Does it seem like life is busier than ever before? You are always putting out fires or handling obligations, and it all becomes a blur. When you’re always hustling, it can be challenging to find the joy in life. That, in turn, makes it hard to be grateful. Fortunately, you don’t have to make a significant life change to bring gratitude into your life. You can accomplish it by starting a gratitude journal. Committing as little as five minutes a day to writing in a gratitude journal can chan...
Does it seem like life is busier than ever before? You are always putting out fires or handling obligations, and it all becomes a blur. When you’re always hustling, it can be challenging to find the joy in life. That, in turn, makes it hard to be grateful. Fortunately, you don’t have to make a significant life change to bring gratitude into your life. You can accomplish it by starting a gratitude journal. Committing as little as five minutes a day to writing in a gratitude journal can change your life for the better.
Writing in a gratitude journal has been proven to benefit people mentally, socially, and physically. Look at the science behind the benefits and then go over some daily gratitude journal prompts. Finally, learn some tips for writing in your journal, and you’ll be ready to begin.
Let’s dive in with the mental benefits of gratitude.
If you’re like most people, your mental health could use a boost. If so, you need to increase your level of gratitude. Research has shown that dedicating five minutes a day to writing in a gratitude journal can increase happiness by more than 10 percent (Courtney E. Ackerman, 2020). When you notice what you have, you end up with a more positive outlook in life. You realize that you have so much to be grateful for, so you can’t help but be happy.
You won’t just feel happier, either. You’ll have more self-esteem when you write in a gratitude journal. When you feel better about your circumstances in life, you end up feeling better about yourself as well. When you have more self-esteem, it’s easier to get the most out of life.
What if you suffer from depression? Gratitude eases depression and can also protect you if you have suicidal thoughts (Krysinska, 2015). Please note, though, that writing in a gratitude journal should be used in combination with mental health treatment if you have suicidal ideation or severe depression. Never dismiss suicidal thoughts or significant depressive episodes. Getting help can save your life.
These are just some of the mental health benefits of writing in a five-minute gratitude journal. Gratitude journaling can also ease anxiety and so much more. To find out how it can help you, begin journaling today. It won’t be long before you start feeling better, too.
It makes sense that if you’re happier and less depressed, your social life will get a boost. Still, it’s worth looking at the specific social benefits you can enjoy when you start writing in a gratitude journal.
Gratitude can make you more likable. After all, when you see the positive in things, you’re more fun to be around. It’s easy to attract friends when you have gratitude. You’ll also have an easier time cultivating and maintaining those relationships. If your social life isn’t quite where you want it to be, try gratitude journaling.
It can also improve your romantic relationship. You will become more appreciative of your significant other, and that will make your relationship stronger. It’s even more beneficial if both you and your partner write in gratitude journals. The mutual appreciation will help your relationship significantly.
You can expect more social support when you have gratitude as well. People will surround you in times of need and lift you when needed.
These are just some of the social benefits of gratitude journaling. Even if you are happy with your social life, there’s always room for improvement.
Did you know that gratitude can improve your physical health as well? Researchers have conducted various studies on this topic, including the Gratitude Research in Acute Coronary Events study (Huffman JC, 2015). The researchers set out to determine the impact of gratitude while recovering from a heart attack, and the results are stunning.
The researchers focused on 164 subjects who had recently had heart attacks. Two weeks after suffering the heart attacks, they asked them questions related to gratitude. Some of the questions were general, while others were health-related.
The researchers followed up with the subjects again six months later. They gathered information regarding their recovery from the heart attack and also gave them step counters with the instructions to wear them for a week.
When the week was up, they asked questions about gratitude once again. They used the questions to determine their gratitude toward family, friends, health, and medical staff.
The subjects who rated higher on the gratitude scale at the beginning of the study had done a better job of complying with instructions from their healthcare providers. They took their medications, ate healthier foods, and exercised more than the less grateful people. This group also has lower rates of anxiety and depression and better quality of life.
Jeff Huffman was one of the researches on this project and explained how gratitude keeps people healthy (Huffman, 2018). According to Huffman, grateful people are more likely to take care of themselves, whether that means not smoking or taking their medication as prescribed. They are more energized, engaged, and motivated. That’s why the people in the study were so willing to follow the doctor’s orders. They felt they were given a second chance and were going to do everything they could with it.
Some people are naturally grateful, while others have to work at it. Whether you were born with high levels of gratitude or lacking in appreciation, you can benefit from keeping a journal. Journaling could be the key to maintaining your physical health.
Now let’s look at gratitude journal prompts.
Gratitude journal prompts make it easy to dive into the world of gratitude journaling. Begin with some of these prompts (McGinley, 2018) (Davis, 2019). Just put the prompt at the top of the page and start writing. With the help of a prompt, you can easily explore what you’re most grateful for in your life.
