A few months back, I gave myself I challenge- to sit down and reflect on my day, every day, and write down the things I’m grateful for. This was inspired by the notebook we kept during teacher training, where we noted the best and worst parts of our day. I loved the positive journaling, but often found myself filling out the “worst” parts first. For someone who calls themselves a “realist” but often gets caught being a “pessimist”, this wasn’t surprising, but it was troubling, and I decided to do something about it.
My gratitude journal is simple. Every page has the date, and the phrase “Today I’m grateful for…” Below are bullet points of the things I’m thankful to have in my life, like people or objects. There’s a few points that are on almost every page (Just Be yogis, my parents, my house, etc.) but some days I write down kind strangers or specific acts of kindness I’ve experienced. Logging these little things helps me acknowledge just how much they meant to me, and makes me remember the good in the world when I flip back through the pages. For example, I might go through a tough week thinking people are selfish or only thinking of themselves, but see a few notes like, “The woman who gave me her parking pass with two hours left on it.” or “My friend’s aunt who gave me fresh eggs from her chickens.”
Perhaps the most valuable gift my journal has given me is the tool of rephrasing. Some nights, when I sit down to journal, I might be thinking about how much it cost to fill up my tank with gas. So, I’ll write down that I’m grateful to have a car to drive and to have the independence that brings. If I’m feeling down about a tough class or test, I’ll write down that I’m grateful for the help of my teachers. If I’m feeling stressed about a busy schedule, I’ll say I’m thankful for all the opportunities coming to me and all the people who make it possible. By rewording my stressors or grudges, I’m able to change my perception of, and reaction to, things that can bring me down.
It’s a simple daily exercise that can change your life. By spinning things in a positive light, your mood can shift dramatically. Instead of feeling bogged down by expenses, conflicts, or obstacles, you’re focused on the blessings they carry. Sure, cars require gas that costs more than is comfortable, but they are a privilege to have and drive. Sure, our jobs can be stressful and time consuming, but the ability to work and provide for our needs is unparalleled. Keeping a journal of gratitude helps you reconnect with the little pleasures in life, and makes a remarkable difference in the way you approach your days.
We can’t control many things in life (I wrote about this in a previous post), but we can control one thing: our attitude. I had a teacher and post fellow-trainee speak to this in her class recently. She said that recently, I friend pointed out to her that throughout the day she often brought up how tired she was, and that it certainly couldn’t be helping her problem. I think we all do this- immediately default to the negativity in our lives instead of focusing on the positive. I certainly can relate to wallowing in my exhaustion or my stress instead of redirecting my focus to things within my control at that moment. Repeating how tired I am won’t make me less tired, but choosing to change my perspective can actually make a difference.
I encourage everyone to write down a few things they’re grateful for every day for a week, and notice the change. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or time consuming- just bullet points. You could even keep it on your phone (or go rather public and use social media, like Facebook, which would certainly hold you accountable). While it might start off as a chore, I can almost guarantee that you’ll grow to love it and the affect it has on your days.