Gratitude journaling is an increasingly popular practice where you write down what you appreciate. Instilling the habit of being grateful for all you have and the people in your life has many benefits.
Research shows that keeping a gratitude journal literally rewires your brain, improving your physical and mental health, and building your personal and professional relationships with others.
These benefits increase if you journal weekly and the longer you continue the practice.
Explore the different benefits of gratitude journaling:
7 Ways Gratitude Journaling Changes Your Brain
The extraordinary benefits of gratitude journaling are caused both consciously and subconsciously. The subconscious benefits result from changes to your brain as you rework neural pathways to express gratitude.
Psychologists and neurologists show that focusing on gratitude trains your brain positively and has the following lasting impact:
- Brain activity when expressing gratitude differs from brain activity linked to expressing negative emotions, so your behavior influences which areas of your brain are active.
- Feeling grateful increases neural sensitivity in the prefrontal cortex, the locus of decision-making and learning, showing that expressing gratitude teaches you to communicate more gratefulness.
- Expressing or receiving gratitude floods your brain with oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, the so-called happy hormones. These chemicals connect your behavior with a reward of feeling good and associates gratitude with love.
- The more you practice gratitude, the more happy neurotransmitters your brain releases, training your brain to repeat the gratitude-expressing behavior.
- Your experience of gratitude becomes more intense the more you practice it as new neural connections are made.
- When negative emotions are triggered, your brain loses the ability to make executive decisions, including the capabilities to think logically, rationally, and reasonably. You want to avoid these pathways.
- The act of journaling engages your logical left brain while allowing your creative right brain free rein in developing intuition and imagination.
18 Mental Health Benefits Of Gratitude Journaling
Several studies show that regularly recording gratitude has innumerable benefits to mental health, even in chronic sufferers of anxiety and depression.
The contribution of gratitude to mental health is so significant as to be equivalent to counseling and therapy.
Benefits may not be noticeable immediately but will grow over weeks and months, according to experts.
A gratitude journal:
- Offers a safe space for reflection.
- Helps you to reframe memories as positive rather than negative.
- Creates a joyful memory resource to turn to in times of low mood.
- Develops self-awareness, perspective, and insight, improving self-worth and self-esteem.
- Shifts your attention to positive aspects of life rather than ruminating on toxic experiences and emotions (e.g., regret, jealousy, and sadness), leading to poor mental health.
- Helps you to identify what is necessary for your mental health and to cut out negative aspects of your life, such as toxic feedback loops.
- Unshackles you from toxic emotions.
- Boosts positive mood and happiness by developing a sense of hope and optimism.
- Decreases materialism and thus negative emotions of envy, inferiority, mistrust, and resentment as you focus on the good in your life.
- Reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety, even in people who are not being treated by therapy or medication
- Promotes as great a sense of calm, peace, and relaxation as deep breathing exercises do.
- Builds up a sense of satisfaction with life.
- Increases personal resilience and coping skills as you note how you overcome challenges and rise from mistakes made.
- Celebrates the present, thus developing the practice of mindfulness.
- Is associated with spiritual growth and development, as gratitude is a virtue recognized by all religions and philosophies.
- Helps manage grief and trauma through an appreciation of what is left and the beauty of memories.
- Reduces suicide risk.
- Lowers chance of substance abuse.
20 Physical Health Benefits Of Gratitude Journaling
Keeping a gratitude journal benefits your physical health as your mental health improves and influences the functioning of your body.
Research and physicians’ experience show that keeping a gratitude journal for four to twelve weeks can improve your physical health in the following ways:
- Improves sleeping patterns by reducing anxiety-based insomnia.
- Reducing chronic fatigue and its unpleasant side effects, like exhaustion and lack of concentration.
- Increases energy, vitality, a sense of well-being, and overall zest for life.
- Lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
- Reduces symptoms of physical stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering blood pressure, and slowing heart rate.
- Boosts the immune system as stress lowers your resistance to illness.
- Reduces the risk of physical burnout and nervous breakdown.
- Lowers levels of cellular inflammation, especially in the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
- Increases a healthy appetite, moderate eating habits, and positive food choices as self-confidence and esteem grow.
- Lowers the risk of heart disease as stress is reduced and eating patterns improve.
- Minimizes the risk of stroke by lowering blood pressure.
- Cultivates optimism, which is associated with healthier aging and longevity.
- Shows a reduction in sensitivity to pain (especially headaches) as attention moves away from negative experiences.
- Increases a desire for exercise and the hormones released when active.
- Assists people in overcoming addiction by reducing the appeal of alcohol, cigarettes, and other substances to aid relaxation.
- Lowers blood sugar levels and reduces symptoms of diabetes.
- Improves respiratory health, and breathing becomes deeper and more regular.
- Reduces feelings of nausea and gastrointestinal distress associated with anxiety and stress, like IBS.
- Increases speed of healing and recovery from disease.
- Reduces anxiety-related habits like chewing fingernails.
10 Ways Gratitude Journals Develop Interpersonal Relationships
Focusing on appreciating others builds interpersonal relationships, even if we don’t express our gratitude to them directly.
Psychologists have found that long-term gratitude journaling, including writing thank you letters in the journal, improves relationships with others as it:
- Reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation.
- Does away with hostile emotions of aggression and irritation.
- Bolsters generosity and appreciation as you realize how others support, help, and love you.
- Helps you to understand who matters in your life and who creates negativity.
- Encourages patience and humility in relationships with others, so you treat them with more respect.
- Deepens existing social relationships by increasing the satisfaction of all involved.
- Strengthens family ties and happiness, especially marital bonds.
- Encourages the development of new relationships as you become less self-centered and increasingly friendly and kind.
- Cultivates compassion and empathy for others, encouraging charitable acts on a personal and social level.
- Increases desire to forgive others and heal broken relationships.
10 Work-related Benefits Of Gratitude Journaling
While keeping a gratitude journal will improve your personal relationships, it can also help you in your professional life by doing the following:
- Increases chances of a successful career through positive relationships with colleagues, especially when you recognize and appreciate their efforts and vice versa.
- Makes for more productive interaction with colleagues as you are less prone to aggression and one-upmanship.
- Strengthens professional ties via networking and mentoring.
- Makes you a better decision-maker and improves your personal productivity.
- Improves your engagement with your work, including focus, concentration, motivation, and attitude.
- Increases a sense of being valued and making an appreciable contribution.
- Develops a company culture where people can thrive and grow.
- Decreases work-related stress, tension, and frustration.
- Reduces the number of sick days.
- Creates a sense of corporate responsibility.
Now that you know the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal, you might wonder how to get started.
One effective way is to use gratitude prompts to help guide your reflections. These prompts can be simple questions or statements that prompt you to think about the things in your life that you are grateful for.
By regularly using gratitude journal prompts, you can experience the emotional benefits of gratitude and develop a more positive outlook on life.
So, whether you’re new to gratitude journaling or looking to switch up your routine, incorporating prompts can be a helpful tool to deepen your practice and cultivate a sense of gratitude in your daily life.