With health and wellness being all the rage, it’s pretty common to hear people ranting and raving about the benefits of journaling. I’ll admit, it’s had some serious benefits for me: reflecting on my day helps me set intentions, consider my to-do list and it also gives me a space to write in a more informal context.
One common type of journaling activity is gratitude journaling, a practice of reflecting on and feeling grateful for the “wins” of the day. There’s a growing number of studies that back this practice up.
This kind of journaling yields tremendous life benefits. One study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that practicing gratitude journaling actually increases one's generosity.
“Using real money and donation as a measure, we found that adolescents who kept a gratitude journal donated 60% more of their earnings to charity," according to the study.
Another study by The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that in a group of 327 undergraduate students, “gratitude following a writing activity significantly predicted healthier eating behavior 1 week later.”
However, let’s be honest: life isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. Personally, I encounter situations (and frankly, people) that are annoying, angering and saddening.
Yet, not everything is a tragedy. Venting to friends and family can be a great source of comfort after a breakup or a bad grade, but nobody wants to listen to me complain about a stubbed toe or how Starbucks spelled my name wrong. So, what is a girl to do with all of these everyday tragedies?
About a month ago, I started listing them underneath my gratitude journaling. I dubbed this list, "the anti-gratitude journal." Beyond providing me a space to vent, this practice has provided me with a lot of much-needed perspective.
By putting those day-to-day hardships on paper, it’s easier to recognize how insignificant they really are. Usually, by the time I start journaling at the end of the day, I’ve forgotten all about the situations that made me upset and have to spend time trying to recall them. It’s a great reminder that those small struggles will pass. Finding that time to reflect on them makes these situations easier to deal with them going forward.
It also contrasts them with my “wins” of the day. What I’ve noticed is that I usually have much more to be thankful for than I ever have to complain about. The items I have to complain about are also usually much more material; for example, I often write that I was grateful for a burst of creativity or time with friends, whereas my gripes usually have to do with physical discomfort or annoying assignments. This has seriously increased my feelings of gratitude, which strengthens my overall journaling practice.
The anti-gratitude journal has also allowed me to be a much more positive force in my friends' lives. Though being able to vent can be the sign of a great friend, putting the emotional weight of all my little problems on the people in my life can sometimes weigh them down as well. By writing them down, I have a space to let those thoughts and emotions out. This gives me a more positive attitude as I tackle my relationships.
If you have a gratitude journal, I would highly recommend adding an anti-gratitude section to your practice. It might benefit you more than you think.