There’s a powerful treatment for depression and anxiety that’s available to us all. For free. It’s not a pill, potion or remedy, you don’t need to go on an expensive training course, seek expert advice or have specialist equipment. Whether you’re nine or 90, a CEO or on JSA, you can flip the lows to highs in just a few minutes each day.
What’s more, this life changing strategy is simplicity itself and has been around as long as Buddha. Extensive research in recent decades has proven the life changing benefits of developing and nurturing an attitude of gratitude. Set aside your cynical inner grumpy default for a moment and consider how easy it would be to give gratitude journaling a go.
Create an Attitude of Gratitude
Unlike a diary or notebook, a journal is a record of thoughts and feelings rather than tasks and to do lists. It is a therapeutic means to gain clarity and focus and can be done with pen and paper, keyboard or app. A gratitude journal is specifically directing attention towards what’s good about life and away from the not so good.
The simple act of writing down reasons to be cheerful is a brain changer. The habits of dwelling on depressing thoughts and ruminating over anxieties are neurologically hard-wired through repetition. Deflecting attention away from misery creates a more resilient and resourceful mindset to deal with the problems which cause it.
Researchers have discovered that a few minutes spent keeping a daily gratitude journal of brief bullet points enhances happiness by 10 per cent, improving self esteem and confidence. Those who show genuine appreciation to their friends and loved ones have healthier relationships based on trust and mutual affection. The benefits of gratitude are exponential. The more of it you express to yourself and others, the more you get back.
In fact, the social benefits of gratitude are significant. The more appreciation you show your friends, the more popular you’ll become. And when you show your lover gratitude for all the good things they bring to your life together, they’ll love you more.
Keep Depression at Bay
Noticing what’s great about yourself and the life you live helps you to be happy with your lot. It wards off envy and enriches life no matter how poor you may be. Studies show gratitude helps ward off depression and suicidal thoughts, giving protection and strength during vulnerable times. It can even change your personality. Regular gratitude journaling has been shown to increase optimism by up to 15 per cent, making those Eeyore days few and far between. It can also keep you connected to your spiritual beliefs. Many prayers are about giving thanks. Showing gratitude to a higher power has an uplifting effect on wellbeing.
If businesses made gratitude part of their mission statement they would have happier employees and more satisfied customers. Appreciative managers create dedicated teams, committed to productivity and motivated by success. The most fulfilling jobs are those where effort and ability are rewarded with gratitude. A simple ‘thank you’ for a job well done encourages workers to go the extra mile.
Researchers have discovered that gratitude journaling not only reduces depressive symptoms by 35 per cent but also reduces blood pressure, improves sleep and strengthens the immune system. Studies have also shown this approach helps when included in rehabilitation programmes for addicts and coronary patients. What’s more, you’re more likely to be motivated to be fit and active and invest in self care when you value yourself enough to make a note of what’s good about you.
If you’re still not convinced, take my gratitude challenge and keep a bullet journal for 21 days (roughly how long it takes to embed a habit and notice what changes) and enjoy feeling better about life every day.
Here’s how to make gratitude journaling work for you:
- There are lots of notebooks available for gratitude journaling like ‘Pockitude’, available on Amazon, and various apps that will help you get started
- Commit a few minutes each day to making notes in your journal
- Keep the journal for at least 21 days. After that, you’ll find it’s an easy habit to keep up as you’ll already be seeing benefits in your quality of life
- Be specific. If you’re grateful for your best friend, describe what it is about them that you value the most
- Be creative and look beyond the obvious to find what’s good in the world around you
- Don’t take it too seriously. Anything that makes you laugh is cause for gratitude
- Share your gratitude with those you appreciate
- Don’t forget to show gratitude to yourself
By adjusting your focus in this way, you’re literally changing your mind by directing attention towards the health and wellbeing you already have. This makes it easier to improve every aspect of the quality of your life by maintaining what’s already good about it and aspiring to achieve more of the same.