Last updated on 9/4/2020
This article is part of the Wellness Strategies Series
Problem: You Feel Pessimistic
Strategy: Start a Gratitude Journal
Establish the practice of gratitude by consciously reminding yourself of the positive experiences in your life. End each week by reflecting upon and visualizing its best parts. Recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary (e.g., waking up in the morning) as well as extraordinary (e.g., winning an award) events. Also reflect upon your personal attributes and the valued people in your life.
- In your journal (not in your head), record 5 things in your life for which you are most grateful. Be specific and elaborate in detail. For specific writing tips, visit the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.
- Don’t rush through this exercise as if it were just a superficial list. Reflect on the feelings associated with each item and elaborate on its significance.
- Don’t just go through the motions; make a conscious decision to become happier and more grateful.
- Studies suggest that journaling three times per week may have a greater impact on our happiness than journaling everyday.
- Repeat this exercise at least once per week for at least two weeks
Why it Works
Clinical studies have shown practicing gratitude is associated with higher levels of subjective well-being and positive emotions. Compared to control groups, individuals who focus on gratitude demonstrate less negativity, higher levels of optimism and life satisfaction, better sleep quality, stronger immune systems, and greater connectedness to others. These results suggest that a conscious focus on gratitude can provide important emotional and interpersonal benefits.
- Purchase a ready-made gratitude journal (e.g., Daily Gratitude Journal, The One-Minute Gratitude Journal)
- Get crafty and make your own (e.g., DIY1, DIY2)
- Create a Word document on your computer or notepad.
- Download a mobile phone app (365 Gratitude, Bliss, Gratitude Garden, Happyfeed)
To learn more about gratitude research, view “The Science of Gratitude,” a short video summarizing the many health benefits of practicing gratitude:
Emmons, R. A. & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1687
Froh, J. J., Sefick, W. J., & Emmons, R. A. (2008). Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-being. Journal of School Psychology, 46(2), 213–233. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2007.03.005
*Image: Karolina Grabowska