Relieving Anxiety Through Gratitude Journaling

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Gratitude is “a feeling of appreciation or thanks.” {MerriamWebster.com] You might wonder what gratitude has to do with anxiety. After all, you probably appreciate having a roof over your head, food on your table, family and friends who support you. You may wonder what gratitude has to do with the fears you feel when you have to talk to a group, get on a airplane or even walk in the mall. How can being thankful help?

     

    Some studies have shown a connection between thankfulness and depression, anxiety, phobias, substance abuse and PTSD. Levels of thankfulness “predicted significantly” the risk of developing depression or anxiety. [1]  Studies have also shown that people with depression or anxiety disorders are more susceptible to negative thinking.

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    It is hard to see the positive in life when dealing with constant fears and worries. Blogger Amy writes in her blog “The Anxious Hippie,” “But what about the crippling anxiety I feel when things seem to be going well? But what about the slideshow of terrible things that run through my mind whenever I feel content? Doesn’t the onslaught of good things happening in my life these days simply mean that a storm is around the corner?” [2]  Fears and worries are about the future. They are guesses that bad things will happen later. Gratitude, however, is about the present. Being grateful, therefore, is switching your thinking from the unknown future to the present moment.

     

    The Benefits of Gratitude Journals

     

    Research has shown that keeping a journal is good for you. Some experts believe it helps strengthen the immune system, reduces symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis and decreases stress. [3] Focusing on gratitude helps to reduce stress and increases feelings of happiness, satisfaction and overall well-being. A gratitude journal combines both.

     

    Starting a Gratitude Journal

    To start a gratitude journal you need two things: a journal and a pen.

     

    Choosing a Journal

     

    Some people prefer choosing a journal that reflects their personality. These can be found in stationary or department stores with a wide variety of covers. Other people find using a notebook works fine for them. Choose a journal that suits you.

     

    Decide When to Write in Your Journal


    Again, this is a matter of preference, but you should be consistent, giving yourself a few minutes every day – at the same time – to write down your thoughts. You may prefer to start your day on a positive note, writing down between three and five things you are grateful for. This way you can carry those thoughts with you throughout your day. Or, you may prefer to take a few minutes at the end of the day, to reflect on positive aspects of your day.

     

    Be Consistent and Persistent

     

    It helps to write something in your gratitude journal every day, even when you are not feeling very grateful. But, if you find you missed a few days, don’t give up. Start again. Persistence pays off.

     

    Don’t Worry About What You Write

     

    Your journal is for you. No one else needs to see it unless you choose to share it. Don’t worry about what you write, just begin to reflect on the good and positive in your life. You may want to start by writing just one or two words – two things you are thankful for, and later you may want to expand why you are thankful for these things.

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    Add to Your Gratitude List

     

    It’s easy to write “family” or “home” every day. Try to expand your list, writing different things each day. Maybe your were appreciative because you heard your favorite song on the radio, you ate a food you enjoyed at dinner or because you had an enjoyable time reading with your child. Look for the little moments in your life.

     

    As you continue your journal each day, finding the “grateful moments” will become easier. You may also notice yourself stopping to be appreciative during the day or things you want to remember to write in your journal.

     

    References:

     

    [2] “A Confession, Anxiety and Gratitude,” Amy, The Anxious Hippie


    [1] “Gratitude and Well-Being: A Review and Theoretical Integration,” 2010, Alex M. Wood, Jeffrey J. Froh, Adam W.S. Geraghty, Clinical Psychology Review

     

    [3] “The Health Benefits of Journaling,” 2006, M. Purcell, Psych Central

Published On: November 18, 2013