I have been keeping a diary since I was ten years old, and over the years my longhand doodles have grown by a period of regular thank you. Every day I try to write down five things that I am thankful for. This little act helps me stay on the ground and reminds me that my life overall is really good.
But in the first few days of COVID-19, I heard terrible predictions in the news and reduced my career massively and unexpectedly to my three children as a mother in school. Well, my diary entries weren't exactly a bunch of blessings. Instead, I filled more pages than I would like to admit with insults and enthusiasm for . How can this happen? and What should I do? and the popular ] It's not fair!
A few days later, however, I realized that it was these times of chaos and upheaval that I had to document my thanks most.
So I opened my diary and wrote it down There are a few things I have to be thankful for: Grocery stores are still open, the weather is wonderful where I live, my family and I are healthy. And, praise, the WiFi signal is as strong as ever.
I closed my diary and took a breath. I could feel the concern about the situation around the world ̵
Research shows that gratitude is associated with some rather profound health benefits. Researchers at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence (YCEI) viewed the combined health effects of gratitude as an "upward spiral" of wellbeing.
Here are some ways it does you good.
In a study from 2018, psychotherapy patients supplemented their counseling sessions with one of three writing options: "Expressive writing" about stressful experiences, thankfulness letters or no writing at all. After 12 weeks, those who practiced gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health than the other two groups.
And according to YCEI, gratitude has even stronger connections to mental health and life satisfaction than other positive qualities such as optimism, hope, or compassion.
A study of 401 people found that those who practiced gratitude had more positive thoughts before going to bed and could fall asleep faster than those who had no gratitude practice.
According to YCEI, gratitude is associated with lower blood pressure, improved immune function and a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol.
Much of this good juju can be attributed to the fact that gratitude is essentially a form of mindfulness. "Depression and anxiety arise when we either think about the past or are worried about our future," said consultant Paige Rechtman, LMHC of mental health provider Alma. "Gratitude and counting our blessings can help alleviate these feelings because they establish us in the present."
Writing down your thanks regularly can even change the way your brain works.
"Practicing gratitude can actually change The way the neurotransmitters in your brain connect over time," says Rechtman. “When we introduce a new way of thinking, for example the habit of practicing gratitude, we create a new path in our brain that over time becomes a more natural way of thinking for us. The more you practice gratitude, the better you get at it and the easier it gets. “
You may think settle there, it's just a diary . And you're not wrong.
While a gratitude journal can supplement the treatment of chronic mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression, it is by no means an antidote.
And the positive changes it can bring It can take a long time for them to occur.
“You may not immediately feel a deep sense of relief,” says Rechtman. “For some people, practicing gratitude may require practice. And on some days you may feel gratitude more than on other days, and that's fine. "
Rechtman says that you should also relax a little if it is difficult to achieve positive results – especially if you suffer from depression.
" When a person feels depressed, it can often be difficult to think up something for which one is grateful, "says Rechtman." In these times, I recommend starting very small and focusing on your senses. You may appreciate the softness of your pillow. Or the taste of chocolate. Or the sound of Rain. "
And although gratitude journalism can clear your mind, it may not solve the big problems you are going through.
" Don't expect solutions to your problems. "Warns Rechtman." Instead, think of gratitude as one Pinch of positivity for your thoughts. "
There is no recipe to indulge in the kindness of gratitude, but in my experience, the key to real change changes to see consistency.
If daily entries are unrealistic, take some time once a week to list a certain number of things that you are grateful for, even if that number is small. (Use this guide to structure your week during quarantine so that it works in regular gratitude journal blocks.)
This regular check-in may offer just one anchor for the mindfulness and peace you need in this challenging time – and beyond.  Call me old school, but I recommend using an up-to-date diary (spiral binding is my point of contact). It is a feeling of permanence to write something on paper. And whether your handwriting is chicken scratch or elegant italic, it's an extension of who you are. There is an intimacy that you cannot get when typing.
Of course there are gratitude apps that you can get on your phone, and if that is the most convenient for you in any case.
Heck, during these attempts Sometimes writing on sticky notes and sticking them to your wall as a colorful picture can lift your spirits.
Go ahead, give gratitude a chance. You really have nothing to lose.
Sarah Garone is a nutritionist, freelance writer and food blogger. Find her at A Love Letter to Food or follow her on Twitter .