Can keeping a gratitude journal make you happier?

A lady writing in what could be a gratitude journal

In her book Thrive, Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington extols the benefits of expressing gratitude – including its calming effect. But how effective is keeping a gratitude journal? Three IoD members share their experiences

Sean Kent keeps a gratitude journalSean Kent

Non-executive director, East Coast Community Healthcare

I’ve never tried anything like this before, so I decided to use an online journal app called Day One, which worked on my iPhone and iPad. I approached the exercise thinking it would be difficult, but once I started it was easy to come up with things for which I was grateful – such as seeing friends and relatives; an activity that had gone well; something that I had learnt; or even just a nice meal. I usually wrote up my journal in the evening when I received a reminder from the app. I’d typically spend between 10 and 15 minutes doing this. I found that reflecting on the day and noting things to be grateful for left me in a better mood and changed my perception. Sometimes it felt like a challenge, but I soon recognised the benefit: it helped me to achieve a better balance by paying less attention to the negative things in life. I think it enables me to end each day with a more positive attitude. I shall try to continue doing this and spend a few moments every day on it to gain the most benefit. I’ll keep using the app, as it will be interesting to look back at things over time. The daily reminder will motivate me to do it.

Sean Kent is a member of IoD Norfolk

Joy Allen

Managing director, Leading Governance

In recent years I’ve been writing in a journal sporadically, usually when I had things to be thankful for. But I’d deliberately avoided establishing a schedule for writing, because I was afraid it would seem like just another task. Having a four-week period in which to try out the new approach prompted me to aim for a daily entry, although I wasn’t strict with that and ended up writing every other day, which felt about right. I bought a lovely book and dug out my favourite pen to make the experience nicer. The timing that worked best for me was after my evening meal. It felt like a healthy separation between the working day and the evening, and it helped me to relax with a positive frame of mind. My entries varied from 15 to 35 minutes to write, with the longer ones including more detail about my experiences. I enjoy looking back and reminding myself of happy occasions, because it can really shift stress or a bad mood. Keeping a gratitude journal is a practical way of reframing situations, feeling more positive and putting stressful issues into perspective. I’ll be continuing with the journal and I look forward to having many more happy days on which to reflect.

Joy Allen is a member of IoD Northern Ireland

Esther Higham keeps a gratitude journalEsther Higham

Founder, Higham & Company

I’m a sporadic diary-keeper, so the exercise of writing a gratitude journal appealed to me as a way to get back into keeping a more regular record of life. I chose a new notebook and put it by my bed with the aim of writing up my thoughts every night before going to sleep. True to form, I was thorough for the first 10 days and much more sporadic afterwards, but the exercise was still life-enhancing. It’s been quite a challenging time for our company: we’re in the middle of a transition and we’ve had to do some painful restructuring. At a time when plenty of negatives were floating about, it was helpful to have a reason to focus on the positives. It has made me more aware of the small victories – the good meeting, the positive lead – and has probably helped me to celebrate them better. More than anything, it’s made me realise how vital life outside work is to our wellbeing. Even on days when I had to think hard to find any positives at work, it took no time at all to be thankful for the blessings in my personal life. I was grateful not only for the individual happy moments but also for the fact that they simply exist – that there is a balance in my life, which keeps me sane and happy.

Esther Higham is a member of IoD South

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About author

Hannah Gresty

Hannah Gresty

Until she left the magazine in August 2019, Hannah Gresty was the assistant editor of Director. She previously worked on a local news website and at a fashion PR company before joining the Director team as editorial assistant in 2016.

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