What Gratitude Journaling Taught Me About Happiness

It's easy to focus on the negative aspects of life, but gratitude journaling can change your perspective.

What Gratitude Journaling Taught Me About Happiness

By Lillian Fallon

“You cannot have happiness without gratitude.”

I heard these words in a homily years ago and have struggled to put them into practice ever since. I’m the type of person to lay awake in bed at night planning my next step in life, ruminating over different career advancing tactics, and fantasizing about the future I want. I tend to reflect more on things I want than the things I already have.

The idea of keeping a gratitude journal for a month was like partaking in an intriguing experiment. I wondered if I’d finally experience the elusive gratitude = happiness equation I hadn’t solved yet.

So on the first of the month, I drafted up a little doc titled, “Gratitude Journal” in the notes app on my iPhone. Four weeks and 2,000 words later, I concluded my journey for gratitude. Here’s what happened.


“Oh crap, I gotta do this now so I don’t forget.” This is the thought that would come to me every night at 10 p.m. when my journal reminder went off. But what initially felt like a to-do task eventually became something I looked forward to, simply because I was constantly surprised by the things I was grateful for.

When I thought back on my day, I’d suddenly remember odd moments that brought me joy that I’d typically forget about. For example, during the first week of that month, I helped a designer prepare their collection for a runway show. While this was, of course, a big thing to be grateful for, my journal mostly consisted of smaller things from that week.

I was especially grateful for an authentic encounter I shared with a model. She was just very sincere and kind and I remember my heart being warmed by the genuine human connection we shared. When I was writing down the things I was grateful for, that encounter stood out to me more than anything. It made me realize that it’s more important to value the people I meet than the things I do.

At the end of the day, I’d find myself feeling the most gratitude for the human encounters I had. Whether it was chatting with a stranger on the train, listening to music all day in friend’s apartment, having a heart-to-heart with my sister on FaceTime, playing guitar with my neighbor, or sharing a meal with my aunt, my gratitude journal ended up being very people-centric.

The things I was grateful for during my nightly reflection began leaking into my day-to-day experience. Instead of later identifying moments of joy, I began thinking, “This is making me happy right now,” and I started embracing the feeling of happiness while it was happening. By taking a few moments every night to reflect on the things I was grateful for, I was conditioning myself to be more grateful 24/7.

Photo by Polina Sirotina on Pexels.com


Re-reading my gratitude journal allows me to be transported back to moments that were specifically positive. In life, it’s easy to just focus on the negative. Even when the good outweighs the bad, we remember the bad over everything. Because a gratitude journal quite literally only focuses us on the good, it made me reflect on the good that I experienced for a whole month, thus prompting a “hey, life ain’t that bad” moment.

Some things I straight up forgot about. Like one day I got distracted and walked too far, missed the block my train was on, and got lost. My wrong turned landed me on a street that held a Catholic church. The doors were wide open and warm light poured out. I took this as a sign to visit Jesus. It was such a cool, surprising moment, and I felt the call to visit Him in the tabernacle so strongly — but I somehow forgot it until re-reading my gratitude journal. Now I get to relive how cool that experience was.

Re-reading my journal also allowed me to connect some dots. Aside from the theme of valuing authentic human interaction, I noticed that the days I felt the most gratitude were days I wrote about the little things. I can’t tell you how many times I wrote down that I was grateful “for heat in winter,” or “for my comfy bed,” “for being friends with my neighbors,” or even more simply, “for feeling happy again.”

And there you have it, the gratitude = happiness equation. As I look through my journal now, the last days all repeat the same thing: gratitude for feeling happy. At the beginning of the month, I felt suffocated and limited by the very things that I was grateful for by the end of the month. I’ll admit that this was a big month for me internally — I was searching for direction and meaning. I believe I received it through lots of prayer and learning to be more grateful for all the things I jotted down at night.

I’ve realized that change doesn’t necessarily come from the big life events that happen to us — usually, it’s the smaller, internal events that build up over time until we’re transformed without realizing it. I think that’s what keeping a gratitude journal is all about: writing down the little things from each day, and then reflecting on how all those little things actually amount to big things.

Come to think of it, happiness doesn’t come from something big happening to you, either. Real happiness comes from making daily decisions to cherish the gifts you’ve been given, no matter how big or small. Having gratitude for the little things will slowly but surely build genuine joy.

Honestly, I wasn’t planning on keeping a gratitude journal after one month, but after reflecting on the impact it had on me after just four weeks, I think I’d better.

What Gratitude Journaling Taught Me About Happiness

Link: https://peacelilysite.com/2022/12/20/what-gratitude-journaling-taught-me-about-happiness/


Source: https://grottonetwork.com/navigate-life/health-and-wellness/how-gratitude-journaling-helps-with-happiness/

10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy

10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy

Scientists can tell us how to be happy. Really. Here are 10 ways, with the research to prove it.

by Jen Angel

In the last few years, psychologists and researchers have been digging up hard data on a question previously left to philosophers: What makes us happy? Researchers like the father-son team Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener, Stanford psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, and ethicist Stephen Post have studied people all over the world to find out how things like money, attitude, culture, memory, health, altruism, and our day-to-day habits affect our well-being. The emerging field of positive psychology is bursting with new findings that suggest your actions can have a significant effect on your happiness and satisfaction with life. Here are 10 scientifically proven strategies for getting happy.

