There are few things in life that are proven to benefit us at every level but keeping a gratitude journal is one of those rare habits that is scientifically proven to pay dividends for our mind, body, and soul.
In fact, the benefits of gratitude journaling are so far-reaching and well-documented that we could surely write a book on the topic.
Instead, we’ve summarised some of the main benefits here. They include:
A gratitude journal can offer clarity on what you want from life. When you regularly note down what you are grateful for you will begin to notice patterns and can identify your main goals and priorities as a result.
In fact, people who keep a gratitude journal typically make significant progress towards their goals because, by recording the positives in their lives, they are signalling to the mind that this is something important. The brain’s reticular activating system, the part responsible for filtering and organising information, is then trained to be on the lookout for more of these blessings.
Simply, the more you focus on the positives, the more your brain is primed to seek out more of the same.
Improves feelings of life satisfaction
Don’t just take our word for it. Study after study shows that people who keep a gratitude journal are happier, more fulfilled, and experience improved well-being.
One study, that included a three-month gratitude journaling trial, found that the habit had a significant positive effect on wellbeing. Another concluded that gratitude journaling could increase positive emotions and encourage better life adjustment.
If you’ve used a gratitude journal before you’ve likely noticed it yourself: you feel happy and motivated when you start your day reflecting on the positives.
In fact, it’s beneficial even if you’re someone who isn’t naturally optimistic according to a study published in 2018. Research shows that, armed with a gratitude journal, you can cultivate a more positive outlook in as little as 10 weeks.
Gratitude journaling doesn’t just foster love and appreciation for the world around us, but for the people around us too. In fact, this effect can be so profound that it can inspire you to forgive and forget.
For example, a 2012 study found that keeping a gratitude journal allowed divorced parents to forgive their ex-spouses and take positive steps toward co-parenting their kids.
Research shows that expressing gratitude for others strengthens relationships and builds intimacy and closeness. It’s being grateful for the people close to us that allows those relationships to flourish.
Have you ever noticed how much clearer you feel when all of your thoughts are out on paper? That’s because recording the positives can make you more solutions-focused. Rather than seeing problems and barriers, we open our minds to new possibilities and are more likely to spot a way forward.
Not only is gratitude journaling proven to reduce stress and anxiety, both of which can prevent us from taking positive steps forward, it increases the volume of grey matter in the brain, the part responsible for decision-making, among other things. Gratitude, therefore, makes us more efficient and effective problem-solvers. It’s a surefire way to ward off decision fatigue.
Provides stress relief
You can’t be angry, stressed or sad in the same moment you are grateful, so it makes sense that gratitude journaling is a proven way to relieve stress. When you focus on something positive – and clear your mind of anything but that thought – tension melts away and your energy shifts.
In fact, a study from Harvard suggests that students who regularly kept a gratitude journal were 27 per cent less stressed than those who didn’t. Gratitude journaling at night is also said to promote feelings of calmness before you go to sleep.
When you put pen to paper, you’ll feel this for yourself. The tension lifts from your shoulders and gives way to a calm contentedness that can be incredibly grounding and liberating.
That’s not all. There are many other gratitude journal benefits, such as:
Cultivates emotional resilience. That means you’ll be able to weather rough patches with more ease.
Helps to shift your perspective from negative to positive, improving your mood as a result.
Provides a safe space for reflection where you can learn about yourself and what’s important to you.
Encourages ritual creation and may help you establish healthy personal development habits.
Boosts happiness and optimism.
Strengthens your relationships with others.
Offers support and an instant pick-me-up when you’re feeling down or stuck in a rut.
Improves mindfulness and helps you appreciate the present moment.
Serves as a magnet for more blessings to enter your life.
Encourages you to always look on the bright side.
Improves the function of your body’s immune system.
The research is clear: keeping a gratitude journal can benefit you on every level and improve you physically, mentally, and spiritually. You only need to pick up a pen and start the habit.