If you need a little boost during your crazy busy days, think about keeping a gratitude journal. I know, it’s just one more thing on your to-do list, but the benefits are incredible! It’s too easy to join folks at work grumbling about their jobs and their bosses or finding fault with your husband or kids. Nurturing a sense of gratitude can help your relationships and your overall sense of happiness.
And you’ll be a lot more fun to be around!
People who take antidepressants are helped by increasing dopamine and serotonin in their brains, the neurotransmitter chemicals that foster good feelings. The act of being thankful actually works on your brain in much the same way; the same chemicals are increased when you feel gratitude.
Grateful people often experience more empathy toward people and are less likely to be resentful when someone is unkind.
Gratitude can actually reduce stress
A study published in 2003 in the Journal of Personality and Social Pathology found benefits of finding things to be grateful for after a traumatic event and as a result, people become more resilient. Have you been traumatized? Are you under a lot of stress? I have been traumatized and stressed at different times in my life and if I can be intentional to look for things to be grateful for, I think it helps me regain my balance and find joy.
This verse from James is a good reminder of where to direct our thankful hearts:
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17 New International Version (NIV)
Thank God for the little things! Just today I could write down:
- I’m grateful for a hot cup of coffee with cream.
- I’m grateful for my two spaniels Oskar and Oakley who snuggled by me and on me while I read the Bible this morning.
- I’m thankful that I live in a free society and can worship as I please.
- I’m thankful for the warmth and comfort of my sweatshirt.
- I’m thankful that the tons of snow we got this winter are melting.
- I’m thankful to see the branches wave in the breeze outside my window.
That was easy! What’s on your list? People who keep a gratitude journal tend to be happier. They learn to focus on the positive things in their lives and the act of writing them down helps them process their emotions. A good example of the positive impact keeping a gratitude dairy is the experience of Janice Kaplan in her book Gratitude Diaries. She chronicled a whole year of finding things to be grateful for and how it changed her life. Her book is like a breath of fresh air. If you’re wondering if keeping a gratitude journal is worth the effort I recommend her book!
Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s book called Choosing Gratitude – Your Journey to Joy is written from a Christian perspective and is also very good. She writes about how important it is to choose gratitude even when things in your life aren’t what you had hoped they would be.
Do you love bullet journals?
They offer a great format to list the things you are thankful for. If you are a bit wordier, add a paragraph and go a little deeper. You can write about why you are grateful or the struggle it is to be grateful for certain things and the joy you find when you choose to be grateful.
Here’s a pretty bullet journal that is laid out in dots in a grid to keep you organized. In just one to two minutes daily you can list what you’re grateful for.
Like any good habit, it takes some time and intentional effort to actually write in your journal. Do you have a special corner of the kitchen where you sit with your first cup of coffee? Put your gratitude journal there with your favorite pen so it’s one of the first things you see in the morning. Or put it on your bedside table so you can write in it before you go to sleep at night.
Writing in your gratitude journal can even help you sleep better when you focus on the positive things that happened that day. As you start journaling you’ll find yourself looking for things to write about during the day. Just thinking of things you’re grateful for will enhance your outlook. Becoming more positive will change your interactions with people and help you tune out the grumbles.
Adding a little detail to your journal entries will cause you to think a bit deeper and make it more likely you’ll remember what you’re grateful for. When I wrote about being thankful for my morning cup of coffee I could add that I’m grateful to live where I have easy access to a grocery store and the money to buy coffee and cream. Or that coffee helps me think more clearly in the morning as the cobwebs are cleared from a sleepy mind when the caffeine kicks in. That’s a pretty surface example, but you get the idea.
When you add something to your gratitude journal think about what emotions are associated with what you are grateful for
If I’m grateful for my dogs I can list what emotions they evoke. They provide companionship, they’re loyal and happy to see me which makes me happy, they get me out the door for walks which improve my mood and increase my daily exercise. Any detail and emotions will help you remember it in a more meaningful way.
Be intentional about nurturing a grateful heart. As we write the things we’re grateful for in our journal our hearts lift to the One who blesses us daily with so many good things.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.