When life feels challenging, even though it may feel like the last thing you want to do, writing down one or two things you are grateful for each day, might be the thing that actually helps you the most.
I started keeping a gratitude journal after a relationship breakdown. The idea of keeping one initially felt wrong to me, too new age, too airy fairy I surmised, but one night the logical part of my brain rationalised that I might as well give it a go.
“Grateful for my inspiring students” was one of my first scrawls…
“Grateful for my strong legs that carry me everywhere” another…
Keeping a gratitude journal forced me to focus and appreciate the things in my life that were good, rather than focusing on what I perceived to be wrong or painful in my life; by looking at things from a different perspective instantaneously everything felt better.
But don’t just take my word for it….
In clinical studies, keeping a gratitude journal has been shown to promote well-being and physiological adaption for individuals suffering with cancer and heart disease. For individuals with mood disorders, research also shows that writing down what one is grateful for in combination with psychotherapy has been shown to be more beneficial than using psychotherapy alone. And pregnant women keeping a gratitude journal, have been shown to experience reduced stress in pregnancy (exhibited by lower cortisol levels) than individuals not journaling their gratitude . Lower cortisol in pregnancy not only benefits the mama, but her unborn child, since mums who have excessively high cortisol levels in pregnancy have been shown to have children who are less resilient to stress in later life.
So what can we learn from this?
If you suffer from anxiety, depression, adrenal fatigue, insomnia or anything like this, you may benefit from counting your blessings and keeping a gratitude diary. You don’t have to write pages or paragraphs, even a sentence or a few words will suffice. Buy yourself a notebook and a pen, and keep them somewhere close, maybe near your bed.
Each day jot down a few things you feel you can express gratitude for – feeling the sun on your face, the sweetness of a delicious piece of fruit, hearing a beautiful song, whatever resonates with you. Benefits are seen in less than a month.
 Otto AK1, Szczesny EC1, Soriano EC1, Laurenceau JP1, Siegel SD2. Effects of a randomized gratitude intervention on death-related fear of recurrence in breast cancer survivors Health Psychol. 2016 Dec;35(12):1320-1328. Epub 2016 Aug 11.
 Millstein RA1, Celano CM2, Beale EE3, Beach SR2, Suarez L4, Belcher AM5, Januzzi JL6, Huffman JC2.The effects of optimism and gratitude on adherence, functioning and mental health following an acute coronary syndrome Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2016 Nov – Dec;43:17-22. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2016.08.006. Epub 2016 Aug 30.
 Wong YJ1, Owen J2, Gabana NT1, Brown JW3, Mcinnis S4, Toth P5, Gilman L1.Does gratitude writing improve the mental health of psychotherapy clients? Evidence from a randomized controlled trial. Psychother Res. 2016 May 3:1-11. [Epub ahead of print] Matvienko-Sikar K1, Dockray S2.Effects of a novel positive psychological intervention on prenatal stress and well-being: A pilot randomised controlled trial Women Birth. 2016 Oct 31. pii: S1871-5192(16)30175-5. doi: 10.1016/j.wombi.2016.10.003. [Epub ahead of print]