I am a huge advocate for it.

Ever since I attended a lecture by, and then completed an online course on positive psychology taught by Dr. Martin Seligman (the ‘father’ of positive psychology), I’ve kept up my daily practice of ‘3 things’.

Like all habits, starting small and building from there is essential to making it stick. Once I’d spent 3 months completing the simple task of writing 3 things that went well today, I built additional gratitude practices up from that base.

By now you might know I care about my brain’s health more than anything else, and journalling is something I never miss.

My journal now (completed with my wife) includes a habit tracker I write every week including yes if we had sex (we’re all adults here, right?), if we contributed to our community, supported each other, etc.

The 1, 2, 3 is for the ‘3 things that went well today that we’re grateful for’, Manifest is to manifest a positive intention for usually someone else (unless we’re feeling selfish!) and the learn part encourages us to learn something new every day and share it with each other.

The reported health benefits of journalling stretch from stress and anxiety relief, to more restful sleep, healthier finances, improved fitness, and even better heart health.

Types of journal

There are no set rules when it comes to journalling, but it can be good to have a sort of journal menu to choose from, depending on your mood on any given day. As you can see, over the course of 3 years we’ve opted for a ‘bullet journal’ but that’s after years of improving following instructions, so the below is better for beginners in my view!

  • Gratitude Journal: a simple list of 3–5 things you are grateful for
  • Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s 5-step stress release: Write down the answers to these five questions: What is one thing I’m anxious about today? What is one practical thing I could do to prevent or prepare for it? What’s one reason it’s probably not going to be as bad as I fear? What’s one reason I know I can handle it? What’s one upside of the situation?
  • Reflective Journal: look back on your day to process thoughts and feelings

Mental Health benefits of journalling

Journalling is most-commonly associated with its purported mental health benefits, but what’s the scientific proof?

Studies (like this, and this,) show that reflexive journalling is beneficial for emotional well-being, and a useful and effective tool for tapping into your emotional intelligence.

This study of medical students showed a reduction in anxiety and the negative impacts of anxiety across the board after visual journalling.

Parents in this study showed improvements in parenting stress, negative affect, and life satisfaction as well as significant reductions in negative thoughts and feelings after completing four weeks of a daily gratitude journal.

Why the brain loves a gratitude journal

Of all the types of journalling, gratitude is the most widely studied for mental well-being. Not surprising really, as it is connected to both mental and physical well-being, with links to processes within the brain that have long-term impacts on our overall health.

Studies have shown that it can improve well-being throughout your life, increasing self-esteem and life satisfaction.

Cognitive benefits of journalling

Extra fascinating (to us brain geeks anyway), is the impact that journalling has on activity within the brain itself.

One study found that the act of gratitude journalling is linked to a greater and lasting sensitivity to gratitude — the participants showed increases in gratitude behaviours and significantly greater neural activity in response to gratitude in the medial prefrontal cortex three months later.

Another study found that people who wrote a gratitude journal for three weeks increased the altruism response in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens. Meaning that gratitude journalling could benefit others, as well as yourself.

So, long story short if you don’t journal, I think you’re missing out. Now you know the science you also know that if you don’t want to do it for yourself, maybe you can do it for society. 😉

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -

If you enjoyed this snappy snippet — you can check out my weekly newsletter on caring for your brain’s health and nurturing your mental performance according to science, in your inbox every Sunday by signing up here.

I’m the Co-Founder of brain care company, Heights.

We make the highest quality natural smart supplements designed to take care of your most important organ, and taken daily by some of the sharpest brains in Europe, and create content from science designed to help you reach your heights. When you take care of your brain — the rest follows.

Co-Founder of Heights, & Host of Secret Leaders, I write about brain health, mental wellbeing & entrepreneurship.