Gratitude Journaling Benefits and Practices
Are you looking for a way to be happier? Looking for a way to feel satisfied, content, calmer, able to handle less stress, be liked by others, and overall have better health. On top of all that, you want to get all these benefits but you only have 5 to 10 minutes of your day.
Look no further than Gratitude Journaling. It sounds too good to be true or something out of an infomercial. But when you implement gratitude to your journaling you can have those benefits and more.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful or showing appreciation for things or others around us. Gratitude is simply being thankful for what is around us. It is a feeling that is created from within ourselves. It is an emotion that makes one feel happier. But unlike other emotions it is one that can be learned and developed. Some people generally feel an appreciation for the things around them and this comes natural. The best thing about gratitude is that it can be learned and it can be a habit we develop to help improve ourselves over time.
Unfortunately the world today through entertainment and social media makes it look like there is an emphasis on material objects. We see it on social media people showing off expensive clothes, cars or homes. This can mean envy, resentment, or even depression if we feel those people are living better. Gratitude can help us ignore those things and be thankful and glad for the life we have. It simply gives thanks for our health, friends, family, and things we have.
Benefits of Gratitude
Recently psychologists and researchers have been exploring the power of gratitude. In their research it is found there are benefits of practicing gratitude.
Gratitude Improves Happiness
In a study conducted by researchers with the University of California, Davis, found that the practice of journaling gratitude for five minutes a day improved their happiness by 10% versus the control group. This is a study by researchers Emmons and McCullough. They conducted three studies in their research on college students. Their research had students divided into three groups. One group reported on either daily or weekly things they were grateful for. The second group reported either daily or weekly hassles. The third group in the study varied from writing what ways they were better off than others or things that made an impact. In their studies the researchers noted that the gratitude journaling group reported a more positive mood, felt more optimistic for the upcoming week, and greater satisfaction from life. What this showed is that expressing gratitude through journaling improved positive thinking in the individuals expressing the gratitude thus improving their happiness.
Research has also shown that completing a gratitude program can increase self esteem. In a research paper written by Professors Emmons and Mishra the authors wrote that gratitude enhances the accessibility of positive memories. They wrote that gratitude boosts the retrieval of positive memories and closes unpleasant memories. They found that the closing of the unpleasant memories improved emotional health. They state that this better health could lead to one's perception of themselves can change to a healthier view. Another study has shown that those who completed a four week gratitude program report better life satisfaction and higher self esteem than a control group. Through this research completing gratitude will improve your self esteem by simply being thankful for your surroundings and people in your life. But it has also shown that because a person is focusing on the best around them they are less likely to be affected by the small setbacks that happen. They are less likely to be dependent on material goods and success.
Gratitude Improves Relationships
Gratitude can make it easier for people to like you more. This seems almost easy to understand. Just think in your own life. Who do you like being around? Someone who is happy you are with them and thankful for your time. Or the person who we call a Negative Nancy. Who is bummed out and complains about everything around them.
Researchers explained that grateful individuals are less likely to engage in unhealthy comparisons toward others that results in envy or resentment toward other people. Grateful people on the other hand focus on the positive contribution of other people. Grateful people focus on the favorable traits. These traits help strengthen and build existing relationships they have with others. Because there is that lack of envy or resentment a grateful friend sees the positive and wants to improve that relationship for the better of the friendship. They also show that those who are grateful are perceived as more trustworthy. Being a more trustworthy and appreciative person would make a better friend. These character traits have shown that those who are grateful have a wider social network and more friends than average people.
Gratitude is highly desired in romantic relationships. A study referenced that there is a link between gratitude and attachment security to partners. That is if a partner is grateful the other partner feels secure in their relationship. This security improves the perception the partners have for each other. In short, each partner is happy with each other. As we explained earlier the positive behavior that improves with gratitude would make a better partner.
Gratitude Improves Physical Health
In the study referenced earlier by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough reported that the participants who wrote about things they were grateful for just once a week for the ten weeks reported fewer physical ailments. One positive side effect from keeping a gratitude journal is that in another study those who were more grateful reported sleeping longer and having better sleep quality than before. By reporting the positive emotions of gratitude at nighttime before going to bed people went to sleep with better positive thoughts than usual. Several studies have shown that gratitude will lead to better sleep habits. Since sleep is so vital to your overall health just improving this aspect in your life will lead to lower risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.
