Some people find it very easy to talk to others about things that are bothering them. Others find it easy to open a fresh page on a journal and record all their thoughts. However, there are those who cannot do either. It seems that their brain finds it hard to find a synchronization between their minds and the hand holding the pen. Practicing gratitude journaling can be a huge help to such people.
In this article I will discuss the benefits of gratitude journaling. Why should you start practicing gratitude and finally how to use gratitude to boost your self confidence and lead a more positive life. If you wish to stay updated with all the tips and tricks of positive mind and living a guilt free life, please subscribe to Guilt Free Mind. Your subscription will allow me to notify you the moment the next blog post is released. This way you will never miss out on any of the updates from the blog. If you like to watch videos, please subscribe to the YouTube channel of Guilt Free Mind. Don’t forget to ring the notification bell.
Table of Contents
Why gratitude journaling is favored?
Gratitude journaling is favored by people because its easier, has a structure and does not take a ton of time. Thus, even when super busy, you can practice this form of journaling. Writing down a few lines about things that you are thankful for at the start and end of each day does not sound tiring and draining right? However, the moment your therapist asks you to journal your everyday life, it seems like such a huge task that you never land up writing even one page.
Gratitude journaling is for everyone. Whether you are an avid reader, writer or hate writing, the one form of journaling that will appeal to everyone is practicing and maintaining a gratitude journal. However, before I tell you how to start on this journey, you need to understand the benefits of expressing your gratitude.
Why should you express gratitude ?
In most cases, gratitude is associated with love, health and feelings of happiness. However gratitude is not restricted to only these three components of life. Gratitude exists in all parts and sections of ones life. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not depends on us.
Expressing gratitude can help you move towards a more productive and positive mindset. However, if you have never done gratitude journaling before, you may need a bit of hand holding to get started. But, there is no need to be afraid. I will help you every step of the way. Thus, remember to read the blog post all the way to the end without skipping over any sections.
Before I embark on why you should invest time in engaging in gratitude journaling, you must understand what is a gratitude journal in the first place.
Maintaining a quatitude journal allows you to appreciate your life more. In the current world, we are constantly riddled with stress, work-life imbalance, relationship difficulties, and tough decision making on an everyday basis. We not only need a way to unwind, we also need to a find a way to be thankful and kind to overselves. Most often, we forget the good things and only remember the bad instances.
A gratitude journal can help you see and focus on the the good things as well. This is much more than just maintaining a track of the good times of life. It can keep you motivated during dark times and show you that life is so much more then just a bed of thorns.
Why maintain a gratitude journal everyday ?
Everyday gratitude journaling has numerous benefits. When you write in your gratitude journal daily, you start to notice the little things that you otherwise missed. When life gets tough, you realise you still have good things going on in your life, even if they are small. , You learn to be kind to yourself. Even in the darkest of situation, you find the light.
Gratitude journaling vs regular journaling
In my previous blog posts, I have discussed the importance of journaling and how to start on your everyday journaling journey. The process of journaling daily has shown to boost self confidence. It also makes one better equipped to handle their past trauma and lead a more fulfilling life. If you add gratitude journaling to the foray, you take the journaling experience to next level.
Even if you are someone who does not journal every day or has never journaled before, a gratitude journal can be easy to start with and continue regularly. How you want your journal to look like is your choice. If you want a template, you can add it. Minimalist option is available as well. If you wish to decorate your journal and give it a happy appearance or go for a theme that depicts you, that is allowed as well. It’s your journal and the rights of creativity lie with you.
You get to decide everything when it comes to your gratitude journal. For example:
- How many gratitude points you wish to record everyday?
- What time you wish to journal?
- Whether you with to add images or not?
- Whether to do it digitally or use pen and paper?
The best part about gratitude journaling is that, if practiced regularly, it will become your personal set of notes that will allow you to boost your morale when the times are hard.
Proof from research that gratitude journaling is good for mental health
A study done in 2017 checked the effect of practising gratitude on one’s mental health. For this, students were used as study candidates. The students were divided into 3 groups. Of the three group, the first group wrote letters expressing gratitude to another person for 3 weeks. The next group was asked to describe their feelings and thoughts regarding their negative experiences. Group 3 was not asked to write anything. Throughout the duration of the study, all the groups were provided counselling services. After 12 weeks, once the study was concluded, the researchers found that students of group 1 showed an improvement in their mental health.
This study also showed that only expressing gratitude is not enough. Gratitude journaling when combined with i talk therapy gave better results. Furthermore, as part of the research, the researchers concluded the following:-
When we express gratitude, we start to disconnect ourselves from negative and toxic emotions. When we look for things to express gratitude for, own attention shifts from the negative and focuses on the positive side of things. Even though we don’t share the gratitude with others, it still helps. Since we focus on the positive things in life, we start to lead a life that is more fulfilling and satisfied.
The benefits of gratitude cannot be seen on a daily basis. However, when the times get tough, the gratitude will rise up and keep your mental health in check. You should look at gratitude like compound interest. The more you practice gratitude, the more positive your mental health will become overtime.
