Having an attitude of gratitude isn’t always easy, especially when – at least on the surface – it might seem as if there’s really nothing to be grateful for. But here’s the thing; there’s always something to be grateful for, and that’s where a gratitude journal comes in.
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Of course, we’d all be grateful for a big win on the lottery, or an exotic holiday, or something else which is equally life-changing. However, as the saying goes, you can lose the moon while counting the stars, with the moon being the wonderful, small, and plentiful blessings which happen every day.
But even if you have spent a lifetime of missing those simple blessings, don’t despair. This article will show you how to change your mindset through using a gratitude journal, and 20 ways in which it can cultivate positive personal change.
1. Gratitude Journaling Increases Happiness
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By its very nature, keeping a gratitude journal brings some of the good things in your life into focus, it directs you to sift through your day and pick out some of the best points. By choosing those good things, you are highlighting the fact that there are many things to be grateful for, and the only effect that can have on your psyche is to make you happy.
(Also read: 36 Happy Quotes to Make Your Day (And Life) Better)
2. It Makes you More Optimistic
By focussing on the better parts of your day, you begin to see that actually, life is pretty good. Okay, so your boss might be a pain, or you might have to wait another few months before you can afford that car, but what about all the great things you already have?
You begin to see that, despite those little niggles, there are some brilliant things in your life, and this in turn will make you more optimistic that even more good things are on the way.
3. Relationships Grow Stronger
We’ve all taken the people in our lives for granted, but once you learn to stop doing that, magical things happen. When you are writing in your gratitude journal, think about the people in your life and write down not just who you’re grateful for, but why.
Doing this will invoke warm feelings towards that person, and you will automatically begin to show that gratitude to them. This, in turn, will cause them to reciprocate that appreciation taking relationships – whether spousal, parental, or professional – in unexpectedly beautiful directions.
4. Your Self-Esteem Will Increase With Daily Journaling
Choosing a quiet time to write in your journal will give you the opportunity to just be ‘you’, and this will have several benefits.
- You will be honest with yourself about what you’re really feeling – your journal is for your eyes only, so there’s no need to embellish or fabricate things.
- You won’t compare yourself to anyone else when you write, because there’s no-one to compare yourself to! It’s just you and your thoughts. There’s no competition and no judgement, so you can slowly become the real, authentic person you are.
- As you begin to notice all the wonderful things in your life you will come to see that actually, you have it pretty good. Okay, so Michael in accounts has the latest sports car, but does he have the happy relationships you have, or the fun-filled holidays surrounded by family?
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This isn’t comparing yourself, it’s noticing the different blessings you may have taken for granted before.
- Grateful people are, by their very nature, happier, and when you’re happy you feel good about yourself. This will increase your self-esteem no end, because isn’t happiness the very definition of success?
5. Gratitude Journals Will Help You Will Sleep Better
The best time to write an entry in your journal is just before you go to sleep, not least because that gives you the full day to ponder over and choose your favorite parts from. But this has a knock-on effect. By filling your mind with gratitude-worthy events at bedtime, you will go to sleep with a head full of positivity, which leaves little room for those niggling worries which can keep sleep from coming.
6. Gratitude Can Keep Stress at Bay
Stress might be a natural part of life, and in moderate amounts can even spur us on to do bigger and better things, but too much stress can be a killer. According to Robert A. Emmons, a psychology professor at UC Davis, people who keep a gratitude journal have 23% less stress hormones in their body than those who don’t.
7. Being Grateful Can Boost Your Immune System
A study was conducted into the effects of gratitude on the immune system in first year law students. Those with a more optimistic attitude who practiced gratitude had a higher number of immune-boosting blood cells, compared to those with a gloomier outlook on life. So being grateful can protect you from falling ill, and that is something to be very grateful for!
8. It Keeps Your Heart Healthy in More Ways Than One
As we’ve already seen, practicing gratitude is a surefire way to make the heart sing, but it can also have a profound effect in a clinical setting, too. A 2017 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine found that, incredibly, patients with stage B heart failure who kept a gratitude journal showed reduced inflammation over those who didn’t.
