In 2018 I did my own happiness project. I explained it here. In brief, there is a book by Gretchen Rubin called the Happiness Project in which she writes about her year of trying new habits. I created my own version and attempted a new habit or focus each month for the year. I posted updates throughout even though many months I didn’t quite do what I had planned at the beginning of the year.
One habit, however, has stuck with me, and I realized recently that I have been keeping a gratitude journal quite consistently for over a year now. Here are my reflections on the practice and encouragement to consider your own.
What I do for my gratitude journal
I keep a journal by my bedside. Each evening I write down three things that I’m grateful for. Usually this ends up being three things I enjoyed most about my day. I don’t bring it when I travel, and sometimes forget to start again when I return. I put it in a drawer out of sight if house sitters stay at the house. Eventually I remember, take it out, and resume the practice.
Why I keep doing it
I look forward to it when I crawl into bed. I’m not precisely sure why, but I think I like being forced to reflect on the day behind me. Sometimes I surprise myself when I would think that I had a fine day, but then struggle to come up with anything to write down. Those moments help me to reflect on what really brings me joy, and I have found that this can differ from what I would have previously expected.
I also really enjoy looking back in time. What was going on six months or a year ago? It reminds me of the good times, since that’s my focus, but also gives me points of reference that put me back into that time period to allow me to recall other things going on in my life at the time.
What else do I keep in this journal?
At some point I started a “manifestation journal” in the back of the journal I currently use as my gratitude journal. This is where I put my ginormous big-picture goals that I have in my life. It is less than a page long at the moment. I enjoy looking at it. Sometimes I add to it. Sometimes I chuckle at the audacity of the goals I wrote down that now seem unattainable. But….who knows what will come true before I die. (This podcast with Samin Nosrat was my inspiration for a manifestation journal).
You might consider trying your own
There are numerous journaling activities. If you don’t already have a journaling practice that works for you, this is an easy way to start. If evening isn’t a good time for you, you can do it first thing in the morning, or any other time that suits you (and that you can maintain fairly consistently). I worked with one client who did it whenever they thought of something positive. This isn’t ideal and is likely to wain over time, however, when they were doing it, they reported a huge shift in mindset. This client struggled with depression and this practice gave them a big boost.
When we begin to look for the positive, it can change our mindset. You probably have negative stories in your head that you do not realize are there.
If this practice resonates with you in any way, give it a shot. The worst that can happen is if you decide it isn’t for you.