Gratitude journaling is a simple act of recording and reflecting on things that a person is grateful for on a regular basis. The regular practice of journaling facilitates the rewiring of the brain and helps individuals focus on the more positive aspects of their lives, which builds resilience against negative situations and stressors.
In recent years, positive psychology has popularized the act of journaling due to its numerous mental health benefits. Practicing recognition of what we are grateful for allows us to increase our overall feelings of happiness and reduce symptoms of depression.
We have a tendency to focus on the negative aspects of our lives, from minor inconveniences to a lack of certain needs being met. A journal allows individuals to shift their focus to the abundance of goodness all around them, where they learn to appreciate the love and joy all around them.
Mental health benefits of a gratitude journal
1) Improved physical health
Our physical health has an enormous say in the condition of our mental well being, and gratitude journaling has been shown to improve physical health. Stressors negatively impact our physical body in many ways and journaling is a great practice to promote calmness within the body to combat the effects of stress.
Other physical benefits of gratitude journaling include improved heart rate, increased blood sugar control, decreased diastolic blood pressure, and fewer overall physical complaints according to a study by Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough of University of California and University of Miami respectively.
2) Increased self esteem
Self-esteem refers to how a person views themselves and evaluates their own strengths and weaknesses. We often compare ourselves, sometimes subconsciously, to our peers, which affects our self-esteem.
We tend to see the positive side of things when we write in a gratitude journal about what we are grateful for. This helps us feel less resentful of the things we don't have.
3) Stress reduction
Stress is neither good nor bad; it depends on how we react to it. However, chronic stress has been shown to cause numerous problems. By gratitude journaling on a regular basis, we remind ourselves of the positives in our lives and tend to stop dwelling on the negative.
According to multiple studies, journaling allows us to feel a sense of calm and stability even in the face of seemingly daunting stressors.
4) Improved sleeping habits
The amount of quality sleep that we get on a regular basis greatly improves our overall well-being and our mental health state. According to a study, one way we can improve our sleeping habits is through journaling.
Sometimes our minds wander when we try to sleep and it chooses to focus on negative aspects of our lives which makes it difficult to sleep. Practicing journaling where we focus on what we have to be grateful for calms our minds and facilatates sound sleep..
5) Improved social relationships
We are social creatures, and we require social interaction for our mental health and well-being. We need to feel acknowledged and appreciated and, likewise, extend the same to others.
When we express our gratitude towards other people through journaling, we experience a deeper connection and feel more satisfaction and affection. According to studies that have been conducted, the majority of interpersonal relationships, including those between couples and coworkers, benefit from this kind of journaling.
6) Increased optimism
It is easy in the modern world to see and hear negative news online, which can bog us down with feelings of hopelessness. These feelings can accumulate over a period of time and result in mental health issues like stress, anxiety, and depression.
One way to combat all this negativity we are exposed to and feel optimistic about the future is through gratitude journaling. According to research, journaling for even short periods of time allows us to regain our lost sense of optimism and feel positive about the present and the future.
Writing in a gratitude journal can seem perplexing at first, but the results of various studies show us that it is absolutely worth the effort. It allows us to recognize and reflect on the positives we take for granted, build resilience, improve our relationships, reduce stress, increase self-esteem, and most importantly, improve overall mental health and well-being.
Steve George Verghese is a trained psychologist with an MSc in Counseling Psychology from the Indian Institute of Psychology and Research.
Poll : Do you maintain a gratitude journal?