Gratitude Journaling

Why is it so hard to be grateful? Our old brain, which includes the brain stem and parts that sit on top of it, is wired for survival. Its goal is to help us survive at any cost. It scans the environment constantly for danger. When
survival was our primary goal, it served a great purpose; now, it gets in the way of being happy, cheerful, and grateful.

 

It gives us what is known as a negative bias. It makes it hard to focus on the positive because it’s perceived as unsafe by our brain.

 

Thankfully, researchers in positive psychology have been working on developing and studying ways to counteract that negative bias for decades now.

Some of the practices that help us be happier and look at the world more positively are gratitude practices. Gratitude journaling is one of those extraordinary interventions that takes little time but yields a tremendous benefit.

 


Additionally for people with adhd  and anxiety it seems it’s possible that it has and added benefit of improving well being by helping emotional regulation AND self motivation! One study suggests that studied the brain
regions involved in these processes were positively impacted by gratitude(

Kyeong 2017).

 

Gratitude practices such as gratitude journaling have been shown to lead to:

  • better coping skills
  • better self-confidence
  • improved symptoms of trauma
  • greater sense of purpose
  • greater focus on your goals

and

  • increased feelings of energy and alertness

To name a few.

 

Gratitude Comes at Strange Moments

Most of us have glimpses and moments where we can feel gratitude. These moments are times where you wouldn’t expect to. They can happen after a crisis is resolved or a disaster is narrowly avoided. You can feel grateful when you are
reminded of a painful experience from your past that you are no longer dealing with.  When a friend loses something dear to them or is going through a difficult experience and you can feel grateful that you  aren’t
suffering in the same way.

But what if you didn’t have to wait for these moments to arise to feel grateful? You can  develop a more grateful outlook on life in general. Studies on the heritability of gratitude indicate that gratitude is more determined
by things we have control over then our genes. This is good news.

Gratitude is an area you can work on to cultivate more happiness with fairly easy interventions. Research suggests that people who participate in gratitude journaling are:


Most of us have glimpses and moments where we can feel gratitude. These moments are times where you wouldn’t expect to. They can happen after you narrowly avoid a crisis or avert a disaster. You may feel grateful when you
remember a bad experience from your past that is over. When a friend loses something dear to them or is going through a harrowing experience, you can feel grateful that you aren’t suffering in the same way.

Robert Emmons, an authority on gratitude, describes several facets of gratitude. These areas will improve with gratitude journaling. 

Gratitude Journal Guidelines


A gratitude journal is a journal where you write about what you are feeling grateful for. You can do this online or in a notebook. There is no need to do this every day; a few times a week will suffice. The important thing is to
begin to train your brain against the negative bias and cultivate the trait of appreciating what you have . Gratitude can also help you start to see how we are interconnected and decrease your sense of isolation, similar to s
elf-compassion. 

You can do it wrong!


It’s essential not to use gratitude as a way to shame or punish yourself. I have heard clients who have a negative and self-critical voice use gratitude as a way to criticize themselves. They may scold themselves into trying to
feel gratitude.

 

Their self-critical voice may say things such as  “You should be grateful for this; others have less than you.” This is not the purpose of gratitude.

If this is how you are hearing gratitude manifesting, you are tapped into your self-critical voice and are not developing this helpful skill. 

 

What do I need to know when gratitude journaling?

  • Be specific. The more specific you are in your journal, the more significant the effects. It avoids gratitude fatigue and will give you the greatest benefit. 
  • There is evidence that the impact of journaling may be more significant if you write less frequently, so you don’t need to do it every day! You can do it every other day. 

So instead of writing: “I am grateful for the morning.”

Write “I am grateful for the warm rays of the sun and the chance to sit in my garden.”

  • Journal about things that you are grateful for that surprised you
  • Journal about how you are grateful for things that might have never happened. For example.
    ” I am thankful for my husband making me coffee each morning, and it could have been otherwise if I hadn’t met him on that dating site 20 years ago.
     Studies show that this is actually more effective than focusing on what you are grateful for that is in your life. 
  • Journal how things might have not been as good for you had this event not happened. 
  • Journal about people you are grateful for, and what you have received from them.
  • Journal about people who have helped people you love.
  • Journal about adverse outcomes you avoided escaped or prevented
  • Write about the opportunities you had on this particular day you are grateful for.

Gratitude journaling is just one of the many gratitude interventions. Give it a try and see if it doesn’t provide a great benefit to your life. 

 

Gratitude Journaling References

Emmons, R. A. (2013). Gratitude works!: a 21-day program for creating emotional prosperity
. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Photo by  Nathan Dumlao  on  Unsplash

Wondering if Gratitude is Helping?
Try this little scale to see your progress!

Satisfaction with Life Scale

Below are five statements that you may agree or disagree with.

Using the 1-7 scale below, indicate your agreement with each item by placing the appropriate number on the line preceding the item. 7 = strongly agree 6 = agree 5 = slightly agree 4 = neither agree nor disagree 3 = slightly
disagree 2 = disagree 1 = strongly disagree

In most ways, my life is close to my ideal ____

The conditions of my life are excellent ____

I am completely satisfied with my life ____

So far, I have gotten the important things I want in life ____

If I could live my life over, I would change nothing ____

 

  • 30- 35 Extremely satisfied
  • 25 – 29 Satisfied
  • 20 – 24 Slightly satisfied
  • 15 – 19 Slightly dissatisfied
  • 10 – 14 Dissatisfied
  • 5 – 9 Extremely dissatisfied

Leave this page for health benefits of gratitude

Gratitude journaling is just one of the many gratitude interventions. Give it a try and see if it doesn’t provide a great benefit to your life.

 

Gratitude Journaling References

Emmons, R. A. (2013). Gratitude works!: a 21-day program for creating emotional prosperity
. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.



Kyeong, S., Kim, J., Kim, D. J., Kim, H. E., & Kim, J. J. (2017). Effects of gratitude meditation on neural network functional connectivity and brain-heart coupling.

Scientific reports7
(1), 5058. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-05520-9

Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.