Can keeping a gratitude journal really lead to greater happiness? Scientific research claims that amongst other things, writing down what we’re grateful for really can make us feel happier, so I took part in a 2 month experiment to find out for myself.
A scientific study by Professor Bruce Hood at Bristol University found that keeping a gratitude journal was one of the things that contributed to greater happiness.
After the turmoil of lockdown and what has been a tough year for us all, I decided to start keeping my own written gratitude journal. Rather than just thinking about what I’m grateful for, could writing those things down strengthen the feeling of gratitude and make me feel happier?
I looked at apps, considered a notebook, but finally decided that it made more sense to keep the journal here on my blog, I mean isn’t that exactly what blogs were originally intended as being, an online journal?
- Cuddles and time spent with Bella the Cavachon – The simple happiness of being with animals makes me smile inside and out because animals are awesome people, and sadly people too often suck.
- An evening swim at my gym in a deserted pool – I felt a total connection with and awareness of my body and deep happiness approaching bliss.
- A chilly open water swim at Boundary Water Park – Elation that I’d conquered my fears, I felt strong, capable, resilient and alive. My mood remained elevated for days afterwards.
- An exciting blog-related opportunity coming my way – I felt humbled, emotional and a proud not to mention super excited!
- Booking a few days away without worrying about my finances – I’ve never wanted to be rich, but I have strived to be ‘comfortable’ and I feel fortunate that every decision I’ve made thus far has got me to this position. I am aware that I work exceptionally hard and ‘luck’ doesn’t come into it. But I feel fortunate that I can make decisions on a whim without too much worry.
- What’sApp family bants – We got mum set up on Whats’App after we nearly lost her a few years ago, the whole family now has a daily ongoing conversation, so we always know what each of us is up to. We always tell each other goodnight and that we love each other and we share endless family in-jokes. I feel very fortunate to have such a close family.
4th October 2021
- My cat – some people can’t have pets, so I’m grateful that I am a homeowner and can share my home with whatever and whomever I wish and she’s such a snuggle-puss!
- Black history month – For the first time ever, I’ve made an effort to learn more during black history month. It’s changed my perspective on a lot of things and I’ve learned a lot. I’m grateful for podcasts and easy access to information.
- Putting myself first for the day – I struggled for years with self-care and would put my own health and wellbeing last, at the weekend I was drained, my mental health wasn’t good and I was stressed over a mountain of work. I made a very clear decision to stop working and spend Sunday resting. I’m proud that I made a very rare decision to let work wait.
- Crochet – not for the first time, I find myself grateful for the new skill I learned during lockdown. The Bella Crochet YouTube channel has helped me learn a craft I adore and has inspired me to create some crochet pumpkins which I’m excited about trying (also because I love Halloween).
- Bright and beautiful flowers – the other day my Fiancé Mark bought me a beautiful bunch of flowers. He’s bought me flowers plenty of times of course but I can’t stop looking at them, they seem more beautiful and vibrant than usual. Literally every time I look at them I feel deep happiness.
- My besties – I get anxiety before video chats and phone calls and before this group zoom call I wasn’t in a good frame of mind. I’d spent all day working (it was a Saturday) and by 7pm when the call was scheduled, I’d had such a busy, stressful day that I’d not had time to eat anything all day leading to an unintentional 24 hour fast. My mood was low to say the least but seeing and talking with my friends helped to pick me up.
11th October 2021
- Bright cheerful colour – After spending 2 months on camp chairs (long story) the arrival of my new corner sofa and the bright colours I chose are bringing me joy (and comfort!)
- Vegetable soup and pulled pork – I love batch cooking when I have time and especially love getting back from the gym in the evening to the smell of something delicious cooking, winter is for pulled pork, casseroles and homemade soup!
- Melatonin – my sleep is dreadful as a result of menopause, though it’s never been great and insomnia will often rear its head, however, imported Melatonin seems to be helping and I got 7 hours of sleep last night!
- Doing work that I love – I have some new clients I’m loving working with and feel super creatively inspired, also how many people get to go to the Caribbean for their job?!
- Feeling proud of my achievements – I had a memory popup today, from 4 years ago when I walked up Snowdon. The walk was a turning point for me for so many reasons and the memory of that day makes me very happy and proud.
- Fixing my laptop – On Friday morning my beloved Dell XPS laptop refused to boot up. Frustrated but unphased I found out how to perform a hard reset (by opening it up, disconnecting various things and removing the battery, which took longer and was more fiddly than it sounds), I took my laptop apart and fixed it. Go me!