A study done in 2006, showed a positive relationship between feeling grateful and experiencing emotions of helpful, and kind behavior. The study concluded that:
- Expressing gratitude boosts a person’s helping attitude.
- People who are grateful, try to help their benefactors and strangers as well.
Another study done in 2018, showed the presence of an association between gratitude and self. It was observed that those who who experienced gratitude, delayed their future rewards for longer periods. This had a direct impact on their ability to save. In other words, gratitude can help you save money.
The benefits of gratitude journaling.
The studies mentioned above describe a few aspects and benefits of gratitude journaling. They do not showcase all of the benefits you reap when you regularly practice gratitude. Thus, in the – following sections you will come across every single benefit that gratitude journaling has in store for you.
When you practice gratitude journaling everyday, you invite positivity into your life. By writing down everyday, what you are feeling thankful for, you start to feel more positive and happy. This practice allows you to voluntarily look for things in your life that make you happy. People and things that were ignored before come into focus. In most cases we are aware of the good things going on in our lives. However, the awareness is in the subconscious. When you start to write down what you are thankful for, the awareness moves from the subconscious to conscious zone.
By choosing to be positive, you deliberately distance yourself from the negative thoughts and feelings.
Improvement in ones self esteem
Journaling regularly has also shown to boost self-confidence. When you start to express gratitude, you start to focus on even the small achievements of your life. This helps boost self confidence of the person. It also reduces the practice of social comparison. You realise that you are only competing with yourself.
This in turn reduces the feelings of jealousy, hatred and resentment towards others. When athletes were asked to practice gratitude, their self esteem rose up and they showed more trust in their teammates. This happened because gratitude journaling boosted their self belief.
You sleep better
Even if you only spend 5-10 minutes per day writing in your gratitude journal, it will improve your sleep quality. When you think of the positive experiences, you redirect the attention of your brain from negative to positive emotions. This way, you are less likely to feel worried and your mind will feel unburdened when you try to sleep. It will also help you sleep better and reduce the frequency of nightmares.
You feel happier
Happiness is a fleeting emotion. When you start gratitude journaling, you allow your brain to re-experience the happy emotions. When you acknowledge what made you happy, you feel more satisfied and your brain gets a rush of serotonin (happy hormone). Experiencing gratitude also allows you to lead a life of positivity and share this positive altitude with others. This in turn allows you to build stronger relationships with your friends and family. Those who practice gratitude journaling daily, have a more optimistic outlook and feel good about life in general.
In this fast paced, deadline filled world, it is impossible to believe that a person is not facing any stress. The constant deadlines, relationship difficulties, commitment issues, past traumas make it very difficult for a person to lead a stress free life. When a person regularly engages in gratitude journaling, they are better adapted to manage stress. Researchers have indicated that when one focuses on satisfaction and happiness, they are better equipped mentally to counteract stress. Such people have also been observed to be more grounded and display more ability to think logically.
When you display gratitude regularly you start to focus on what to have instead of what you want. The yearning to want more and more is controlled. This boosts the release of serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters. These two neurotransmitters make us feel positive about ourselves. Thus, reducing the feelings of depression and anxiety. If a person has been feeling negatively about themselves, focussing on the positive things in life can help them feel better about themselves.
The more you start to see the positive in your life, the more your brain learns to ignore the negative and see the positive in everything. Engaging in gratitude journaling every day is one way to exercise and train your neural pathways to recognise the positive and dismiss the negative things.
Change of perspective
One can find light even in the darkest of the tunnels. The only difference between those who get lost and those who make it through is perspective. When your perspective changes from seeing everything in a negative light to seeing the positivity in everything, you can find something good to hold on to even if you had a dreadfully terrible day. Once your brain has been programmed to see more positive things, it will be hard for it to drown you in negative thoughts.
A chance to relive happy memories
At the end of the day, when you make a note of all the good things that happened during the day, it is a chance for you to relive all of those memories whether it was a romantic memory, a happy one or an exciting incident. This recollection will trigger the release of endorphins in the body. The person not only feels happy, they also get to relive the memories one more time. The production of endorphin can reset your mood and allow you to be happy longer.
Allow you to make better choices
When people focus more on positive thoughts than the negative ones, they make better choices. This results in them being more satisfied in their work and personal lives. With this, people start to subconsciously make better choices like eat healthier, workout more, get in touch with old friends, spend more time with family etc.
Once you start journaling regularly, you see more than those who don’t. You start to see the little things that matter but always get ignored. You feel more thankful for your friends, the life you have made for yourself, the love of your partner and family etc. When your brain starts to prioritize being happy, the other factors like physical, emotional and mental well being start to fall in place automatically.
Make s you more resilient
For this you should start you day by gratitude journaling. This will put your mind in a positive frame. Thus, you can deal with the ups and downs of the day much better. Even if things do go wrong, you are in a better place and are mentally equipped to cope with it. Once, you have started to apply this principle to your daily life, your happy mood will not get rattled easily.
Boosts your mental health
The problem of mental health is very real. The social conformities and judgement of the people around us makes it impossible to lead a life free of stress. Toxic environment is every where. There is no way to escape. The internet is the most toxic place of all. Its filled with people who love to humiliate others. The internet alone is responsible for marry cases of depression, anxiety, PTSD and even suicide. Even if you cannot escape, you can still protect yourself.