Savor Everyday Moments

Pause now and then to smell a rose or watch children at play. Study participants who took time to “savor” ordinary events that they normally hurried through, or to think back on pleasant moments from their day, “showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression,” says psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky.

Avoid Comparisons

While keeping up with the Joneses is part of American culture, comparing ourselves with others can be damaging to happiness and self-esteem. Instead of comparing ourselves to others, focusing on our own personal achievement leads to greater satisfaction, according to Lyubomirsky.

Put Money Low on the List

People who put money high on their priority list are more at risk for depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, according to researchers Tim Kasser and Richard Ryan. Their findings hold true across nations and cultures. “The more we seek satisfactions in material goods, the less we find them there,” Ryan says. “The satisfaction has a short half-life—it’s very fleeting.” Money-seekers also score lower on tests of vitality and self-actualization.

Have Meaningful Goals

“People who strive for something significant, whether it’s learning a new craft or raising moral children, are far happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations,” say Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener. “As humans, we actually require a sense of meaning to thrive.” Harvard’s resident happiness professor, Tal Ben-Shahar, agrees, “Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning. Whether at work or at home, the goal is to engage in activities that are both personally significant and enjoyable.”

Take Initiative at Work

How happy you are at work depends in part on how much initiative you take. Researcher Amy Wrzesniewski says that when we express creativity, help others, suggest improvements, or do additional tasks on the job, we make our work more rewarding and feel more in control.

Make Friends, Treasure Family

Happier people tend to have good families, friends, and supportive relationships, say Diener and Biswas-Diener. But it’s not enough to be the life of the party if you’re surrounded by shallow acquaintances. “We don’t just need relationships, we need close ones” that involve understanding and caring.

Smile Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

It sounds simple, but it works. “Happy people…see possibilities, opportunities, and success. When they think of the future, they are optimistic, and when they review the past, they tend to savor the high points,” say Diener and Biswas-Diener. Even if you weren’t born looking at the glass as half-full, with practice, a positive outlook can become a habit.

Say Thank You Like You Mean It

People who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis are healthier, more optimistic, and more likely to make progress toward achieving personal goals, according to author Robert Emmons. Research by Martin Seligman, founder of positive psychology, revealed that people who write “gratitude letters” to someone who made a difference in their lives score higher on happiness, and lower on depression—and the effect lasts for weeks.

Get Out and Exercise

A Duke University study shows that exercise may be just as effective as drugs in treating depression, without all the side effects and expense. Other research shows that in addition to health benefits, regular exercise offers a sense of accomplishment and opportunity for social interaction, releases feel-good endorphins, and boosts self-esteem.

Give It Away, Give It Away Now!

Make altruism and giving part of your life, and be purposeful about it. Researcher Stephen Post says helping a neighbor, volunteering, or donating goods and services results in a “helper’s high,” and you get more health benefits than you would from exercise or quitting smoking. Listening to a friend, passing on your skills, celebrating others’ successes, and forgiveness also contribute to happiness, he says. Researcher Elizabeth Dunn found that those who spend money on others reported much greater happiness than those who spend it on themselves.

10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy



Source: http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/sustainable-happiness/10-things-science-says-will-make-you#top

Giving thanks can make you happier

Giving thanks can make you happier

Each holiday season comes with high expectations for a cozy and festive time of year. However, for many this time of year is tinged with sadness, anxiety, or depression. Certainly, major depression or a severe anxiety disorder benefits most from professional help. But what about those who just feel lost or overwhelmed or down at this time of year? Research (and common sense) suggests that one aspect of the Thanksgiving season can actually lift the spirits, and it’s built right into the holiday — being grateful.

The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways, gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, being grateful also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. They can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings), the present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude). Regardless of the inherent or current level of someone’s gratitude, it’s a quality that individuals can successfully cultivate further.

Research on gratitude

Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have done much of the research on gratitude. In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics.

One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.

Another leading researcher in this field, Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people, each compared with a control assignment of writing about early memories. When their week’s assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month.

Of course, studies such as this one cannot prove cause and effect. But most of the studies published on this topic support an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being.

Other studies have looked at how being grateful  can improve relationships. For example, a study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.

Managers who remember to say “thank you” to people who work for them may find that those employees feel motivated to work harder. Researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania randomly divided university fund-raisers into two groups. One group made phone calls to solicit alumni donations in the same way they always had. The second group — assigned to work on a different day — received a pep talk from the director of annual giving, who told the fund-raisers she was grateful for their efforts. During the following week, the university employees who heard her message of gratitude made 50% more fund-raising calls than those who did not.

There are some notable exceptions to the generally positive results in research on gratitude. One study found that middle-aged divorced women who kept gratitude journals were no more satisfied with their lives than those who did not. Another study found that children and adolescents who wrote and delivered a thank-you letter to someone who made a difference in their lives may have made the other person happier — but did not improve their own well-being. This finding suggests that gratitude is an attainment associated with emotional maturity.

Ways to cultivate gratitude

Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier or thinking they can’t feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.

Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis.

Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter or email expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.

Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.

Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day.

Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.

Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.

Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as “peace”), it is also possible to focus on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).

Link: https://wisdomtea.org/2022/01/19/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier/