Author Melodie Beattie once said, “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” What’s even more fascinating is how scientists and spiritualists alike have studied the power of gratitude and find it to be a vital expression. Have you ever thought about keeping a gratitude journal? Here are some reasons why this habit might improve your overall wellness.
Why Gratitude Matters
While it’s certainly polite to say please and thank you, cultivating gratitude goes much deeper than that. The Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California, Berkeley, states that researchers define it more in these ways:
- “It’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”
- Additionally, gratitude helps us recognize that “the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”
Studies indicate that expressing gratitude brings about actual changes in the brain, impacting aspects such as decision making, cognitive ability, and social reasoning.
12 Reasons to Keep a Gratitude Journal
First, start with this GGSC quiz as a guide to help determine your level of gratitude. Then, consider the following ways keeping a journal helps you notice and express it more, whether it’s for a few minutes each day or a more in-depth weekly reflection.
- It cultivates a positive mindset. Focusing on what you’re thankful for helps improve your overall outlook on life. This shift in perspective—from lamenting what’s lacking to acknowledging and appreciating what’s present—improves mental health.
- Gratitude enhances happiness. Regularly noting things you’re grateful for has been linked to increased feelings of happiness and contentment.
- You can help reduce stress. We could all use more tools to decrease stress in our lives. Reflecting on what and who you appreciate can lower stress levels, promote a sense of calmness, and create a more centered state of mind.
- It improves your self-esteem. Recognizing the good things in your life can boost self-esteem and self-worth—which are often important in the early stages of recovery. You’ll reduce the tendency for negative self-talk and create a stronger sense of self.
- You’ll strengthen resilience. Not everyone is born with fortifying resilience that helps them bounce back more effectively from adversity or challenging situations. Most of us have to build it up brick-by-brick, and expressing gratitude puts you in the right frame of mind to do so.
- Gratitude improves mental and physical health. Journaling what you’re grateful for can be an effective tool in managing symptoms of depression and anxiety by shifting focus from negative thoughts to more affirming ones with a boost of “feel good” brain chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin. And some studies suggest that practicing gratitude is linked to improved physical health, too, including a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, and easier chronic pain management.
- You might sleep better, too. Taking time to express gratitude before bed can improve the quality of your sleep by calming the mind.
- Stronger emotional regulation. Regularly expressing gratitude helps balance emotions by fostering a sense of peace and contentment. This might help reduce a knee-jerk reaction to triggers and cravings, and quell negative emotions such as guilt, shame, envy, or resentment.
- Journaling enhances mindfulness. One of the key aspects of mindfulness is becoming more aware and appreciative of the present moment. This practice reduces worrisome brooding over the past and about the future. It might also spark more creativity and help you be more open to new ideas and possibilities.
- You have a tool to strengthen relationships. Gratitude journals can help you acknowledge and appreciate the people in your life, enhancing relationships and fostering deeper connections.
- It gives you a vehicle for self-reflection. Not everyone is into “navel gazing” but all of us deserve to recognize the value of personal growth and development over time and be thankful for all we’ve achieved.
- Gratitude encourages acts of kindness. Back to the point of acknowledging the good in life: the more you express gratitude, the greater the desire to pay it forward, promoting acts of kindness and generosity towards others.
Overall, gratitude journals serve as a simple yet powerful tool for promoting mental, emotional, and even physical well-being by fostering a mindset of appreciation and positivity.
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For more than 50 years, the board-certified professionals at Willingway’s Georgia and Florida locations have specialized in whole-person health. You’re so much more than a label or a diagnosis, and our philosophy to evidence-based addiction treatment aims to equip you with all the tools you need to be the healthiest, most successful version of yourself.