9. Gratitude Increases Happy Hormones
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Have you ever heard someone say they’re ‘high on life’? Well, that’s not just an expression – it really does have its root in science. Being grateful is one of the best ways to achieve it because it releases ‘happy hormones’.
- Serotonin works in the same way as antidepressants that spur the ‘happiness center’ of the brain into action.
- Dopamine is the substance which produces good feelings and makes you want more of the same, meaning that once you start feeling grateful, you will naturally want to keep doing it.
10. It Makes You a People Magnet
Being someone who is genuinely grateful for the things in your life will make you irresistible to be around, because happiness and positivity is infectious. When you’re in a positive, grateful mindset, you’ll leave people feeling better than when you found them, and that’s a beauty which goes far deeper than skin. You’ll make people feel good, which in turn will make you feel good.
11. Gratitude = Strength
The ability to see the good in any given situation, no matter how bad, can determine how you bounce back from adversity. Traumatic events can have a profound and sometimes lifelong effect on our lives, but the ability to find something to be grateful for, even in the most difficult of circumstances, will enable you to be able to deal with trauma in a healthy, non-detrimental way.
12. You’ll be Less Materialistic
Of course we all want nice things in our lives, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t, but when it becomes an all-consuming want, it can destroy our happiness. By learning to be grateful for what’s already in your life, you will become less focussed on what you don’t have, and more focussed on what you do have, which will remove those feelings of want, want, want.
13. We Become More People-Centered When We’re Grateful
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Being grateful can be just as effective as therapy, and in some cases even more so. While therapy works to make you feel better about yourself first and foremost, practicing gratitude shifts the focus onto other people – their kindness, their love, their generosity; all the things you are grateful for. So you think about them more, and yourself less, which is a lovely trait to have.
14. It May Give you a Few More Years
While it’s a fact that none of us can live forever, being optimistic (which comes from appreciating the things you have) has been shown to increase lifespan, possibly by up to a few years. And when you’re happy with your lot, who wouldn’t want to enjoy it for a little while longer?
15. It Makes You Realize That No Man is an Island
A lot of people will put their success in life down to themselves and only themselves, which can make them a little narcissistic. What gratitude teaches you is that your happiness is dependent in some measure on other people’s kindness and generosity and that’s no bad thing, because this in turn can make you more open and accepting of other people in your life.
16. Appreciation Can Rewrite Memories
Suppose you have a memory of being a child on a vacation with your parents, and you’re sitting on a beach and it’s freezing cold and they had no money to buy you a hotdog. Gratitude can re-shape that memory; shouting into the wind at the beach with the parents you love, all cuddled together against the cold and sharing one portion of fries; it’s the same memory, just re-framed into something much nicer.
17. It’s Your Own Private Marriage Guidance Counsellor
Sometimes, after years of being with the same person, you can lose sight of the hundred lovely little things they do because of the one thing which really annoys you. Start to look for and recognize the little things which often go unnoticed and the other things will pale into insignificance.
18. If You’re a Boss, it Will Make Your Staff Work Harder
Writing down all the things your staff have done that you’re grateful for will make you appreciate them more, which in turn will show in your attitude towards them in the workplace. And when someone feels appreciated, they will strive to please you, which will be reflected in their performance.
19. Being Grateful Makes you Beautiful
Imagine a pair of identical twins – one is bitter and unhappy, the other is appreciative and positive – which one is more beautiful? Happiness shines from the inside out, and that beauty will always be reflected on the face of a happy person.
20. Life is Just Way Better When You Practice Gratitude
We only get one chance at life, so why spend it being miserable when you can literally train yourself to be the opposite in just a few minutes per day? By keeping a gratitude journal, you will begin to notice so many wonderful things to be grateful for that you just didn’t notice before:
- The beautiful blue of the sky
- The way the birds sing
- The smell of rain on dry ground
- The fact that you can afford to buy a certain brand of food
- A dry roof over your head
- Heating to keep your family warm
- A cuddle
There are a million things that we take for granted, and while it might sound a little ‘out there’ to feel gratitude for some of these things, just challenge yourself to keep a gratitude journal for a month and before long your life will feel fuller than it ever has before.