How A Gratitude Journal Made a Huge Change in my Life
Life is hectic. If I don’t write down my daily schedule, I get very sidetracked. Between work, running & personal workouts, and my own social calendar, I find it exhausting! But, even with my schedule intact and my life busy, but otherwise intact, I felt like something was missing.
I’ll be the first to admit that I suffer from anxiety. My life, in general, should be relatively stress free. I’m able to (for the most part) work on my own schedule and timeline. I get to do something that I love. I’m not chained to a desk all day (although, the blog might tell you differently!). But, even so, I found that I was having a high level of stress. Have I mentioned I’m also a perfectionist? Well, if I haven’t, then now is the time to tell you that I am. And, as such, it seems that I’m never quite satisfied with anything that I do. So, that adds to my level of stress. Couple that with a desire to be always learning, growing and expanding? Well, now you have a recipe for disaster!
So, it doesn’t come as any surprise that I’m always looking for ways to lower and reduce my anxiety. One way I had been reading about was keeping a gratitude journal. The idea intrigued me, since I used to be a kid who wrote everything down in their journal when they were younger. I suppose you could say that the blog is a continuation of that, but this is much less about the boys I had crushes on in school. (Fun fact: I went back through to see if my old LiveJournal still existed, but much to my dismay, I don’t think that it does.)
Regardless, the idea of a gratitude journal is simple: Make a short journal entry of the positive things that happened that day.
It doesn’t have to be long. In fact, most of my entries are pretty short. I like to focus on writing down three things each day that were positives. I try to keep them relatively specific (ie: “I felt really good about …this…today.”) and focus on different things each day. There’s always a positive to be found in each day, if you’re willing to look. I find that far too often we focus on the negative things throughout the day and let that set the tone for the entire day.
What Keeping a Gratitude Journal Has taught me
Take time for yourself. The great thing about journaling, whether you like to write it down with pen and paper, or on a keyboard, is that it allows you to take some time during the day for yourself. I have a hard time stopping and sitting still, but I find that setting aside 15 minutes throughout the day takes my mind off of many of the things that are going on. These little chunks might not seem like much, but consciously making an effort to take time for yourself plays a huge role on your emotional state.
Focus on what really matters. Sometimes, you just feel like the world is out to get you. Or, sometimes you feel as though there’s just too much going on and you don’t know where to begin. That overwhelming feeling is something that I know all too well. I find that breaking down the day, into small, positive chunks helps me see what mattered throughout the day and what was just noise.
See the good in each day. When we feel overwhelmed, it’s more likely that we are focused on the things that are causing that overwhelming feeling. Rarely do we find ourselves overwhelmed by positive emotions (although it does happen!), so instead, we focus on the negative. Breaking down the day allows me to really process and analyze events as they were, not how I had built them up to be.
Gain a new perspective. Have you ever been really upset by something and then, when you’re presenting the ideas to your friend, you find that when saying them out loud they don’t seem so bad? Sometimes, just saying something out loud (or writing it down) allows you to gain an entirely new perspective on an issue that you didn’t see before. Gratitude journals are a place for all things positive that happened throughout the day, but even negative things can be turned into something positive. For example, instead of: “A client cancelled on me and I didn’t make my session rate,” I could shift my perspective and make it a positive, “My client cancelled on me and I was able to fit in a run. I’m so grateful that I have such a flexible schedule.” In the moment, I made the decision to use my free hour to go for a run, but looking back later, I realized that was quiet an unexpectedly nice turn of events. It’s all a matter of perspective!
Identify the negatives and cut them out. Even though the gratitude journal is all about positive things, it will soon be apparent which things are not making it into your journal. Whether that is your job, your friends, or your partner, the lack of mention of these items will become evident. Consider reading back through your journal weekly to see if you can pinpoint which things/people you wrote about, and which ones didn’t make the cut.
Use past days on days you’re feeling down. Looking back on past days are really fun, but even more so when you’re feeling down. It helps me to read back through my good daily thoughts and shift my attitude towards the day, especially when I’m feeling low. It reminds me of all the good things that are in my life and the things that I’m thankful for.
And remember: this is a journal for you! Your eyes only, so you should never feel pressure to edit yourself!
How to stay consistent with your journaling
Set a reminder. One of the biggest issues that I have with maintaining consistency on anything is that I don’t make time for it. Without a reminder, it’s easy to say, “Oh, I’ll get to it later!” and then I never really do. Setting a daily reminder (even better if it’s the same time every day) will help create a routine that you can stick to. The more that something becomes a habit, the more likely you are to stick to it. And let’s be honest, we could all use a daily dose of positivity!
Keep your journal close to you! I personally like to journal in my down time in the afternoons, but another good time is right before bed. For one, it’s easy to leave your journal by your bedside table. This way, you can finish your day as it is winding down, so you never miss anything. It also helps to get those final thoughts out before you head to bed. I find that I sleep better and more rested when I feel as though I’ve settled everything in my brain for the night.
Don’t put a limit on your journal. When I’m journaling, I like to write down at least 3 things that happened that were positive to me that day. However, many times, when I’m writing, I find that one thought leads to another and then another. Suddenly, I might find that I’ve written half a page of good things! So, don’t make it stressful - write as much or as little as you like each day. It’s freeform and for your eyes only. The same goes for the content! If you want to write in quick little dashes, do so! Make a list! Write paragraphs! Whatever you are feeling that day is all that you need to do. No more, no less.
Do you keep a diary? If so, tell me about it below!