These 170 prompts will help you start your journal. Now let’s look at some tips you can use when writing your journal.
If you are ready to begin writing, you can bypass the tips and jump right in. However, if you don’t feel ready quite yet, these tips can help you. You’ll become more confident and prepared to write in your gratitude journal.
Don’t limit yourself when creating a gratitude journal. Use a mixed-media format so you can include images, audio, text, and video if you wish. That way, you can express yourself the way you want each time you create a new entry.
For instance, you might typically love typing your entries, but then you get a gift that you’re grateful for and want to include a picture. You can include a picture of the present and then add text if you wish. You could also add a video of you excitedly talking about it. By expanding your options, you’ll find it easier to express gratitude. It will be natural and authentic, allowing you to reap the benefits.
Speaking of flexibility, keep your journal online instead of using a notebook. More and more people are journaling online now because it’s much easier. When you use an online tool, you can log into your journal anytime. That means you can easily journal if you’re on vacation or if you have a spare minute at work. Also, an online journal is easy to search, so you can go back and look at old entries if you wish. Finally, when you use an online tool, you don’t have to worry about something happening to your journal. Imagine if you kept a notebook journal, and you lost it. All that hard work would be gone. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about that when your journal is online.
When you write in your gratitude journal, don’t just focus on the obvious. Journaling provides a chance for you to find gratitude in the obscure. Author A.J. Jacobs recommends embracing six degrees of gratitude (Jacobs, 2018). He notes that many things in life are dependent on large numbers of people. Take your food during Thanksgiving, for instance. You might love cranberry sauce, so you’re thankful for the company that makes it. As Jacobs notes, though, a farmer had to grow the cranberries before they could become a sauce. Then a trucker had to transport the cranberries to the factory. Someone else designed stop signs and traffic lights to prevent accidents so the trucker could make his way to the factory. Still, another person mined the copper that was used in the traffic lights.
This might sound silly, but when you dig down and follow the chain of gratitude, you learn to count your blessings. Use this practice when writing in your gratitude journal.
Your days are full of things to be grateful for, and it’s your job to spot them. As you begin journaling, pay attention to the world around you. Look for little surprises and other reasons to be grateful. You’ll be amazed by how many great things happen in your life each day. This act alone will make you more grateful. Then you can compound that gratitude by writing about it in your journal. After a few weeks of doing this, you’ll have a little extra spring in your step. People will take notice that you seem more appreciative and happier overall. It’s easy to feel satisfied when you realize that there is so much good in the world.
Gratitude and mindfulness go hand in hand. To indeed be grateful, you have to be mindful of the event. When writing in your gratitude journal, write mindfully. You need to focus on the person or event and reimagine it. When you do this, you will re-experience the person or thing you’re grateful for (Fountain, 2007). If you fail to do this, you won’t enjoy the benefits of a gratitude journal.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t excel at this right away. It can take some time to journal mindfully. You’ll know when you get it right. You’ll feel like you’re going through the experience again. Then you will feel a burst of gratitude. That’s when you have accomplished the goal of mindful gratitude journaling.
If you write in a gratitude journal daily, you will eventually experience grief while trying to count your blessings. Your natural reaction might be to ditch your gratitude journal so you can mourn. Morning is necessary, but you can do that with your gratitude journal.
Paula Phelps keeps a daily gratitude journal (Whelan, 2017). She’s written in it for years and continued the practice when she lost her brother-in-law. She was devastated by the loss but managed to write entries about her gratitude that he was no longer suffering. She was also grateful for the years they had spent together. She expressed her gratitude in her journal, and that helped her through the morning process. It was also an excellent way to honor her loved one.
This is an excellent example of continuing to embrace gratitude in times of sorrow. The world isn’t always a happy place, but you should still look for the silver lining. When you can do that, you have finally embraced gratitude.
Life is full of little surprises. For instance, maybe you’re at the drive-through, and the person in front of you pays for your order, or someone sees you struggling with packages and stops to help. These are just two examples of possible surprises you might encounter. Surprises tend to create stronger levels of gratitude, so write about them as often as you can (Greater Good in Action, n.d.).
Some people get into a gratitude rut. They find something they’re grateful for and write about it over and over again. That’s where journal prompts can be helpful. You need to fill your journal with different items. If you do write about the same person or thing, explore different aspects. You’ll stop getting all the benefits of gratitude if you continue to repeat yourself, so this is important.
The word “habit” has so many negative connotations. When you think of a habit, you probably think of things you need to avoid, like drinking too much or smoking. While there are undoubtedly bad habits, journaling is a good habit. Getting into the habit of journaling will allow you to maximize your gratitude level.
You can quickly create a habit by journaling daily. At first, you will need to remind yourself that you need to write in your journal, but it will become second nature before long. You’ll even start to crave writing in your journal.
