26 Practical Steps to a Healthier You: Keep a Gratitude Journal {Week 5}

For the next 26 weeks I will be sharing a different way you can become healthier in your daily life. Some of these suggestions have to do with food or exercise, others have to do with lifestyle changes, but all of them are practical and relatively easy to execute. You may already be practicing some of these habits, but hopefully you’ll be inspired by at least one or two new ideas you can begin to implement. 

Keep a Gratitude Journal


The more I learn about the human body, the more I marvel at God’s incredibly detailed handiwork. Did you know that with every thought, a chemical is released from the brain? When you have a positive thought, chemicals that make you feel relaxed and happy are released. And when you have a negative thought, negative chemicals are released from the brain, leaving you feeling bad.

The good news is we don’t have to be controlled by our thoughts or emotions. We can replace negative thoughts with positive ones. It just takes awareness, discipline, and prayer. One way to do this is to consistently focus on what you are grateful for. Modern medical research has proved that thankfulness improves one’s mental and physical health. In fact, psychologist Martin Seligman found in his research that when individuals wrote down three things they were grateful for every single day, their level of happiness increased within three weeks of doing the exercise.



Our negative thoughts can actually change our brains negatively, decreasing our ability to learn, imagine, and create. Positive thoughts, however, contribute to a very healthy brain. Thankfulness affects the cerebellum, the part of your brain that helps with fine motor skills and with processing music and languages. Essentially, the less thankful you are, the slower you are. Psychologist Dr. Amen has been researching brain scans for many years and has actually witnessed this phenomenon!

Psychologist Noelle Nelson wrote a book on the power of appreciation, sharing her own brain SPECT scan experience. She had her first scan after 30 minutes of meditating on everything she was thankful for in her life. This scan showed a very healthy brain. The second time she was scanned was two days later after focusing on many of her fears in life. This time, her brain looked drastically different. The scan showed that her cerebellum had completely shut down! Not only this, but her temporal lobes which are involved with mood, memory, and temper control, were also negatively affected. Issues with the temporal lobes are known to be associated with violence, depression, and memory problems. As Dr. Amen says, “Practicing gratitude literally helps you have a brain to be grateful for.”


The American journal of Geriatric Psychiatry published an article in March of 2013 about a study done on 2,000 veterans between the ages of 60 and 96. In their research they found that gratitude and purpose were the two most significant traits that contributed to successful aging. Do you want to age well? Keep a gratitude journal!


Have you ever spent an extended period of time with an ungrateful, complaining individual? Perhaps you were only with them for a few minutes, yet their attitude most likely affected you. It’s difficult to be joyful and upbeat when you are with a “Debbie-downer.” It’s physically draining.  Don’t be that person. If you want great relationships, start practicing gratefulness TODAY.


Being thankful will also help your relationships because you will no longer be focused on all the traits and habits you don’t like about your friends. Instead, your focus will be on how you are grateful for them. It’s difficult to enjoy spending time with somebody who constantly sees your flaws and doesn’t show you appreciation. Simply changing your outlook will radically transform your friendships.


“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

“…And be thankful.Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:15b, 16

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

If you’re still not convinced, read Numbers 11 and the story of the 10 lepers Jesus heals to find out how He feels about ungratefulness and complaining (see Luke 17:11-19).


1. Purchase a composition notebook or cheap journal.
2. Decorate the cover (optional).
3. Put today’s date at the top of the page.
4. Write three things you are thankful for on this particular day and why.
5. Spend time thanking God for these things.
6. Repeat steps 3-5 every day!


If you need help with getting your own journal started, follow the prompts I’ve laid out below throughout the whole month of November. For examples, on November 1st, write down at least three people you are especially thankful for and why. Or you can just write down three reasons you are thankful for your immediate family members.

November 1st: Immediate Family
November 2nd: Friendships
November 3rd: Attributes of God
November 4th: Nature
November 5th: Health
November 6th: Skills/Talents
November 7th: The Senses
November 8th: Education
November 9th: Your Features
November 10th: Books
November 11th: Extended Family
November 12th: Your Church Family
November 13th: Something Funny
November 14th: Childhood Memories
November 15th: Food
November 16th: Gifts You’ve Received
November 17th: Role Models
November 18th: Freedom
November 19th: Lessons Learned
November 20th: Your Personality Strengths
November 21st: Spiritual Blessings
November 22nd: Beauty
November 23rd: Hobbies
November 24th: Your Job
November 25th: Your Finances
November 26th: Appliances
November 27th: Entertainment
November 28th: Transportation
November 29th: Personal Possessions
November 30th: Safety


Excerpt From The Hiding Place:

                  “Thank you,” Betsie when on serenely, “for the fleas and for–“
                   The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”
                   “Give thanks in all circumstances,” she quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”
                    And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for the fleas.
Betsie was waiting for me… Her eyes were twinkling…
“You know we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” she said. “Well, I’ve found out why.” That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.
                 “But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”
                 Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: “Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!'”
“In order to foster true gratitude in our hearts, we must fight to stay satisfied with God. We must spend more hours studying Him, and fewer hours researching our diseases and disabilities on the Internet.” -Joni Eareckson Tada
“Cultivating a thankful heart is a safeguard against becoming bitter, prickly, and sour. A grateful child of God can’t help be but a joyful, peaceful, radiant person.” -Nancy Leigh Demoss
So what are you waiting for? Go grab a journal and write down 3 things you’re thankful for!

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