Will a gratitude journal help you live a better life? That depends. There are a ton of benefits from gratitude journals. And if you’re one of the lucky people who can fold these benefits into your life, then journaling is your path to a better existence.
Let’s be clear, journaling will not solve all of your problems, and it won’t prevent bad things from happening. What it can do is create a greater sense of calm and peace, but there’s more to it than even that.
Benefits of Gratitude Journaling
If you think that gratitude journals are nothing more than new age positive hopes, then the following proven benefits of gratitude journals will change your mind.
There are a lot of health consequences related to sleep: mental and physical. This is why getting a good night’s sleep is so important, but for some people, it’s hard to find that deep sleep they crave. Research says that gratitude journaling may hold the key to better sleep.
Before you sleep each night, pull out a journal, and simply jot down the good things that happened in your day. Skip over anything that makes you feel bad, and focus on the positive things. It could be something big like a promotion or little like the cafeteria serving your favorite meal.
In one study, keeping a gratitude journal helped people sleep 30 minutes more per night. Thoe 30 minutes add up quickly and can have a huge impact on health.
With the push toward living your own truth and accepting yourself, self-esteem is everything. The Journal of Applied Sport Psychology published a study about athletes’ self-esteem and gratitude. After six months, the results proved that athletes with higher levels of gratitude had increased self-esteem.
Reduces Stress Levels
Gratitude is so good at relieving stress that stress hormones, like the dreaded cortisol, can be up to as much as 23% lower in grateful people. By focusing on the positive aspects of life, the negative ones slip through the cracks, and their impact is much less powerful than in those people who don’t practice gratitude.
An article in Harvard Health Publishing entitled “Giving thanks can make you happier” looked at an interesting approach to journaling. They had one group journal about things that they were grateful for, and another group journaled about the things that upset them during the week. The third group was to write about events that had no effect on them.
The interesting thing about this study was that the gratitude group was not only more optimistic after 10 weeks, but they also felt better about their lives, exercised more, and had fewer visits to the doctor.
The Way You See the World Changes
When you are forcing yourself to chronicle the good things in your day, you get in the habit of noticing the good things and filing them away. That means that you’re not just taking note of those events at night, but you also get the added bonus of remembering them.
Good for Your Health
The “Today Show” took a look at gratitude journals, highlighting the ways that gratitude can have dramatic positive effects on a person’s health and life. They found that the practice of gratitude can lower blood pressure, improve immune function, boost heart health, reduce inflammation, decrease fatigue while boosting sleep, reduce depression, and more.
They cited a study where people keeping gratitude journals were found to have a reduced dietary fat intake. Not just a little bit, but a whopping 25% lower. That result alone can lead to a bunch of other health benefits not previously studied in relation to gratitude.
How to Keep a Gratitude Journal
The benefits listed here are just a few; there are many more. It could be that practicing gratitude and gratitude journaling is the single best thing you can do for your mental and physical health.
So how do you get started? It actually is just as easy as buying a notebook and spending about 15 minutes a night writing down the things that you’re grateful for.
But it’s easy to fall off the rails or simply forget, so the following tips can keep you on track with your gratitude journaling.
♦ Plan on it. Make sure you’re putting aside 15 minutes a night to journal. Set an alarm if you need to.
♦ Keep your journal in the open. Don’t tuck the journal away in a drawer; it’s too easy to forget when it’s not right in front of you.
♦ Don’t stop. If you’ve had a particularly great day, don’t stop writing after 15 minutes, just keep going.
♦ Set a goal. A good goal is to aim for something in the range of 5 to 10 things you’re grateful for each day. Some days it might be more difficult, and it might be very small things, but you should still be able to find at least five things.
♦ Give yourself a break. If you forget a day or you’re just too busy, don’t beat yourself up over it. Yes, you’re looking to establish a regular habit, but sometimes it’s just not possible to stay on track.
If you start today, you can begin changing your life for the better, simply by journaling your gratitude. It’s amazing what benefits you can reap by taking a mere 15 minutes out of your day to focus on the good things in life. In fact, you’ll gain those 15 minutes back by having a better quality of sleep.
Give yourself the power of positive thinking by trying gratitude journaling for two weeks. If you find that it’s not a burden and that you enjoy it, stretch it out over a few months to see if you notice benefits. You’ll then be able to track any changes or benefits, note them in the journal, and then add them to your daily thanks.
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