How a Gratitude Journal Can Support Your Mental Health

By Jacquelyn Buffo, MS, LPC, CAADC

March 21, 2022


If you are one of many people experiencing challenges in your mental health, you are not alone. Many Americans are facing mental health challenges.

Social isolation due to a global pandemic, social unrest, and political division has taken its toll on the mental well-being of many people. Almost 53 million people reported a mental illness in 2020. Along with a comprehensive treatment plan that can include therapy, medication, and other interventions, certain behaviors can help improve your mental health. Keeping a gratitude journal has been scientifically proven to help improve your mood and overall mental health when done consistently.


Believe it or not, journaling has many benefits. You likely may have experienced some of the benefits of journaling. If you kept a secret diary when you were a teenager or young child or ever used writing as a way to organize your thoughts and feelings, you have exercised the power of journaling. Putting pen to paper can help you manage your thoughts and feelings. It can also help with externalizing your emotions and thoughts.

When you’re experiencing strong feelings, they can feel consuming, as if they are a part of you. When you write them down, you take them from inside your mind and heart and put them on an external object. When you see your thoughts and emotions on a piece of paper, they seem to lose their power.

Benefits of journaling

Research has shown that regularly journaling can positively impact our well-being and mental health.

Journaling can:

  • Help you manage and reduce your anxiety
  • Help you effectively cope with feelings of depression
  • Reduce stress
  • Help you develop self-awareness of your emotional triggers so you can learn healthier ways of managing them
  • Help you prioritize your concerns, fears, and problems
  • Help you identify negative and judgmental self-talk and provide an opportunity to replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk

What Is gratitude?

Gratitude is the act of giving thanks. This can include verbalizing thanks to others, writing out what you are thankful for, giving thanks through gifts, and giving acts of kindness. By adopting an “attitude of gratitude,” you work hard at finding aspects of your life and your day that you are grateful for.

People who choose to identify things they are grateful for and experience many health and overall wellness benefits, including:

  • Improved physical health: people who practice gratitude are more likely to care for their physical health and experience less physical pain.
  • Improved mood and mental health: people who practice gratitude feel less negative emotions such as depression, frustration, resentment, and envy, and they experience more happiness.
  • Improved self-esteem: Gratitude has been shown to reduce comparing yourself to others, leading to improved self-esteem.
  • Improved sleep: A 2011 study suggests that spending 15 minutes before bed identifying what you’re grateful for can help you sleep better and longer.
  • Improve your relationships with others: A 2014 study suggests that saying “thank you” to new friends will make them more likely to invest time and energy into a relationship with you.
  • Increased mental resilience and empathy and reduced aggression: Research suggests that grateful people are less likely to retaliate against others when wronged and help victims of trauma effectively work through post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

How to unleash the benefits of journaling

Identifying what you’re grateful for can help you find satisfaction in your life as it exists in this moment. Finding gratitude in your reality can help prevent you from reaching for something new and temporary to find happiness. Instead, it can help you feel satisfied even though every desire isn’t met. It helps remind you that you don’t have to wait for your life to be perfect or stress-free to experience blessings.

If you’re thinking about incorporating gratitude journaling into your routine, start small and work your way up. Identify a time of day, such as right before bed, and set a timer for 5 minutes on your phone to journal about things you are grateful for. You can add time as you go.

Be patient with yourself; incorporating a new behavior into your routine can feel uncomfortable and awkward at first. Understand that it won’t feel that way for long, and you will become more comfortable with it the more you do it. If you are struggling to identify gratitudes, it’s okay. A good place to start could be with your five senses (your eyesight, sense of taste, sense of smell, etc.).

As mentioned, you should use a gratitude journal in conjunction with other components as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

If you’re experiencing difficulties with your mental health, talk to your doctor about treatment options available to you. If your doctor has prescribed medication, ScriptSave® WellRx offers a free app and website with tools to help, including a prescription discount card, price checker, and medication management to help you stay on track. Give it a try today!

Jacquelyn Buffo is a licensed professional counselor with experience and expertise in substance abuse and mental health issues. She received her MS in mental health counseling from Capella University and is a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the state of Michigan. She is also in the process of receiving her certification in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Jacquelyn has experience working with clients suffering from addiction and mental health issues on an in-home, residential, and outpatient basis. Currently, she works with adolescents and adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder through Henry Ford Health System.


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