What Positive Psychology Can Tell Us About Journaling (Hope and Gratitude).


Anuj Yadav (BSc Psychology)

1/19/20244 min read

What Positive Psychology Can Tell Us About Journaling (Hope and Gratitude).

For those who don’t know, Positive Psychology is an approach in psychology that attempts to understand positive experiences such as happiness or gratitude, and positive individual traits within people such as resilience or grit. It is a field that is concerned with promoting well-being and optimal functioning instead of trying to alleviate suffering, which the rest of psychology already does (Duckworth et al., 2005). Why is this important? Well, that is because a wealth of research has found this approach to be beneficial for improving people's lives. The papers cited later in this article should attest to that. Duckworth et al. (2005) also pointed out that Positive Psychology interventions (journaling being one of them) can be a hidden key component of good psychotherapy. To not dive too deep into this topic and take up too much of your time, this article will try to highlight how journaling is beneficial for people using the Positive Psychology framework as a point of reference, so let's get into it.

To narrow down our focus even further It should be acknowledged that Positive Psychology tries to foster four things: hope, gratitude, wisdom, and forgiveness (Ruini & Mortara, 2022). Again, to shorten the content you have to read, we’ll focus on just hope and gratitude. The other two will be discussed in a later article. Starting with hope, a research study that used people's phones to implement a journaling intervention showed that people found new appreciations and meanings in their daily routines and improved their self-acceptance in just three short weeks (Jeong & Breazeal, 2016). As well as this, another study had participants take part in a biweekly journal and found that it helped to improve their hope; what’s more is that hope in turn led to less procrastination (Hensley & Munn, 2020). This corresponded with other research suggesting hope can help in reducing procrastination (Alexander & Onwuegbuzie, 2007) and can be seen as another indirect benefit of journaling.

Gratitude has been hugely studied within positive psychology and continues to be studied to conclusively find the true benefits of being grateful. However, there is plenty of evidence suggesting that it is beneficial. For example, we have this paper by Killen & Macaskill (2015) highlighting how gratitude journals are a cost-effective way of improving well-being in older adults. They also highlighted how there was no difference between online and paper journals in their study which is also important to note. On top of this, gratitude journals are easier to write and stick with compared to other gratitude interventions such as a gratitude letter (Kaczmarek et al., 2015), perhaps making them a more effective way of feeling grateful. There is far too much research to discuss on gratitude, so for now, I will leave you with just this.

As you can see, journaling is supported as a beneficial activity for people to improve their well-being. This also goes further with more generic research showing that journaling or writing therapy, as explained by James Pennebaker, is beneficial for improving well-being and reducing symptoms and distress (Ruini & Mortara, 2022). Another study supporting this highlights its benefits for academic and cognitive performance but shows that it can have deeper psychological benefits even beyond these (Fritson, 2008). Clearly, Positive Psychology supports the idea that journaling is a tool that will improve our well-being by a) increasing our hope levels; b) potentially reducing procrastination; c) promoting gratitude; d) reducing distress; and e) having psychological, academic, and cognitive benefits for us. So with this in mind, should you journal? Although this paper shows you some reasons for why you should journal, that is a question left for you to answer by considering the evidence yourself.



Alexander, E. S., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2007). Academic procrastination and the role of hope as a coping strategy. Personality and Individual Differences, 42(7), 1301-1310. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2006.10.008

Fritson, K. K. (2008). Impact of Journaling on Students' Self-Efficacy and Locus of Control. Insight: A journal of scholarly teaching, 3, 75-83. Retrieved January 18, 2024, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ888412

Hensley, L. C., & Munn, K. J. (2020). The power of writing about procrastination: Journaling as a tool for change. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 44(10), 1450-1465. https://doi.org/10.1080/0309877X.2019.1702154

Jeong, S., & Breazeal, C. L. (2016, October). Improving smartphone users' affect and wellbeing with personalized positive psychology interventions. In Proceedings of the fourth international conference on human agent interaction (pp. 131-137). https://doi.org/10.1145/2974804.2974831

Kaczmarek, L. D., Kashdan, T. B., Drążkowski, D., Enko, J., Kosakowski, M., Szäefer, A., & Bujacz, A. (2015). Why do people prefer gratitude journaling over gratitude letters? The influence of individual differences in motivation and personality on web-based interventions. Personality and Individual Differences, 75, 1-6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2014.11.004

Killen, A., & Macaskill, A. (2015). Using a gratitude intervention to enhance well-being in older adults. Journal of Happiness Studies, 16, 947-964. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-014-9542-3

Lee Duckworth, A., Steen, T. A., & Seligman, M. E. (2005). Positive psychology in clinical practice. Annu. Rev. Clin. Psychol., 1, 629-651. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.1.102803.144154

Ruini, C., & Mortara, C. C. (2022). Writing technique across psychotherapies—from traditional expressive writing to new positive psychology interventions: A narrative review. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10879-021-09520-9