Life

Why a Gratitude Journal Can Change Your Life

“Gratitude” written on a typewriter page.

You’ve heard about the power of relaxation, meditation and mindfulness time and time again. Maybe you’ve been playing online casino games to relax and destress. But did you know another crucial tool could be missing from your wellness arsenal? 

Gratitude journals are not just an exercise in positive thinking; they could change your life. Keep reading to learn more about this healthy mental habit and how you can start your own journal. 

What is a gratitude journal?

A gratitude journal is a journal or notebook used to record and reflect on things you are grateful for. Gratitude journaling helps to still the mind and rewire the brain to stop overthinking the negative aspects of life and instead focus on the positive aspects. Keeping a journal has many benefits backed by scientists and endorsed by psychologists. Even the Dalai Lama himself recommends it. 

Why should you start a gratitude journal?

Here are a few scientifically proven reasons why something as simple as a journal could change your life. 

A person writing in a gratitude journal at a table with a candle and plant

Boosting happiness

Celebrating even the most minor wins and focusing on the one thing that’s right when everything seems to be falling apart gives you a boost of self-love that will improve your overall well-being and inner happiness. Many studies have discovered that people who practice gratitude are happier and less depressed. 

Increased mindfulness

Daily gratitude shifts your focus away from things that upset you – a troubling past, the impending future or the things you lack – to the joys of everyday life. Gratitude helps us be more mindful and present. You pay more attention to the beautiful things, instead of missing them completely because you’re too busy overthinking.

Releasing healthy brain chemicals

Who doesn’t want a dose of dopamine and serotonin? When the brain’s dopamine and serotonin levels aren’t high enough, we can suffer from a long list of symptoms. These include depressed moods, lack of motivation, brain fog and difficulty concentrating and decreased sexual drive. Thankfully, introducing gratitude into our daily lives increases the release of these chemicals and helps us ease anxiety and depression.

Making better decisions

Recording positive thoughts and events not only improves your feelings, but it also helps you make better decisions. Some studies revealed that the practice helped participants eat healthier, exercise more and reach out to friends and family more. When happiness and positivity are prioritized in your brain, your lifestyle, relationships and decisions are more likely to follow suit. 

Reducing stress and building resilience

People say stress can kill you, and they’re right. Something as simple as writing three things you’re thankful for in a notebook at the end of the day can reduce your stress levels. Furthermore, gratitude builds resilience so that you can cope with future stressful and negative situations that will inevitably arise. In other words, gratitude can save your life.

Improving sleep quality

Sleep is something that seems to elude us more and more. Around 62% of people worldwide have problems sleeping. Could gratitude be one of the answers?

Studies show a positive correlation between gratitude and sleep duration and quality. Thankfulness is calming. Make it the last thing you do before bed at the end of the day.

A gratitude journal next to flowers, a pen, a tea candle and a cup of tea.

A natural painkiller

In some studies, gratitude practices have been noted to reduce pain in participants with chronic pain. A New Zealand study found that arthritis sufferers experienced less pain after keeping a journal for four weeks. This could be because gratitude lights up the same part of the brain associated with the pain relief that we experience when we see a loved one. 

How to start a gratitude journal?

Now that we’ve sold you on this game-changing habit, you’ll be happy to know that getting started is easy. It’s challenging to start a new habit when we overcomplicate it. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to journal. Find a method or form that is the easiest to fit into your life. Whether that’s a physical journal you keep at your bedside or a gratitude app with reminders to help keep you up to date. The key part is that you write every day and not that your notebook is the fanciest or that your entries are pages long.

Tips for writing meaningful gratitude lists

List three to five things in your journal or app that you feel grateful for at the end or beginning of the day. Don’t do this in your head; type them or write them down. Your list can have small moments or items, like a delicious breakfast muffin or something more significant like a promotion or good news from a family member. The point of the exercise is to remember a positive moment and relive the feelings you had when it happened. 

Try not to overgeneralize; be specific. Don’t say you’re grateful for your wife. Talk about how comforting it was to have her next to you after a nightmare. And to make sure you’re always effectively practicing gratitude, avoid repetition in your lists and try to find new and different things to be grateful for.

Mention people and places. You can even mention colors, smells and small details that were part of the experience. Learning to appreciate the worthwhile things in life takes time. This exercise will help you live in the moment and not just after it. Above all else, make it your own and make it a habit. 

Create more moments of gratitude

Now that you’ve got a new life-enhancing wellness habit, don’t stop there. Your journal is a resource. You can look back and study overlooked patterns or aspects in your life that bring the most joy. While you’re journaling, you’ll notice your priorities will change. With a positive mindset, your day won’t be about ticking off to-do lists. You’ll learn to understand the value of fun and small victories.

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