Inside: Keeping a science gratitude journal can make you healthier and happier. Science strongly supports this. If you love science and nature, why not record your gratitude about the living world around you daily and reap the rewards of practicing gratitude. Note: affiliate links are found within this post. If you click I might make some coffee money but at no cost to you.
Brain Changes and the Science of Gratitude
Keeping a science gratitude journal can benefit your health and make you happier. The benefits of practicing gratitude have a strong science link:
- positive thoughts release the neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry messages along your nerves) dopamine, seratonin and oxytocin that give feelings of closeness, connection and happiness
- if you regularly express and feel gratitude, you likely have a bigger volume of grey matter in the right inferior temporal gyrus that helps you make sense of what you see
- the hippocampus and amygdala (mostly responsible for regulating memory, emotions and body functions) are turned on when you feel gratitude
- your brain changes with experience known as learning; so the more you practice gratitude, the more your brain seeks positive things
Benefits of Science Gratitude
Studies show that feeling gratitude changes your brain structure. So what are the benefits of these changes in your brain?
- evidence suggests that what we feel (our emotions) is due to the firing of nerves in the brain → so practising gratitude makes you feel better and can relieve depression
- those neurotransmitters that get released by positive thoughts can reduce your pain
- when you feel happier, your stress level goes down reducing your production of cortisol (the fight or flight chemical produced during fear or stress) → lower cortisol among other things means your heart works better, risk of heart disease goes way down and inflammation in your body is reduced
All of these benefits create a more positive outlook on life. Your brain feels happier and your body is healthier.
The Greater Good Science Center published a white paper called “The Science of Gratitude” (2018) that outlined these additional benefits of daily gratitude practice:
- greater life satisfaction
- better sleep
- less fatigue
- less likely to experience job burnout
- greater resiliency (ability to deal with and bounce back from difficult situations)
- becoming a more patient, humble and wise person
Gratitude must be practised regularly to reap these rewards. Even a couple of minutes a day can result in positive changes to your brain.
Science Gratitude Journaling
If you love science and nature, science gratitude journaling is a great way to reap the benefits of feeling grateful. Gratitude journaling is a popular tool used by coaches and consultants helping people to improve their health and lives. Studies have shown the benefits for mental and physical health. If you are considering whether this could be something that could help you then you probably have questions about what you need and how to do it. Gratitude journaling is actually very low cost and fairly simple.
What You Need for Gratitude Journaling
You could use a pen or pencil but why not increase the fun and creative aspect of your journaling by adding color and even texture. Different colored pens or pencils as well as different styles can make your gratitude journal not just a record of thanks but also a really creative endeavor.
Notebook for Science Journaling
While you could use a piece of paper, keeping a special notebook for your gratitude journal ensures that you will know exactly where you are writing and allows you to review previous gratitude records. Your notebook can be a plain and simple one or you could splash out on a more decorative one. However, why not consider using a plain notebook and jazzing it up yourself. Consider printing out premade journaling templates, cut them to size and paste them in your notebook.
By decorating a plain notebook or making a book from scratch you are making a greater commitment to the project itself. Your notebook will mean more to you and you will feel a greater connection to it when you use it. After all, if you are writing positive thoughts inside it, you also want to feel happy and proud when you see it.
By taking time out away from disturbances you are giving yourself space to think, relax and write. You’ll also find that you enjoy the experience of being alone and celebrating those things you are thankful for. Sit out on your deck with a cup of coffee, watch the birds, view the flowers and trees and clouds. What about these things makes you grateful? Sit by the window during a rainstorm. Write your feelings about this cycle of nature that feeds the earth. Write your feelings, doodle or draw if it helps. A journal can be made up of more than words.
Time to Start Science Gratitude Journaling
Now you know what you need it’s time to discover how to do it.
Collect your journal and whatever you’ve chosen to write with. Find somewhere quiet where you know you won’t be disturbed. Your journaling time should be a time for reflection and celebration free from outside distractions for the best results.
Commitment is Key
Ensure you are committed to gratitude journaling and that you want to feel happier as well as more grateful as a result. There is no point in just going through the motions of journaling without creating a positive meaningful emotional experience.
When you write, instead of creating a long list of things you are grateful for put some real thought into it. Take time to write about a particular event and describe in detail why you are thankful for it. Remember to record how you felt and why.
Make it Personal
Try to include people you are thankful for as much as you can, not just events. People are part of nature and their influences are often a big part of our journey in this biosphere. By including specific people and the reasons you are thankful for them you will create a greater emotional impact. It becomes more personal.
Include surprises and unexpected events as these will create a stronger sense of gratitude and more significant emotional impact.
Set yourself a weekly date to write in your gratitude journal. While you could journal every day it may be more beneficial to create a habit of writing in your gratitude journal once a week. This will allow you to plan for it and enjoy it.
There are no right or wrong ways to keep a science gratitude journal. Everyone’s will be different. However, it is important that you are committed to the process and the outcome, as well as make time for it on a regular basis.