5 Ways Keeping a Gratitude Journal Will Change Your Life
Words by Lorraine Miller
In January 2010, I was at a low point in my life. My husband and I had been trying to become parents for five years. Our journey entailed everything from holistic health and IVF to adoption. Disappointment after disappointment had taken its toll on me. As a result, my relationships suffered, my health suffered, and my career suffered. I was stressed out, exhausted, and miserable.
Those who were closest to me tried to help. The main message I kept getting from them was to be grateful for what you have.
“You have such a beautiful marriage,” my mom would say. “Focus on that.”
“Just be grateful for your health,” a friend would say.
While these comments were well meaning, they lacked one crucial thing—how?
On paper, my life was amazing. I had a wonderful husband, a beautiful home, and a great family. But I wanted to be a mom and I wasn’t, and this one thing was causing me unbelievable pain. I found myself praying for a tool. “How can I be happy again?” I asked the powers that be.
My prayers were answered when I went to see a health coach and she recommended I start a gratitude journal. “Get a separate journal just for gratitude,” she said. “Write down five things every day you are grateful for and focus on the feeling you get when you write in your journal.” Then she added, “There can be no lack when you feel gratitude.”
She was right! In a matter of weeks my life shifted. I began feeling excited about things. I made new friends. I felt empowered to take chances. My relationships got better. My career took a new direction. Everything began to flow.
In May of that year, my mom died suddenly. We were extremely close and to this day I am certain that the shock of losing her would have destroyed me had I not already been keeping a gratitude journal. Since then I have focused my career on the power of gratitude. I became a health coach, a published author, a workshop leader, and guess what else? In 2013, I become a mom! My beautiful son is a true miracle, and a gift of gratitude.
Inspiring you to practice gratitude, so that you can benefit from this amazing tool, is now my passion. As a health coach, I love researching the science behind this age old ritual.
Here are five ways I have found that keeping a gratitude journal can change your life:
1. When you practice gratitude, your health improves.
Research shows that when people keep a gratitude journal, the stress hormone cortisol goes down by 23% (1). This is super important because too much of this stress hormone can wreak havoc on the body and lead to inflammation, hormone imbalance, brain fog, diabetes, and infertility among other problems.
Other benefits include smoother heart rhythms (2), increased immune response (think less colds and flu) (3), and a natural increase in neurotransmitters (4) that bring better moods, better sleep, and less food cravings, which can help alleviate depression and anxiety.
2. When you practice gratitude, you take better care of yourself.
In my book, From Gratitude to Bliss: A Journey in Health and Happiness, I ask you to include yourself on your list of things you are grateful for. By doing this, we shine a light on ourselves. We see our positive side.
In our culture, women especially tend to apologize for not being perfect and as a result overlook their own amazingness. This has got to stop, ladies! Men, too. Instead of worrying about all the things you did not accomplish today, let’s celebrate the tiny victories you did have— smiling at the waitress who serves your lunch, remembering to call your cousin on her birthday, and driving your kids to school are all important tasks worthy of appreciation!
3. When you practice gratitude, your relationships improve.
Bottom line? Gratitude is contagious. The more you ground yourself in the positive, the more it trickles out to those around you. Those closest to you will notice a subtle shift in you, and will be naturally inspired to follow your lead. As you show appreciation for family, friends, and coworkers, they in turn will show appreciation for you, creating a more supportive environment.
A simple thank you to your spouse for remembering to schedule the gardener, and to your child for cleaning up his toys, creates a wave of gratitude throughout your home. Expressing appreciation for a coworker who organizes a group lunch helps everyone feel more grateful.
4. When you practice gratitude, you become 20-25% happier.
My favorite piece of research shows that people who keep a gratitude journal report becoming 20-25% happier after just a few weeks (5). Who doesn’t want that? By becoming more resilient to stress we naturally feel better and can enjoy our day more than when we are stuck in negativity.
But here is how keeping a gratitude journal helps us on a deeper level: by writing down those things that make us happy every day, we bring those things to the forefront of our mind. This not only allows us to reap even greater joy from them, but helps us be more aware of what actually makes us happy.
Most people say they want to be happy, but haven't necessarily spent time figuring out what it is that makes them happy. Voila! Gratitude to the rescue. Simply look back at your journal after a few weeks and you will see that you are creating what I call your very own “blueprint for joy.”
Here’s an example of how this works: One of my clients changed her career because of her gratitude journal. Looking back she noticed how she often listed being around people with ethnic diversity. She was unhappy in her job and was able to find a new position at a major university working directly with international families.
5. When you practice gratitude, you make better decisions.
Once you get going with gratitude, you will notice decisions become easier. You know in your heart whether to train for a marathon or take on that work project. You know who you want to be with and what you want to spend your time doing, and you’re able to say no to things that don’t bring you joy.
The decision to eat healthier, get enough sleep, book that massage you’ve been needing, and do more of the things you love becomes easier too. The ultimate decision we ever make is the decision to be grateful.
I invite you to practice gratitude for 30 days and notice the miraculous changes that take place in your life. To make this easy, I created the free Gratitude to Bliss mobile app so you can give it a try right now. Enjoy!
(1) (2) (3) (5) Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Robert A. Emmons, PhD
(4) The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston’s Health Leader, An Online Wellness Magazine
About the Author:
Lorraine Miller is a certified health coach, award-winning author, and sought-after speaker for all things gratitude. Combining her work with her passion, Lorraine embraces her role as Chief Gratitude Officer for the planet.
She is the author of several books including National Geographic’s, A Year Of Daily Gratitude: A Guided Journal for Creating Thankfulness Every Day. Her work has been featured in Dr. Oz, The Good Life magazine, and NBC’s Daytime Columbus, among others. Lorraine is also the creator of the Gratitude to Bliss mobile app. Visit her at GratitudeToBliss.com.