You have likely heard of a Gratitude Journal. Gratitude has long been a topic discussed in church, so it’s quite understandable if you equate the topic with church or religion. But I’m not talking about a deeply religious experience here. Gratitude isn’t actually about religion or faith at all. It’s about YOU and the life-altering Benefits of a Gratitude Journal. According to several scientific studies, Gratitude is directly linked to our level of happiness. It’s a simple, daily exercise that can have profound effects on one’s outlook on life. And the effects begin almost right away.
Gratitude is a powerful tool that is easy to implement and comes with huge rewards in all areas of our life. There are much more than just ten benefits of a gratitude journal, but to keep things simple, I’m going to focus on just ten of them.
The Top 10 No-Fluff Benefits of a Gratitude Journal
Practicing Gratitude has been shown to…
- Make Us Happy – we learn to appreciate what we have and what we’ve accomplished vs. always reaching for the next best thing to make us happy. The effects of this shift in thought can be noticed in a matter of days.
- Increase Self-Esteem – gratitude teaches us to appreciate ourselves, the things we accomplish, our skills, and the things that make us unique.
- Make Us More Compassionate – by shifting our outlook on how we perceive the world around us, practicing gratitude can make us nicer, more trusting, and more appreciative of others.
- Improve Our Sleep – gratitude has been shown to decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, increase sleep quality, and even increase your sleep duration. When we’re more relaxed and less worried, we get better sleep. This reason alone should be enough to give it a try. Gratitude could be your new, free sleep-aid.
- Increase Our Energy – studies show a strong correlation between vitality and gratitude. Those who practice gratitude report higher levels of physical and mental vigor. This is another great reason to practice daily gratitude. Who couldn’t use an energy boost?
- Lower Stress – through gratitude, we gain compassion which in turn enables us to be more patient and more relaxed in everyday situations.
- Improve Social Behaviors – when we appreciate our friends, family, and co-workers, socializing becomes easier and more natural. People want to hang out with us more and vice versa. A study on the role of gratitude in the development of social support found that “gratitude led to higher levels of perceived social support, and lower levels of stress and depression.”
- Amplify Productivity – humans naturally perform better when they are happy. If you work for an HR department, you know this well. Corporations are always trying to figure out which benefits will make employees the happiest. Happiness = Productivity. Maybe companies should start providing employees with Gratitude Training and explain the benefits of a gratitude journal.
- Stimulate Goal Achievement – In one study, participants instructed to keep a gratitude journal for two months reported more progress toward their goals.
- Enhance Decision Making – gratitude improves our self-esteem, and when we feel better about ourselves and have more confidence we are better at making decisions. The task of making decisions becomes easier for us.
According to a study published in a report titled Positive Psychology Progress, spending just 5-minutes a day writing in a gratitude journal can increase a person’s long-term well-being by more than 10 percent. Yikes! That’s huge! To give you some perspective, receiving a raise that doubled your income would create a similar effect.
How Can a Five-Minute Activity Have Such An Impact?
Alex Korb Ph.D. summed it up nicely with this statement, “Gratitude can have such a powerful impact on your life because it engages your brain in a virtuous cycle. Your brain only has so much power to focus its attention. It cannot easily focus on both positive and negative stimuli. It is like a small child: easily distracted.”
I’ve heard that same type of explanation for the emotional response of anger vs. calmness. We can’t do both. Focus on one, and the body and brain will follow. The brain is a muscle. Like any other muscle, it requires exercise and practice to learn new skills. Muscle memory can be achieved through a lot of repetitive action.
The Happiness Gap
Humans are goal-oriented beings. We always set goals, including our goal of “happiness.” Goals are a great way to accomplish things, but the long-term effect is not withstanding. Why? Because we get used to them.
Let’s look at the example of a doubled salary
Pretend that when you went to work today you were making $55,000 a year. Not too shabby, right? Your boss pulls you in and offers you a promotion that will change your salary to $110,000 a year. Whoohoo! You’ve just hit the jackpot and you are feeling fantastic! Now you can finally buy that house you’ve always wanted or that sports car you’ve been drooling over for years.
Okay, now fast forward 6 months from now. You’re pretty comfortable with your new life and level of income. You bought that sports car and you’re in the process of signing papers on a bigger house. Fast forward another year. You now have the house and the sports car and you’re thinking about a pool or the next promotion. You see where this is going? Goals are just that. They’re goals. The effects don’t last.
We can earn a raise or accomplish a significant life event, but after not too long, that new, higher income, new status, or life event, becomes the new norm. We’re always reaching for that next best thing. Our happiness is always “after I graduate school” or “after I get that promotion,” or “after I get that raise” or “after I get married” and so on and so on. We create a “happiness gap” that we can never quite bridge because it keeps moving. Our goals never stop extending. As soon as we get close to one thing, that line in the sand called “happiness” moves forward again.
Gratitude, on the other hand, helps us appreciate the little things. It helps us to be grateful for all that we have accomplished and the things we currently have. Gratitude makes happiness something we already have, instead of something for which we’re always reaching.
If these 10 Benefits of a Gratitude Journal (and several more benefits not mentioned) aren’t enough to get you motivated, I don’t know what is.
Start a gratitude journal and see what it does for your overall happiness and well-being. All you need is just 5 minutes a day!
If you need more convincing, stay tuned for my next article which will walk you through HOW to Practice Daily Gratitude.
So what do you say? Are you going to give it a shot? If you do, please share your progress and what you think of the experience. Let us know if you think a daily gratitude practice is worthwhile.