We all hear that how we think of ourselves and the world around us can affect the body. Gratitude has been associated with higher levels of HDL which is the good cholesterol and lower levels of LDL which is the bad cholesterol. According to UC Davis Health grateful people have 16 percent lower diastolic blood pressure and 10 percent lower systolic blood pressure compared to those who are less grateful.
The optimism obtained through gratitude will help you live longer. In a study by the Boston University School of Medicine suggested that optimistic people are likelier than others to live to be 85 years or more. They found that those that are more optimistic had a 11-15% longer lifespan than those more pessimistic.
Gratitude can help improve your exercise goals. There has been studies that those who practiced gratitude were more likely to exercise than the control group. In one study, prior to the participants starting their gratitude journey were to list goals over the 10 week period. The gratitude group reported making more progress toward their goals than the control group. It could be because gratitude takes away those negative emotions and surroundings that people who exercise gratitude are drawn toward healthier behavior.
WHAT IS A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
As the studies indicated the best practice for gratitude is to make a gratitude journal.
A gratitude journal does not require a significant amount of resources.
Simply your journal and a pen.
So you should already have both your journal and your pen. All you need is a few practice reminders to help you gain the benefits of a gratitude journal.
PRACTICE TIP 1: Choose a Time to Write In Your Gratitude Journal
It is always best to schedule a certain time of day to write out what you are grateful for. The best time of day is really up to you. But based on the studies discussed above they found that to gain the most benefit is to write out your gratitude at the end of the day.
Focus On What you are Grateful For Before you Go To Bed
It is suggested based on the studies that at the end of the day simply list three to five things that one is grateful for. The main reason is you want to use those positive healthy emotions right before you go to sleep. Some ideas of gratitude could be: I am grateful for:
· Running water
· Something good that happened to you
As you can see this list can be exhaustive. Remember you are not just listing items like a grocery list but you are genuinely grateful to have these items in your life. It is more important to focus on the quality of the item or event. As you write and reflect on this daily your gratitude will improve. So remember that it should be a reflective time on why you are truly grateful with what you wrote down.
PRACTICE TIP 2: Re-read What you Were Grateful to Start Your Day
It is also important you keep this in a journal. Whether it is part of your regular journal routine, a separate habit tracker, or in a separate journal. The reason you write it out is because you want to be able to re-read what you wrote out the night before when you wake up in the morning.
What a good way to start your day by focusing on positive grateful thoughts at the beginning of your day. With the proper gratitude journal you can have this healthy habit. As we discussed above to get to positive thinking it is important to reflect on positive events.
So when you are starting your day you remember from the day before positive aspects of that day you start your day in a positive way.
In addition, you are reinforcing your gratitude habit. By starting the day with gratitude you go through the rest of your day thinking in those ways throughout the day of what benefits happened to you that day.
PRACTICE TIP 3: Use Gratitude Prompts to Improve Discovery
Having trouble what to be grateful about. Use some prompts to get your thinking on track. Here are some prompts that have helped others in the past improve their gratitude journaling.
What is your greatest accomplishment
What is your greatest accomplishment today
What is your favorite childhood memory
What made you smile in the last 24 hours
What was your favorite part of the day
Who did you see today that made you happy
What was your favorite food today
Where is your favorite place to eat
What did you read today that made you think
What is your favorite month
What is your favorite season
What is your favorite possession
If you had to leave your house in one minute what item would you take with you
List three things you like most about your city
List three things you like most about your house
What is something you love about your mother
What is something you love about your father
What is something you love about your spouse
What is your favorite personality trait about yourself
What do you love about your friend
Where was your last vacation. What did you like about that place
What is your favorite book, why do you like that book
What is your favorite song, how does that song make you feel
What is something you recently fixed
What is something you have now that you did not have last year
Who is in your life now that was not in your life five years ago
Even though Gratitude is like an emotion it is a powerful emotion we chose to use or not. By practicing gratitude on a nightly basis and reviewing that gratitude in the morning you can improve your health and well being. But even if there are no benefits to keeping a Gratitude Journal it is a good habit to have that will keep you grounded and expressing thanks for those people and things around us.