How a Gratitude Journal Can Improve Your Well-being
We are well into week three of our 60-day Challenge, and we are so proud of you for your progress so far. This week, we want to cover a topic that is pertinent to this challenge and your well-being: the benefits of a gratitude journal.
The word ‘gratitude’ is thrown around a lot these days, especially in the wellness community. A lot of times, we think of gratitude as being the same as thankfulness, but there’s actually a difference between the two. Thankfulness is a social norm and usually a response to someone doing something nice for us. On the other hand, gratitude is a feeling that happens on a deeper level and is strengthened with consistent practice.
Although practicing gratitude has become more popular in recent years, it’s a practice that spans hundreds – if not thousands! – of years. Scholars, spiritual leaders, and doctors throughout time have recommended gratitude to not only improve your mental well-being but your physical health as well! One of the most popular ways to practice gratitude is…you guessed it!...keeping a gratitude journal.
A gratitude journal is a log of all the things that you’re grateful for. It can be as small as feeling grateful for a cup of hot tea at the end of a long day, or something as significant as your loving family. The beauty of a gratitude journal is that it’s unique to…YOU!
Write down five or more things that you’re grateful for each day — you’ll start seeing the vast improvements in your life!
Improved Mental Health
When we change our thoughts to focus on gratitude, we literally change the way that our brain processes information, resulting in better mental health.
One of the most immediate and noticeable effects of using a gratitude journal is improved mental health AND happiness! When we take time to think about what we’re grateful for, we strengthen our ability to generate positive thoughts over negative ones. This is a phenomenon called neuroplasticity in which our brains literally change in structure as we change the way we think. Practicing this over time can foster positive thoughts and contribute to an overall sense of well-being.
Want some proof?! A study in 2020 found that people who practiced gratitude on a regular basis showed an improvement in their anxiety and depression symptoms. Another 2003 study showed that people who counted their blessings felt more optimistic in their life!
Better Sleep Quality
Incorporating a gratitude journal into your bedtime routine can help you sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed.
Sleep is one of the pillars of good health, and keeping a gratitude journal can help you improve your sleep quality! One of the things that impacts our sleep the most is stress. It’s hard to catch some quality ZZ’s when you’re worried about what’s to come the following day. If your busy schedule is keeping you up at night, your gratitude journal may be the stressbuster that your bedtime routine needs.
In a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, researchers found that spending 15 minutes or more writing in a gratitude journal before bed improved the quality and duration of sleep. By reminding yourself of the good things you have in your life, you are training your brain to redirect its focus at bedtime and clear your mind for a good night’s rest.
Expressing gratitude helps us recognize positive experiences and common themes across random experiences, which train our minds to think more creatively.
Looking for that creative spark? A gratitude journal can help you find it! Just like with sleep, stress is a big inhibitor for creative, out-of-the-box thinking. When you’re stressed, you revert to routine problem-solving methods because you are working in a survival mode type of state. If you think about the days when you were running around in circles, making zero progress, it’s not likely you will be in a creative mindset!
Expressing gratitude daily is a way to expand your perspective and to recognize more positive and meaningful details in your life. In other words, forcing yourself to remember the ‘positives’ rather than the ‘negatives’ can train your brain in a more positive way of thinking. Thanks to neuroplasticity, this type of thinking can help you feel more creative, intuitive, and innovative!
More Authentic Relationships
According to studies, people who practice gratitude are more likely to get along with others and feel satisfied in their relationships.
Not only will gratitude improve your positive outlook on life and emotional well-being, it will also improve your relationships with others. Gratitude is at the foundation in forming relationships because it’s essential in building closeness, trust, and strong bonds. This doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships either. Think about it: you are way more likely to go out with a happy-go-lucky-type person, than a “Debbie Downer” type. Practicing gratitude daily can help you become the friend everyone wants to have!
In terms of romantic relationships, expressing gratitude is a major determining factor of happiness in a relationship. One study found that partners who regularly expressed gratitude to one another had higher relationship satisfaction and were happier the following day. Sooo….don’t be shy…show your partner gratitude and watch the sparks fly!