When you are working toward long-term goals, it can be difficult to maintain focus on the positive. If optimism does not come naturally to you, it’s easy to emphasize the obstacles and stumbling blocks rather than the progress you are making toward your goal. In order to keep your motivation high, it is crucial to acknowledge the wins. And the best way to ensure that you notice the good things in your life is to write them down. Keeping a gratitude journal has helped prevent us from missing all we have to be grateful for and kept our eye on the prize of our long-term dream.
Why Keep a Gratitude Journal
We keep a gratitude journal just because it feels good and it reminds us to be thankful. As it turns out, a number of scientific studies have shown concrete benefits of gratitude journaling. In 2015, Psychology Today published an article citing several scientific studies about gratitude which have shown, among other things, that gratitude improves physical and psychological health, improves empathy, and actually leads to better sleep. Last year, an article in Time Magazine added the benefits of patience, better relationships, and willpower to that list. Researchers at NIH have found the direct neurological causes for these outcomes. Gratitude increases activity in the hypothalamus (hormone levels and eating and sleeping control) and the brain’s use of dopamine.
So why not just think happy thoughts? There is value to translating your thoughts into whole language. In other words, simply thinking grateful thoughts is not as powerful as writing them down. Additionally, research indicates that using handwriting to record gratitude (vs. speaking or typing) is a more effective way to reap the full physical and emotional benefits.