Why You Should Start Keeping a Gratitude Journal

The concept of gratitude once might have been considered “touchy-feely” or “new-agey.” But when researchers started to study it, they were able to scientifically tie it to a variety of benefits, including feelings of hopefulness and optimism, better coping mechanisms for dealing with adversity, fewer instances of depression and addiction, and even exercising more and sleeping better.

Researchers have found evidence that when we feel appreciation for someone or something, it results in a calming effect on the heart’s electromagnetic patterns, which can, in turn, relieve hypertension and reduce the risk of sudden death from heart disease.

Further, practicing gratitude in a way such as helping someone who has helped you activates the regions of the brain that produce dopamine and serotonin – the body’s feel-good chemicals that promote feelings of happiness and well-being.

“In short,” says Dr. Blair Justice of the University of Texas School of Public Health, “feeling gratitude and appreciation on a regular basis helps heal us at every level of our being.”

Luckily, there is a simple way to start practicing gratitude in your life — write a gratitude list. This simple and powerful tool is the key to inducing feelings of gratefulness. Follow these steps and get started today.

1. Decide where you want to keep your list – on your computer, a spreadsheet, on your phone, or handwritten in a notebook or journal.
2. Set a realistic goal. Start with writing down five things you are grateful for. If you want to write more, you can, but work to always get at least five each day.
3. Write down specific things (your favorite flower blooming in your garden) and abstract (the innocence of children).
4. Settle for simple on a bad day. When everything is going wrong, you might have to focus on the basics – gratitude for a car that runs, a roof over your head, a spouse or pet who loves you.
5. Remember to make your list when you are facing challenges. This is perhaps the most important time to think about what you are grateful for.

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