- Hill walk – On Saturday we headed up to the Lancashire moors and did a lovely walk up Great Hill and then wandered around White Coppice woods photographing and foraging mushrooms, after all day outdoors I was beaming ear to ear and felt extremely happy and centred.
18th October 2020
- Open water swimming – yeah, swimming outside in 10° water seemed a bit crazy to me too and I almost backed out after a horrible night of insomnia, but I did it, and I’m glad I did as I definitely got another cold-water endorphin high!
- Planning and making for Christmas – I have no idea how people handle the stress or expense of leaving everything to the last minute, and I feel grateful that I was able to make a start on my Christmas shopping knowing this year will be tough for many thanks to the global pandemic. I’ve been hand-making many gifts for friends and family all year and I’m grateful I’ve learned new skills that allow me to make pretty things.
- Freedom – My plans to spend Halloween with my friends in Whitby fell through due to local lockdowns, which meant I had to cancel my accommodation and make alternative plans at the last minute. I considered cancelling my annual leave, but decided that a few days away, albeit alone, would do me good. Despite it being half term, I finally found some alternative accommodation and have been happilly planning what I’ll do wtih my time. I’m grateful for the freedom I have.
- Pompoms – I bought pompom makers last year and had a miserable time with uneven rubbish creations. I watched a YouTube video, and it changed everything! Now I actually know how to use them and I can’t stop making wonderful, fluffy, joyous pompoms. It’s impossible to feel down when you’re making a pompom. Fact.
- Shaggy Inkcaps – A few days ago I noticed some large mushrooms growing in my garden. They’d never appeared in the garden before and I wasn’t familiar with them. As they have matured, I identified them as Shaggy Inkcaps. I was initially planning on picking and eating them, but they are so lovely and I’m enjoying watching them grow every day so I’m going to leave them and let nature take its course. Who’d have thought watching fungi grow could bring such happiness?
- Estrogen gel – Perimenopause is proving to be beyond miserable for me. I’m short-tempered, unfocused, irrational, tearful, not sleeping, anxious and panicky…the list goes on. I’m hopeful that the new higher dose of HRT gel will provide me with some relief.
25th October 2020
- Cycling the Monsal Trail – This has been on my bucket list for years and I finally got to cycle it! It was 27km and the longest I’ve ever cycled so it also felt like a wee personal achievement. It was pouring with rain and I was covered in mud and absolutely loved it! Read about cycling the Monsal Trail here.
- 48 hour fast – I’ve struggled with my weight all my life and use IF (intermittent fasting) as a way of helping control my weight, but after putting on more during lockdown and struggling to shift it, I did a 48 hour fast to kickstart my weight loss. I’d never done more than a 24 hour water fast before and am proud I managed to do it. It made me feel strong and in control…and a bit dizzy.
- Time for me – My daughter is all grown up and my Fiancé works most weekends which means many of my adventures are solo ones. Fortunately, I love spending time on my own and am grateful that being alone or doing stuff on my own doesn’t phase me.
- Shamanic journeying – My first experience of this was almost a year ago when I was out in the woods with Wild Awake Mindfulness. I went deep and decided then it was something I’d pursue and learn more about. I did a self-guided journey and It worked amazingly well. I’m going to ensure I practice at least monthly from now on.
- Soy wax candles – I love making my own soy wax and essential oil candles and so I took one of my cinnamon candles away glamping with me and loved the flickering light and smell.
1st November 2020
- Rubber stamps – I find a ridiculous amount of joy in crafting and this year I’m hand printing Christmas wrapping paper and loving it!
- Down-filled comfort – My new winter coat is down-filled and super snuggly and warm. I’m finding any excuse I can to go for walks and wear it!
- Living next to woodland – I am so very lucky to live a few steps away from gorgeous woodland with a lovely little trail through the centre of it. I’ve been for several walks in it this week.
- The US election results – I was glued to the election for days and cried with happiness when Biden was called. The speech given by Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris was extremely moving and I felt a real surge of happiness and hope that on 20th January 2021 Wotsit Hitler will be gone.
- Having lovely neighbours – During lockdown we got to know our neighbours better. One often makes cakes that she drops round for us and the other is crafty, and this week bought round a lovely little decorated glass bottle with fairy lights in. Just the thing to brighten up the dark days.
