In 2018 I completed my own Happiness Project, inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s book by the same name. Before the year began, I decided on one focus for the month. Goals ranged from learning to garden, working on total immersion swimming, to doing something out of my routine every day of the month. (I wrote about the project here, and wrote about each month’s goal on my blog as well).
In September, my goal was to develop a gratitude practice by starting a journal in which I wrote down three things each day that I was grateful for, and wrote about it here. I have maintained that practice, and as I just finished that journal (literally, filled up every page), it presents as a good time to reflect on the practice. Why have I kept this up for so long when so many habits so easily go by the wayside?
Here are some of my thoughts about why this has stuck:
- It is really easy. It takes me just a minute or two and I do it the very first thing when I crawl into bed at night.
- I like reflecting on my day each and every day. It’s amazing how often I might be grumpy in the evening, forgetting something joyful earlier in that very same day.
- When I have trouble finding something to write, it gives me good feedback. Some days aren’t bad, but they also are just not memorable. Or maybe my mood is bad. I can take a moment to reflect on why, and continually do that which brings me joy more often.
- Sometimes I am surprised at the items I write down. I am quite a hermit, but spending time with people whether on a call or meeting for an outside adventure, always makes it to the list – so maybe I should make sure to do more of it!
- I like looking back. If you keep a journal, you can look back and reflect. I’m sure I would love that, but it would take a lot more time and while it has been a practice, it isn’t currently. But with the simple, quick, gratitude journal I can get enough snippets to remember what was going on in my life this time last year, etc.
Am I a happier person because of it?
The touted purpose of a gratitude practice is often to shift your mindset to being more positive and seeing events as positive. However, actually measuring that in myself is a difficult feat. I do not go about my day thinking – oh, that is something to put in my gratitude journal. Indeed, I do not think I give it a moment of thought before I start writing. But, I cannot imagine that examining my day to look for the positive moments is going to do anything but make me a little more positive. If each day I go to sleep remembering something I am grateful for, even though I cannot measure it, I think it adds up to help keep me positive.
I write this in 2020 amidst a global pandemic, in a country with some of the highest infection rate numbers where wearing a mask has become a political issue. In the midst of global protests for race equality, in support of Black Lives Matter, and calls to overhaul our policing system and to use resources differently. With uncertainly of the future ahead, heightened for people who have lost jobs and those with children who may or may not have a school to attend in the fall.
It is possible that you struggle in this moment to find the positive, to find things to feel great about, and to find joy everyday.
Starting your own gratitude journal could help you thrive in this period of time. As I wrote about here, I have seen others benefit tremendously from the practice, and what do you have to lose?
Let me know if you do try it, and if you stick with it! What do you like or not like about it?