About 12 years ago, I started a practice that literally changed my life.
I remember hearing my friends and influencers talk about keeping a gratitude journal. It felt like a fad and it seemed kind of silly to me so I ignored the idea for quite some time. I never really understood the impact it could have on a person. I can’t really pinpoint the exact moment that led me to give this a try but I am so grateful to God for putting this on my heart.
As my gratitude journaling grew into a consistent and invigorating activity in my life, I noticed a shift in my mindset. In the first part of my marriage, I would describe myself as a “Negative Nelly”, always looking at the problems. On the other hand, my husband was the “Rock” always cheering me on and remaining steady in all things life.
I noticed that I could see more of what was good around us and could see the glass half full instead of half empty. Here is an example, our family was visiting the Grand Canyon one spring break when we drove up to the lanes to pay and enter the park. We were excited and thought it wouldn’t be long before we were taking in those amazing views of the Grand Canyon because we found a very short lane with only 2 cars in front of us. Sweet, we thought. We quickly learned that we were actually in the LONG line. In fact, all the other cars that we passed to get in the short line were already entering the park. My husband was naturally getting irritated. Talks under his breath about how we have terrible luck, things rarely go our way, etc… You get the point. Then the driver of the car in front of us comes to our window and asks if we had $.53 to give him as he was short of $.53 to get into the park my husband said sure because that is my husband always willing to help someone out. When we got up to the gate to pay, the park ranger asked us if we knew the people that were helping to pay for the rest of their ticket. My husband said no and the Park Ranger said that was very nice of us and allowed us into the park for $.53. I looked at my sweet husband and reminded him that good things do come our way.
How does this have anything to do with gratitude journaling? I didn’t share the part about how I reassured him, rubbed his arm, reminded him of what a great day it was so far, and we still had the entire day to see what we wanted to see. Then I reminded him how wonderful the day was as we saved $30 just by offering to help out a stranger. This event would have played out much differently had I not been in the habit of seeing gratitude around me. Seriously.
I have over 15 journals that are full of writings and some lingering journals that were started and never finished. These journals hold the thoughts, prayers, and gratitudes of 12 years of my life. A practice that I still find helpful and necessary in the spiritual and emotional parts of my being.
If I have convinced you just a little here are a few basic tips to get you started:
Get a journal
You will need a place to write things down. Any sort of notebook - big or small works great. Use something you already have at home or purchase something that speaks to you. I must admit, I prefer to purchase a new journal. It feels like the first day of school when you go to use your school supplies for the first time. Don’t you just love that feeling of a new journal? You want your handwriting to be as neat as possible and if you mess up on the first page you feel the need to rip it out and start over. No? Just me then…
Commit to writing 3 things you are grateful for at the same time every day. This is important as it helps to build a routine. I prefer the morning to write my gratitudes but I know many people who write theirs at the end of the day. So…pick the time that you can be most consistent and stick with it for a few weeks.
When I first started this practice, I found it hard to initially find 3 things. I was experiencing a lot of anxiety, sadness, and fear. It was a cloud over me and it never seemed to clear up. I committed to this practice for a few weeks. Some weeks I wrote in my journal every day and some weeks it was just once. I didn’t let this discourage me. Any day of writing gratitude is a win!
Guess what happened? It got easier and easier to come up with 3 things of gratitude.
Make it interesting
As I found 3 things of gratitude easier, I started to challenge myself. I started writing 5, 7, and then 10 things of gratitude a day! Once I got to 10, I was thinking to myself there’s no way I can keep this up. So I challenged myself to write gratitudes that were different from the day before. This was definitely a challenge and it provided something interesting to my writing.
You can focus on a theme like Advent, Lent, Summer, Fall, All things family, etc… You get the picture - giving yourself a little challenge makes gratitude journaling fun and creative.
If you aren’t the creative type, no need to stress. You can keep your journal as simple as you would like.
Gratitude changes our mindset
Thinking of the things we are grateful for gives us strength and courage to fight through something that might be difficult. It is in those moments of tragedy, suffering, and pain that make it is hard to see goodness. With the practice of gratitude, you can begin to see goodness DESPITE tragedy, suffering, and pain. This is the courage and strength we are given through a lens of gratitude. This provides us an opportunity to stand up and walk even in the midst of our suffering. It makes a remarkable difference to you and those around you. I am living proof of its power.