8th November 2020
- Knitting – I’ve finally learned to be able to watch TV and rest, but I hate to just sit and do nothing, so crafts like knitting and crochet are ideal. I picked up my knitting again after spending all year learning to crochet, it took a while to remember and get back into it (I’m very much a novice at both) but really enjoyed continuing the jumper I started almost a year ago.
- Being the recipient of random acts of kindness – I received a lovely note in the post from a friend that really choked me up, and I also received a lovely message from another friend which made me feel rather emotional but good about myself.
- New TV – I had a comically small TV for years, mainly because I hate the way huge TVs dominate peoples living rooms but I finally caved in. I did some research and found a big new 4k telly, ideal as we’re currently watching TV loads thanks to lockdown!
- Static indoor bike – I recently invested in an exercise bike, and with us a week into lockdown 2.0 I’m very grateful I have a way of still doing some cardio each day, though I am still missing swimming very much.
- Discovering new yarn – I love colour and anything bright and colourful makes me happy and yarn, in particular, brings me joy. I’ve discovered a new yarn and have been inspired to design a hat. I’m excitedly waiting for the new happy yarn to arrive so I can get started. Update: the yarn arrived quickly and I knitted 2 hats and love them both!
- Wildlife in the garden – We’ve noticed a regular squirrel visiting our garden, so I did some research and have put food out to encourage it to come back. I’ve also cleaned and filled up our bird feeders so I’m looking forward to seeing which birds make use of them this winter.
15th November 2020
- Working from home – This week has been particularly awful for insomnia. After averaging less than 5 hours sleep a night all week (I really don’t function well on less than 7), I’m so grateful I’m working from home and don’t have to drive anywhere.
- Paperchase glass baubles – I love kitsch and when it comes to Christmas tree decorations, more is more in my opinion! I’m unapologetic in my love of all things bright and sparkly, but due to their hefty price, each year I treat myself to just a couple of new baubles from Paperchase, including this year, a pirate narwhal, because, why not?!
- Wearing things I’ve made – Although I’m very much a beginner, I love wearing things that I’ve knitted and crocheted, in the photo above I’m wearing the hat I knitted and the snood I crocheted.
- Early Christmas – There’s a movement this year of people putting Christmas decorations up early in a desperate bid to create some joy in the face of what has been an awful year thanks to the global pandemic. This is something I can fully get behind and so I got my decorations out early (any excuse really). The real tree will need to wait until December when the current lockdown in England ends but is something else to look forward to.
- Lunchtime woodland walks – Yesterday I realised I’d not left the house in 4 days, so I pulled on my jacket and walking boots and headed for a short walk around the village and through the woods next to my house. I’ve decided that I want to do some volunteer litter picking, so I need to find out who manages the woods.
- Random acts of kindness – I sent a heartfelt private message to someone I follow on social media to praise them and let them know I think they’re doing a great job. I also put a card into the post for a friend, for no real reason, just because it’s nice to be nice.
- Long baths – Another symptom of perimenopause is finding I can no longer regulate my temperature. I’m usually freezing, so to warm me up, after dinner I decided to have a long bath with my fave Natura Siberica bath salts and ended up happily in there for an hour! It’s only a bath, but my sister lives on a (beautiful) houseboat and doesn’t have a bath anymore, so it struck me that I’m lucky to have one.
- Captain Nutkins – I’ve named the squirrel that visits and have spotted him in the garden munching on the sunflower seeds I put out for him which made me happy.
Conclusion of my gratitude journal experiment
Looking back over the past 8 weeks I’m not sure I feel happier for writing down the things I’m grateful for rather than just thinking about them, however, I do feel it has allowed me to put things into perspective and feel that bit more positive.
Writing things down has given me a more positive perspective and that can only be a good thing.
I’ve had a couple of tough weeks as a result of insomnia, anxiety, stalled weight loss and not being able to swim at the gym due to lockdown. Initially, I felt like those weeks had been rubbish with nothing in them to stand out or feel happy about, but when I stopped to think at the end of each week, I was still able to find lovely things that stood out.
Instead of writing those weeks off and thinking of them negatively, I realised, actually, despite the bad bits, I’d still had a pretty good week, managing to fit some lovely things in, and I find a lot of solace in that.
I’ve realised that even on ‘bad’ weeks, there are lots of things to be happy and grateful for, so I think writing things down has given me a more balanced perspective and that can only be a good thing.
Find out more about the science behind happiness by listening to The Happiness Half Hour Podcast Reveals The Science Of Happiness.