What Is A Gratitude Journal: How To Give Thanks Every Day
In a recent post, I discussed the importance of gratitude and humility in my life, especially as I close one door and open another. Gratitude is the feeling of appreciation and thankfulness for what one has. I do a lot to remain grateful, primarily through prayer, meditation, yoga, and even the music I listen to. I’ve found starting on a note of thanks lends to a more productive, optimistic, and fulfilled day. In an effort to prioritize happiness as a daily ritual, I recently started keeping a gratitude journal. Unbeknownst to me, simple gratitude has long been celebrated for its monumentally positive physical, psychological and emotional gains.
Gratitude And The Brain
Numerous studies have researched the benefits of gratitude on the brain. Over the last decade, most have concluded that people who regularly express gratitude tend to be happier and are less likely to be depressed. The neurological rewards continue from there. A 2009 study by the National Institutes of Health found that giving thanks activates the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls bodily functions. The study also found that gratitude causes the brain to release dopamine, giving us a feeling of a natural high.
In 2015, researchers from Indiana University found that writing letters of gratitude improved participants’ mental health in as little as four weeks. The letters also helped to rewire participants’ attitude and shift their focus away from negative emotions and experiences. Further investigations have also proven that appreciation has also been found to decrease pain levels, improve sleep quality, and reduce stress and anxiety.
Beyond the physical benefits, research has also found that gratitude helps people deal with adversity and develop strong relationships. Other studies have linked expressed gratitude to work environments and romantic relationships. Employees who were thanked for their efforts by managers were found to complete more tasks. Romantic partners showed improvements in positive reflections about their relationship and also found it easier to express relationship concerns.
Why Gratitude Journal?
Thinking beyond my next steps in life, I started a gratitude journal for daily accountability. The act of being grateful has never been difficult for me; instead, I’ve often had difficulty remembering to be grateful. I hoped to change my tendency from only being grateful when life got to be too hard, to starting my day always on a high note.
My holistic health and spiritual health are especially important to me lately. From the media that we consume to the language that we use, outside forces impact our inner being. A regular practice of gratitude has altered my psyche towards the good in a way that is easy, efficient, and doesn’t require much beyond five minutes.
Thus far, using a gratitude journal has definitely been an added bonus in my daily routine. I use a simple notebook that I date each day. Some days are as simple as “I am grateful for the sun today,” while others go into greater detail. Either way, no act or item is too small in my daily reflection. In fact, some of the “small” things I am grateful for have brought me the most joy. Most importantly, I don’t second-guess the things that I am grateful for.
My act of expressing gratitude is primarily for myself, taking off the subsequent pressures of wondering what people will think. Much like daily journaling, it has been an immense catharsis, specifically one that focuses on positivity. Through maintaining the journal, my mindset has even shifted around challenging and difficult experiences. I am now able to say “I am thankful it happened because it taught me an important lesson.”.
On Consistent Gratitude
Having a journal has allowed me to be consistently grateful, most days. The journal’s very presence has served as a physical reminder to be thankful for my blessings. On the days I’ve forgotten, It has also allowed me deeper reflections on gratitude and generally my emotional wellbeing that day. Dating each post prompts me to see how many days I have gone with or without giving thanks. What has my emotional state been? Have I had a lot going on? Did I process that event in the most healthy way?
Journaling has given me accountability for my own wellness and has inspired other kinds of self-reflection. Not only do I have a lot of objects or people to be thankful for, but the added clarity has struck an internal chord. I must also be grateful for myself, my body, and how I’ve grown on my own journey. I have also begun telling others around me that I am grateful for their kindness and it feels good to spread that positivity.
Every day I get up and write three things I am grateful for. It has been the best and simplest gift of positivity and resistance I have given myself. If you’re looking for ways to be more grateful, a journal is a great way to start. As an added bonus, I’ve also shared a playlist on all the things we can be thankful for.
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