The Science Behind Why a Gratitude Journal Works (Raise Grateful Kids)
(Inside: The science behind why a gratitude journal works. Raise grateful kids with this free gratitude journal designed just for tweens and teens.)
Do you fully understand the power of gratitude?
We all want to raise grateful kids. We know that gratitude is one of the secret sauces to a happy life. Thankfulness turns –
- Failures into wisdom.
- Everyday moments into sources of extraordinary joy.
- Disappointments into strength.
- And we’ve only scratched the surface of the benefits…
The science-backed health benefits of gratitude
Study #1: Emmons’ decade-long study
Robert Emmons (Ph. D., professor of psychology at UC Davis) has studied gratitude for over a decade. He’s found thankfulness to be a powerful tool we can use to live the happiest of lives. In a study of over 1000 people, Emmons found that those who consistently practiced gratitude reaped these benefits:1
• Stronger immune systems
• Less bothered by aches and pains
• Lower blood pressure
• Exercise more and take better care of their health
• Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
• Higher levels of positive emotions
• More alert, alive, and awake
• More joy and pleasure
• More optimism and happiness
• More helpful, generous, and compassionate
• More forgiving
• More outgoing
• Feel less lonely and isolated.
Study #2: The nun study
Also, there’s a different study on the power of positive emotions (which is linked to gratitude) that is worth mentioning. In the 1930s, 180 nuns were required to journal about their lives following their final vows. The average age of these nuns was 22. Decades later, the journals were studied for the number of times the nuns used positive emotions in their writing. (Gratitude is a positive emotion. Also, as we saw in Robert Emmons study, gratitude breeds even more positive emotions like hope, joy, love…etc.) Then the researchers followed up to see how long the nuns lived.2
“The nuns who expressed the most positive emotion in their writing – those in the top 25 percent for positive emotion – lived on average 9.4 years longer than the nuns in the bottom 25 percent who expressed the least amount of positive emotion.” (Valorie Burton, Successful Women Think Differently)2
Gratitude is worth paying attention to.
A proven tool to help us live a grateful life
So, how do we get there? How do we get all these powerful benefits of gratitude? Some people more naturally live life gratefully, or have been taught gratitude at an early age – but what if that’s not you?
The answer to achieving a fuller life through gratitude is simple: a gratitude journal.
Okay, I know you might be doubting. How could something as simple as jotting down a few things we’re thankful for do things like strengthen our immune systems?
The science behind why a gratitude journal works
The results of numerous studies on gratitude
Dr. Randy Kamen (psychologist) cites an article that highlights a number of studies on gratitude. He explains why a gratitude journal works,
Furthermore, the three blessing study
Let’s specifically look at the three blessings study. In this study, individuals were to write down three blessing every night before they went to sleep. As Valorie Burton says in her book Successful Women Think Differently,
“Those who do so (write down the three blessings) consistently for three weeks have experienced deeper sleep, fewer colds, and less anxiety than those who don’t. Interestingly, the study didn’t yield the same results when subjects only counted their blessing in their head or verbally. The key is to write them down.”4
Gratitude journals have been scientifically tested and found to be a powerful tool to reset our brains to see the good over the bad. Maybe this is why incredibly successful people (including Oprah Winfrey and Tim Ferris) have adopted the 5-minute practice of a gratitude journal.5
How complaining has a negative impact on our brains
If the convincing research doesn’t sway us to pick up a pen and start writing, let’s look at what happens when we do NOT choose gratitude. We know negatively breeds unhappiness, but did you know that complaining has a negative impact on our brains? Danielle Boroumand explains,
“If the idea of breeding continual negative notions in your brain isn’t enough to get you to stop complaining, how about learning that it can also damage your memory? MRI scans have shown that constant complaining can lead to the shrinkage of the hippocampus, the region in your brain responsible for cognitive functioning. The smaller your hippocampus, the more likely you are to have your memory decline, as well as difficulty adapting to new situations.
The aftermath effects of complaining don’t stop there. The more you complain, the more your cortisol levels increase. High levels of cortisol are associated with health problems like increasing depression, insomnia, digestive problems, high blood pressure, and even increasing the risk of heart disease. There’s a reason they call it the stress hormone!”6
Are you going to apply this science to your life and daily choose gratitude?
However, knowing these facts about the positive impact of gratitude isn’t enough. We have to choose happiness. Just like when you train for a track meet, no one else can run around that track to make you faster, choosing gratitude is something you must do for yourself. There will always be things to complain about. We have to train our minds to see the good over the bad.
Is your family ready to be transformed through the power of gratitude?
Click below to get instant access to the free gratitude journal designed specifically for tweens/teens and families. Also, you’ll get two free bonuses if you sign up now.
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Raise kids of gratitude and kids of faith. Read the full “raise kids of faith” series here…
Over the years, as my kids have grown and their seasons have changed, I find myself going back to this one prayer, “Dear Jesus, please let my kids desire to have a relationship with you and follow you.” If as they journey through life, they consistently go back to their Creator for comfort and guidance, it’s all going to be okay.
So, as a mom, I strive to (in my imperfect way), teach my boys faith.
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A Free Gratitude Journal Your Teen Will Love (Raise Grateful Kids)
The Science Behind Why a Gratitude Journal Works (Raise Happy, Faith-Filled Tweens and Teens)
Cheryl is a mom of 3 boys, wife, speaker, high school teacher, and author of Empowered Moms & Kids. She has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and is passionate about learning and teaching. On www.empoweredmomsandkids.com you’ll find inspiration and encouragement for moms raising tweens and/or teens. Read more in the “about” section of this page.
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