To further solidify the habit, create a ritual around writing in your journal. Then your mind will associate specific cues with writing in your journal. For example, you can light a candle before you write in your journal. After a while, when you light the candle, your brain will crave writing in your journal.
Also, try to write in your journal around the same time each day. This will help you turn it into a habit. Of course, if you have an urge to write in your journal in the morning when you usually write in the evening, go ahead and do it. Your journal is for you to enjoy, so don’t deprive yourself.
One of the best parts of keeping a journal is it can be for your eyes only. So few things in life are truly private. However, you don’t have to share your journal with anyone. Keep that in mind when writing your entries. When you remember the words are for your eyes only, you will feel a sense of freedom. It’s much easier to express yourself when you don’t have to worry about anyone else seeing what you write. You won’t censor yourself, so you’ll dig deep and express your gratitude.
You’ve read so much about gratitude journaling now, and it sounds like it can help you. Still, looking at scientific research isn’t the same as evaluating real-life examples. To truly understand how beneficial gratitude journaling can be, you need to see it in action. Let’s take a look at how gratitude journaling changed one woman’s life for the better.
Esther J. Cepeda is a nationally syndicated columnist, a reformed anxiety sufferer, and a gratitude journal advocate. She shared her story in the Washington Post (Cepeda, 2017), and it serves as an inspiration for anyone interested in overcoming mental health problems.
Her anxiety became crippling in 2015. It was so bad that it started waking her up at night, and she realized she had to do something. She couldn’t go on living like this.
She started with daily meditation and other behaviors to reduce her anxiety. Still anxious, she stumbled on the idea of gratitude journaling, and that changed her life. She refers to her gratitude journal as the silver bullet that reduced her anxiety.
Some of her entries were humorous. She was grateful she didn’t have to get a root canal and thankful that she made it to the gas station without running out of fuel. Other times, she was grateful that her son had a good day or that she found some money. She noted that these items were all worth being thankful for, but because they were small things, they were easy to forget until she started writing them down. The practice made her more aware of how many good things happened to her each day.
She says she’s at least 10 times happier now than before she started her journal. She has become a huge advocate for gratitude journaling, and you can follow in her footsteps.
This is just one of the many real-life examples of gratitude journaling at work. Countless people have shared their stories, proving over and over again that this works.
Now you have some prompts and tips, but you might still be unsure of how to begin. Let’s go over an example using the prompt, “My favorite part of this morning was…” This will give you a better idea of how to approach your entries. Pay special attention to the level of detail used in the entry. The detail allows the writer to reimagine the action.
My favorite part of this morning was enjoying a steaming hot cup of coffee while lounging in bed. The steam floated up to my nose, bringing the rich smell of a pecan coffee roast, my favorite. It’s the perfect blend of sweet pecans and rich coffee, and I took a moment to savor the steam and scent before finally bringing the oversized cup to my lips. It was even better than I imagined – it had the perfect amount of creamer and sugar, and the hot liquid hit my taste buds immediately and warmed my throat as I took my first sip. I closed my eyes and savored the taste, enjoying the quiet of the early morning as well as the bold flavors. It was the perfect moment for me and reminded me that I’m blessed to enjoy these little things - the quiet, the coffee, the steam.
This short entry is just about a cup of coffee. Think about how many times you take a cup of coffee for granted. However, if you don’t have that cup of coffee in the morning, you feel off-kilter.
By slowing down and appreciating the cup of coffee, you can learn to enjoy other things in your life as well.
You have the tools you need to start a gratitude journal today. Begin by picking your first gratitude journal prompt. Then type that at the top of your entry and begin. Include as many details as possible as you write your entry. Remember, you want to put yourself back in that moment, whether it’s something that happened today or years ago. That way, you will feel the gratitude rush over you.
You might not notice a significant change immediately, but as the weeks pass by, you’ll realize you feel better and are more grateful. Your health and social life should start to improve, and you should feel happier. You’ll also realize that you crave writing in your gratitude journal.
Get started so you can begin to reap these excellent benefits. Then, as your life begins to improve, share this idea with your friends. There is a gratitude journal movement happening right now, and you don’t want to miss out.
Cepeda, E. J. (2017, July 15). I was so anxious, but then I started a gratitude journal. Retrieved from washingtonpost.com: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/perspective-i-was-so-anxious-but-then-i-started-a-gratitude-journal/2017/07/14/763c6652-6735-11e7-8eb5-cbccc2e7bfbf_story.html
Courtney E. Ackerman, M. (2020, January 9). 28 Benefits of Gratitude & Most Significant Research Findings. Retrieved from positivepsychology.com: https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-gratitude-research-questions/#:~:text=Showing%20our%20gratitude%20not%20only,find%20to%20be%20grateful%20for!
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Krysinska, K. L. (2015). Trait gratitude and suicidal ideation and behavior: An exploratory study. Retrieved from psycnet.apa.org: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2015-47051-009
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