Take the 2-minute tour ×
Cognitive Sciences Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for practitioners, researchers, and students in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I was intrigued to read (in the question "What positive writing exercises improve happiness?") the idea of a gratitude diary suggested as an intervention that "causes psychological well-being levels to increase in a lasting way".

Empirical studies suggest that people who use gratitude journals feel better about their lives and report fewer symptoms of illness. (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Doverspike; Emmons Lab.)

However, there's also lots of dubious law of attraction-style writing on the topic, like this:

"Did you know that appreciation, gratitude and love are the highest forms of vibration? You can only have one vibration at a time, and if you are noticing what you appreciate and noticing what you are grateful for, you can't be noticing what you don't like."

And although studies find gratitude journals to be beneficial, they disagree on the most beneficial ways to keep one. Psychologist William Doverspike says:

"A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) resulted in more positive effects tha[n] did the weekly intervention."

But Jason Marsh of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley says:

"Writing occasionally (once or twice per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling. In fact, one study by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness afterward; people who wrote three times per week didn’t."

So: which is likely to be correct in practice? And what best practices for keeping a gratitude journal can be inferred from other research, either specifically about gratitude or more generally in the cognitive sciences?


Update (9th Dec 2013): I'm continuing to research this question. This article, while not terribly scientific, has some good jumping off points (infographic and links) that may help potential answerers!

share|improve this question
(I'm new here, and not a CogSci professional, just an interested lay person, so edits particularly welcome!) –  Jonathan Deamer Dec 2 '13 at 19:23
there is more research in general about journaling in general than this one technique –  caseyr547 Dec 27 '13 at 1:11
add comment

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.