative when someone goes out of their way to help us or brighten our day allows the brain to focus more on the positive aspects of our lives as opposed to the negative ones. This shift in thinking helps minimize the impact that day-to-day external frustrations can have on our lives. Thus, it can significantly reduce stress. This fact is essential since stress can lead to a wide range of health problems.
12 BENEFITS THAT COME WITH KEEPING A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
Now we’re a little more familiar with gratitude-based journaling. And we know how it can keep stress levels from wreaking havoc on our lives. Next, let’s take a look at some of the other benefits that come with making these positive and meaningful journal entries:
1. BETTER PHYSICAL HEALTH
Because journaling helps lower stress, those who engage in gratitude-based journaling tend to have fewer health problems than those who do not. In a study published by the American Heart Association, those who are struggling with chronic stress are more likely to develop the following health problems:
- Memory problems
- An inability to concentrate
- Anxiety and depression
- Cardiovascular problems
- Poor digestive health
- Muscle cramps
Also, note that this list does not encompass all of the health problems associated with chronic stress. Moreover, it is a list of the ones frequently reported by individuals who lead stressful lives.
2. BETTER PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH
Most physicians and mental health experts will agree that psychological health is just as important as physical health. That said, writing down the things that inspire feelings of gratefulness has been shown to improve psychological health by reducing feelings of anxiety, depression, and other symptoms commonly associated with mental illnesses. Also, those who express gratitude, either outwardly or through journaling, are less likely to harbor feelings of envy, resentment, frustration, or regret, according to several studies.
3. MORE EMPATHY AND LESS AGGRESSION
Many will argue that being truly appreciative in response to kind acts can make you a better person. To further emphasize this point, we need only take a look at a 2011 study conducted by the University of Kentucky. The study revealed that participants who routinely expressed gratitude in one way or another were less likely to become retaliatory toward those who they believed wronged them in some way. The same study participants were also found to be more sensitive and empathetic toward others.
4. HEALTHIER RELATIONSHIPS
Most people are surprised to find out how far a heartfelt “thank you” can go when it comes to strengthening their platonic and romantic relationships. Writing down and even verbally expressing how much these individuals mean to you can inspire feelings of gratefulness. More than that, doing so will provide you with something positive to reflect on if these relationships ever take a turn for the worse.
On a side note, a 2015 study published by Gonzaga University revealed that those who routinely express gratitude are far more likely to attract new friends and potential romantic partners than those who do not.
5. BETTER SLEEP
An article published by The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard University revealed that adults between the ages of 18 and 64 should aim for at least 7.5 to 8.5 hours of quality sleep each night.
Those who spend a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes writing down the things that they are most thankful for before going to bed are more likely to get the amount of restorative sleep needed for good health, according to a separate study by Applied Psychology: Health and Well-being, a triannual peer-reviewed academic journal.
6. IMPROVED SELF-ESTEEM
If you struggle with low self-esteem, writing down the things that inspire feelings of gratefulness can go a long way toward improving how you feel about yourself. A 2014 study published by the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology revealed that expressing appreciation helped boost low self-esteem and improve game performance among athletes.
7. MORE MENTAL STRENGTH
Along with reducing feelings of anxiety, depression, and other symptoms commonly correlated with mental illness, gratitude-based journaling can increase overall mental strength. This benefit is especially beneficial to those who are trying to overcome trauma.
For example, those who engage in journaling and struggle with PTSD are less impacted by the disorder. For this reason, most mental health professionals will recommend gratitude-based journaling as a coping mechanism for veterans and first responders who are struggling with PTSD after witnessing extremely traumatic events.
8. INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY
There is significant evidence suggesting that taking a moment to evaluate and appreciate the positive things in one’s life can lead to increased productivity. In short, those who engage in gratitude-based journaling are usually more optimistic and less weighed down by negative thoughts and emotions that would otherwise hamper productivity.
9. MORE RESILIENT
Most will agree that it is not always easy to bounce back after being knocked down by life; that said, gratitude-based journaling can go a long way toward making you more resilient. Those who engage in this practice tend to see the bigger picture. In addition, they are less likely to be sidelined by life’s challenges.
10. BETTER DECISION-MAKING SKILLS
Along with the many other benefits associated with gratitude-based journaling, there is also evidence suggesting that the practice can improve decision-making skills. For example, research shows that physicians who feel appreciated by their patients make better diagnoses than those who feel stress. Thus, they construct better care plans than those who feel unappreciated. Perhaps keeping a gratitude journal would be as useful for doctors as their patients.
11. MORE CREATIVITY
For those who enjoy expressing themselves creatively and are struggling with creative stagnation, gratitude-based journaling may be worth considering. According to Positivity, a book written by world-renowned researcher Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, feeling and expressing appreciation helps broaden the mind, allowing ideas to flow more freely.
12. LONGER AND HAPPIER LIFE
Individuals who engage in gratitude-based journaling are often happier and live longer than those who do not. According to University of California professor Robert Emmons, grateful individuals are usually more concerned with staying on top of their health. As such, they are more likely to exercise regularly and consume a healthy, well-balanced diet. And because many have less stress in their lives, they are also less likely to develop chronic health problems. All of these factors help contribute to a longer life expectancy. In terms of happiness, a recent study revealed that individuals who kept gratitude journals were 25 percent happier than those who did not.
In summary, a gratitude journal is not only a great way to chronicle meaningful events in your life. It is also a great way to improve your physical, psychological, and emotional health. If you have never tried it before, consider starting a gratitude journal today.