Nov. 22. 2017
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped® and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Did you know that keeping a gratitude journal can boost your health?

The simple act of focusing on what you have, rather than what you don’t, and writing it all down, has shown scientifically to improve both your mental and physical wellbeing. The beauty of gratitude, too, is that we can all benefit from more of it. Once you begin to intentionally recognize what you’re grateful for, you’ll notice a mental shift away from the stresses of everyday life.

What Does “Gratitude” Mean?

Before I begin, let’s talk about what “gratitude” really means. The world’s leading scientific expert on the subject, Robert Emmons, wrote an essay back in 2010 titled ‘Why Gratitude is Good‘ where he defines gratitude as having two parts. One: gratitude is an affirmation of goodness, whether that’s through gifts or benefits we’ve received. Emmons also explains that gratitude is not implying that life is perfect while enjoying these gifts or benefits either; complaints, burdens, and hassles aren’t disregarded. Two: gratitude is then figuring out where the goodness comes from. By recognizing the source, as it’s outside of ourselves, we’re showing a humble dependence on others. In Emmons’ words, “We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”

It’s Good for the Mind, Body & Soul

In the essay, Emmons goes on to explain his findings from a series of studies about gratitude journals and other gratitude cultivating practices. After studying more than a thousand individuals ages 8-80, his team found an amazing list of health benefits, whether they were physical, psychological or social, in a person that regularly uses a gratitude journal.

Emmons’ studies showed that people who regularly use a gratitude journal:

  • Have stronger immune systems
  • Have lower blood pressure
  • Enjoy more restful sleep
  • Have more energy
  • Have higher levels of positive emotions and joy
  • Are more outgoing, less lonely and isolated

Gratitude is an incredible connection point between people, and it helps strengthen relationships. Gratitude also helps you live in the present moment, which is something that’s been top of mind at NS. Read on about how to harness this powerful tool in everyday life (hint: even Oprah swears by doing it).

Gratitude Journaling: A How-To

If you’re wondering how to start gratitude journaling, the answer is simple. Start writing it all down. If you need some direction, a great place to start is The Five Minute Journal. It’s a handy journal created by the team at Intelligent Change that includes prompts to help you narrow in on what’s bringing you joy at the start of each morning, with goals for the day and affirmations. Before you go to bed, you quickly recap the day with amazing things that happened, and ways you could have made it even better. There’s even an app if old-school writing in a journal is out for you.

For those of you who are looking to advance your gratitude journal practice, prompts may not be necessary. A blank journal can provide a nice canvas for capturing thoughts of gratitude and in-the-now musings, too. Remember to share mantras; here are 10 mantras for better health to get you started. If you’re interested in ways to bring your gratitude journaling practice even further, check out these amazing tips from the Chopra Center. This list shares inspiration for finding more depth and density to each journal entry, and taking it a step further by trying a timed session.

What do you think? Would you give these advanced gratitude journaling habit a try? Have you felt happier, lighter, freer? Have you experienced more energy, less loneliness and/or better sleep? Join the conversation below by adding a comment, or let me know on Instagram by tagging #NutritionStripped!

xx McKel