Gratitude journaling is hardly a new concept, but there’s a reason Oprah, the Dalai Lama, and every mental health professional under the sun continue to sing its praises. It works in helping you achieve a happier, better, more fulfilled life and it can take as little as 15-seconds a day to master. In fact, a study on character strengths found that gratitude was the single best predictor of well-being—how’s that for proof?
For some people, opening to a blank page and pouring out your heart and soul comes naturally. For others—myself included—the pen and brain just don’t sync up. However, when it comes to the practice of gratitude journaling, the “rules” are rather simple. While a poetic entry about all of life’s blessings will most certainly boost your well-being, a simple “happy note” about something that made you smile in a day is enough to reap all the powerful benefits that come from the practice—or try jotting three things you're grateful for first thing in the morning, or right before bed. Whether you’re an avid journaler, have dabbled once or twice in your notebook, or are in search of anything that promises to boost your mood during these trying times, here are eight powerful, expert-backed reasons that will motivate you to start a gratitude journal right now.
Boost Your Happiness
A daily dose of self-love goes a long way in improving your mental state. “Having a gratitude journal gives you something to look over and boost yourself up, especially on those days when life feels hard or that nothing is going your way,” says Domonique Bertolucci, the best-selling author of The Happiness Code. Whether you’re powering through quarantine life or back to regularly scheduled programming, taking a minute to celebrate a daily smile goes a long way in boosting your well-being. “Numerous research studies have found that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed,” she adds.
Showing gratitude and writing it down encourages you to focus on what you have in your life, rather than what is missing. This results in a release of dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters that are responsible for making us feel good and in turn, easing feelings of anxiety and depression. “It shifts your mindset from one of lack to one of abundance, and enables you to be more present and mindful as you begin to see the small joys in each and every day,” says Bertolucci. Similar to how regular physical exercise improves your strength and endurance, regular gratitude journaling can boost your ‘mental fitness,’ strengthening these neural pathways.
Change Your Perspective
A simple note about something you are grateful for can help to instantly change your perspective on the day. “You can easily go from saying you had a terrible day to realizing your day had some great aspects to it simply by looking back on the positive statements you wrote down,” explains Maria Pia del Castillo, licensed psychologist. “It redirects your attention away from negative things that might happen and refocuses your attention on positive things that have happened,” adds Bertolucci.
Relive Happy Moments
“When we immerse ourselves in happy thoughts, a past romantic moment, or an event that was exciting, it triggers endorphins and emotions as if it were happening again,” explains Sanam Hafeez, a NYC-based neuropsychologist and member of Byrdie’s Beauty and Wellness Board. “That little boost of happy can go a long way to resetting your mood and helping you find the joy in your life.”
Make Better Choices
“Recording positive thoughts, as opposed to negative ones, has shown to improve feelings, help you make better choices, and generally increase satisfaction in daily living,” shares del Castillo. It can also be the reason you subconsciously choose to fill your body with healthier foods, push yourself to do that at-home workout, or pick up the phone to call your grandma. “Once you get into the habit of daily journaling, it enables to be more present and mindful as you begin to see the small joys in each and every day,” explains Bertolucci. When your brain is prioritized to happy, the other elements of your mental, physical, and emotional health more easily fall in line to maintain those positive feelings across the board.
Build Up Your Resilience
"“Beginning each day by writing in your gratitude journal puts you in a positive frame of mind and makes you better able to deal with the ups and downs of your day,” explains Bertolucci. “When things do go wrong, you are able to cope much better because you are clear what is right about your life.” This goes a long way, especially today as we forge unchartered territory and are met with daily uncertainties that can easily rattle our happy meter.
“Taking time to stop what you are doing and write in your gratitude journal reduces stress by getting you out of your head and back in touch with your heart,” shared Bertolucci. Research shows that journaling allows your right brain—the side connected to imagination, visualization, arts, and intuition—to “free up” while productively engaging your left brain—the side of logic and analytics.
Studies continue to show a positive correlation between gratitude and sleep quality and duration. There’s something innately calming about the gratitude journaling practice that helps to ease the mind and proves especially beneficial leading up to bedtime. It’s also the reason to keep your gratitude journal on your nightstand and jot a happy note to yourself before tucking yourself in.