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What is a Gratitude Journal?

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What is a Gratitude Journal?

positivepsychology.com

A gratitude journal is, quite simply, a tool to keep track of the good things in life. No matter how difficult and defeating life can sometimes feel, there is always something to feel grateful for.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

– John F. Kennedy

Even more than that, regularly journaling about the good things in your life can help prepare and strengthen you to deal with the rough patches when they pop up.

It’s extremely simple to start: simply write down (or type) the things you are grateful for on a daily basis. You can use a journal, diary, notebook, or just a piece of paper. If you’re committed to being green or just find it easier to do things digitally, you can use one of the many gratitude apps or even a simple Word document!

Once you have your journal or app ready, simply start noting the things you are grateful for.

Got a promotion? Journal it!

Mastered a new yoga move? Journal it!

Received good news about a potential health problem? You guessed it—journal it!

It can that easy. In case you’re wondering “What will this practice do for me?” read on to learn about the potential benefits of this simple practice.

Benefits of a Gratitude Journal

We’ve already written about the benefits of a regular gratitude practice, but here are a few benefits people have noticed when practicing gratitude journaling in particular:

  • Gratitude journaling, like many gratitude practices, can lower your stress levels;
  • It can help you feel calmer, especially at night;
  • Journaling can give you a new perspective on what is important to you and what you truly appreciate in your life;
  • By noting what you are grateful for, you can gain clarity on what you want to have more of in your life, and what you can do without;
  • Gratitude journaling can help you find out and focus on what really matters to you;
  • Keeping a gratitude journal helps you learn more about yourself and become more self-aware;
  • Your gratitude journal is for your eyes only, so you can write anything you feel without worrying about judgment from others;
  • On days when you feel blue, you can read through your gratitude journal to readjust your attitude and remember all the good things in your life (Jessen, 2015).

A yoga enthusiast at Yoganonymous.com wrote about seven of the benefits he noticed when gratitude journaling:

  1. It can make you more mindful, helping you to become more grounded and also making it easier to notice even more things you are grateful for;
  2. Gratitude journaling can help you feel more balanced and less thrown off by daily stress;
  3. You may notice that a lot more small, good things are happening—or maybe you’ll notice the small, good things that were already happening;
  4. Your gratitude might act as a beacon to good things and good people, drawing even more positive things to be grateful for to you;
  5. It can make you feel accomplished, even if it’s a relatively small accomplishment. We all need a win, no matter how big or small, every now and then;
  6. Beware—it might just make you more giving and generous to others! But don’t worry, it isn’t always about money; paradoxically, there are things that actually grow and increase when we give them away, like compassion, empathy, and laughter;
  7. Gratitude journaling can provide a sense of context or interconnectedness. It can remind us how things in life are connected to one another, and guide us to one of those rare moments in which we truly recognize that the word is so much bigger than us, yet we are grateful just to be a small part of it (Pope, 2016).

If you’re the kind of person who wants that hard evidence in addition to accounts of personal experience, there are studies that back these observations:

  • A brand new study of a three-month trial of gratitude journaling found that both reflective (finding things to be grateful for) and reflective-behavioral (finding things to be grateful for and expressing your gratitude) journaling have a significant, positive impact on well-being, affect, and depression (O’Connell, O’Shea, & Gallagher, 2017);
  • Another brand new study showed that Turkish freshmen who completed a three-week gratitude journal experienced greater gratitude, better adjustment to university life, higher life satisfaction, and enhanced positive affect, compared to a control group of freshmen (Işık & Ergüner-Tekinalp, 2017);
  • Gratitude journaling has been shown to help divorced parents forgive their ex-spouse(s), an extremely important step towards positive co-parenting (Rye, Fleri, Moore, Worthington, Wade, Sandage, & Cook, 2012);
  • Finally, gratitude researchers in Australia found evidence that gratitude journaling helped school leaders foster a balanced view of the good and bad things that happen at school, use more appreciative problem solving, find value in school-based relationships, and experience more positive emotion, ultimately making them better and happier leaders (Waters & Stokes, 2015).