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The Benefits of a Gratitude Journal and How to Maintain One

07/08/2015 11:21 am ET | Updated Jul 08, 2016
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This post was written by Lauren Jessen. It was originally published on Carpe Juvenis: Seize Your Youth, a youth empowerment lifestyle website and resource for interviews, advice, and inspiration. You can follow Carpe Juvenis on Twitter and Facebook.

After reading Arianna Huffington's book Thrive, I was inspired to start a gratitude journal. In her book, Arianna writes about how gratitude exercises can have tangible benefits. She writes, "According to a study by researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida, having participants write down a list of positive events at the close of a day -- and why the events made them happy -- lowered their self-reported stress levels and gave them a greater sense of calm at night." When I read this line, it only seemed natural to start a gratitude journal and document the positive events that had happened in my day or week. Lower stress levels and feeling calmer at night? Yes, please!

Starting and maintaining a journal can be difficult at first because it is another thing to remember to do, but after a while of keeping a gratitude journal, I promise you it's worth it! Keep doing it every night until it becomes a habit. Luckily, writing in your gratitude journal won't feel like a chore because it's a peaceful time to just sit and write about all the things that you are thankful for. The words will flow from you and 15 minutes just might turn into 30. Another great line Arianna notes is, "Gratitude works its magic by serving as an antidote to negative emotions. It's like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger, and resignation."

The best time to start a gratitude journal is now. These are the incredible benefits associated with journaling, and because maintaining a journal can be challenging, I share the tips that work best for me:

Benefits of a Gratitude Journal

1. Lower stress levels.

2. Feel calm at night.

3. Gain a new perspective of what is important to you and what you truly appreciate in your life.

4. By noting what you are grateful for, you will gain clarity on what you want to have more of in your life, and what you can cut from you life.

5. Helps you focus on what really matters.

6. Keeping a gratitude journal helps you learn more about yourself and become more self-aware.

7. Your gratitude journal is a safe zone for your eyes only, so you can write anything you feel without judgment.

8. On days when you feel blue, read back through your gratitude journal to readjust your attitude and remember that you have great people and things in your life.

Maintaining a Gratitude Journal

1. Plan to write in your gratitude journal every night for 15 minutes before bed. Set an alarm reminder on your phone or schedule it in your calendar. I've found that it is easier to write at night so that I can include things that I am grateful for from that day.

2. Keep your gratitude journal by your nightstand so you will see it before going to sleep and remember to jot down what you are thankful for. Your journal may even become a symbol of gratitude so that when you just look at it, you will feel a sense of appreciation.

3. Write as many things as you want in your gratitude journal. Writing down 5-10 things that you are grateful for each day is a good number to aim for.

4. Your gratitude journal doesn't have to be deep. What you are thankful for can be as simple as "family" or "the new book or movie I recently enjoyed" or "this morning's breakfast." What you are grateful for will differ from everyone else.

5. The timing of when you want to write is up to you. While I try to write in my gratitude journal every night, sometimes it becomes every other night. That's okay. Journal when it feels right for you -- the benefits really are worth it.