Clinical Research data shows that gratitude journaling can be empowering. This is not just casual journaling. it has been observed that once a person started to engage in gratitude journaling, they felt less anger, associable, depressed, week emotionally and were in better charge of their emotions. Not only do these people experience more positive emotions, they also displayed more altruistic behavior, empathy, emotional warmth, better at companionships and more trusting behaviour. Such people also showed a lower chance of developing nicotine dependence, substance abuse, major depressive disorder, alcohol dependence etc.
When you practice gratitude you consciously start to acknowledge the good in every bad situation. Once you mind gets used to practicing gratitude daily, you subsoncious starts to delve into the past memories, even though they might be traumatic. You start to see the fact that you made it through and are stronger than ever before. Furthermore, you understand and embrace your defects, imperfections and brokenness. You start to feel more grounded, humbled and engaged.
Gratitude journaling helps with PTSD.
Studies have shown that those suffering from PTSD are not able to see the positive things in life. A study done on PTSD patients showed that those who practiced gratitude journaling regularly had better self confidence than those who didn’t. Furthermore, they felt more positive towards life.
When you start practicing gratitude, you look inwards for fullfillment instead of outwards. They realise that they need not look to others and superficial circumstances to feel fulfilled. All they need is right there inside of them. Understanding and relief, two factors which were missing from their life till now, re -enters. We start to realise that maybe certain things were not supposed to happen, maybe the universe has something better in-store for us. During this time, you also become more grateful and resilient.
Your motivation levels raise up, you feel more inclined towards your goals, and you understand that your true competition is with yourself, not anyone else. The goals you are aiming for is an addition to your life. It does not make up your whole life. You will find many things to focus on. This will help you recover from your past trauma and focus more on the present and future. Gratitude journaling has also shown to reduce self- alienation, and narcissistic abilities.
Gratitude journaling constantly reminds us that we have plenty to love and be thankful for in life. it is very easy to forget being thankful for the little things because we are always busy chasing the big goals. We tend to run behind our goal after the other. We forget to be happy and thankful for the little things like good weather, the food on our plates, the roof we have on our heads. Gratitude boosts our awareness and helps in self-acceptance.
Once you recognize that its the small things that make up the big things in life, you also start to empathise with others stuck in difficult situations. You learn to see things from the perspective of others.
You give and accept more love
Let’s state it as it is: positivity is attractive. People are more likely to feel attracted towards a person who sees the good in life and has a positive mindset. Those who are constantly making self-deprecation jokes are not very attractive for others.
In most cases, self-depriciation jokes is used as a coping mechanism. However, this boosts negative perceptions about oneself. Eg: – a person may constantly say that they ave leading a miserable life full of poverty. However, they may not have observed the other person who is literally living in a hand-to-mouth state.
Improvement in decision making and productivity boost.
Life has a tendency to throw curve balls at us. When a difficult situation strikes suddenly, people may feel that the universe is being unfair to them. They don’t deserve to suffer like this. Many people loose focus of the good things in life under such circumstances. However, how you view life is a matter of perspective. Perspectives can change. This is where gratitude journaling can help. It will keep you grounded and show you the positive aspects that are still a part of your life.
Gratitude journaling allows us to move from feeling like a victim to feeling like a survivor who can deal with any difficult situation. It allows us to see that we are not helpless, this is not the end of the world and, that we are going to be okay. This form of perspective allows us to keep our cool even in difficult situations and keeps as from engaging in impulsive decision making we learn to see the bigger picture instead of getting stuck in our short terms goals.
Gratitude also teaches you to appreciate the little things others do for you. This, not only engages other people, they feel good and it strengthens the bond you share with the other person. They respect you more for this behavior. They will also try and help you more.
With gratitude journaling you also have a chance of unleashing your inner creativity. Spark up the look and feel of your journal with stickers, drawings, doodles etc. However, draining is not the only way to decorate your journal. You can also write poems, short stories etc. Basically, whatever tickles your fancy can be put in the journal.
Whether you are a victim of past trauma, abuse or are simply finding it hard to adjust to the hustle bustle of daily life, allow gratitude journaling to be your saviour. Trust me, it will not disappoint. This will give you a chance to reconnect with the little things that we tend to ignore in our daily life. Noticing little things can change your life, boost productivity, enhance your self-esteem, allow you to make better decisions and finally grant you a positive outlook towards life.
Have you tried journaling or gratitude journaling? How has your experience been? Is it something you would recommend others to do as well? Why and when did you start with this form of journaling? Please share your experiences in the comment section. You never know who your story might inspire. It is time that we destigmatize the taboo of Mental health. We need help and we should get it without worrying what the society thinks.
If you found his post insightful and wish to stay updated with everything regarding mental health, please subscribe to Guilt Free Mind. Your subscription will allow me to notify you when a new blog post releases. If you like watching videos, subscribe to the YouTube channel of Guilt Free Mind. Remember to ring the notification bell. If you want to schedule an online session with me, you can reach out to me via the contact form. I will be happy to help.
See you in my next blog post