Over 1,000 days ago, on August 25th, 2020, I started my journey with gratitude! Of course I'd been grateful for things before (I actually have always prided myself on being thankful especially for things others do for me), but I decided to become more intentional about my gratitude & infuse it in my routine daily a couple of years ago.
Let's take an imaginary field trip back to the time I picked up this practice. It was August 2020 and we were all still in the throws of the COVID-19 lockdowns. I had just moved to my then-boyfriend's apartment in Jacksonville and I was still struggling with a case of the "woe-is-me's." To be fair, my senior semester of college was starting and I was missing it, which really hurt. To put salt in the wound, it was a Fall semester, which were hands-down my favorite.
Not only had I been struggling with the loss of the in-person class experience, I was mourning my entire life in Gainesville, which I had worked really hard to mold into something I loved over the past three years. Plus, I'd moved somewhere that I only visited previously, so it felt like starting over somewhere where I couldn't experience the fun parts of the place I lived (besides being with people I loved).
All of this to say I was at a low point. Thankfully, I had it in me to want to change- so I did slowly but sure. One of the keys to my change was my gratitude practice. I had heard a lot of people talk about having gratitude and writing things down, so I decided I'd get myself a cute notebook and try it out for myself.
When I started, I'd hoped to see a little more of the positive in my human experience instead of allowing myself to get so caught up on the negative constantly. What I didn't know would happen is that I'd create a lifeline for myself in the midst of chaos & extreme sadness.
Within my first year of journaling, I:
Found out about my grandpa's terminal cancer diagnosis
Turned 22 with the world still shut down
Lost my grandpa
Lost my great-grandfather
Lost my childhood dog
Took myself off the educational course I'd set myself up for post-grad
A lot, I know...
I won't lie & say that journaling helped me be okay because I wasn't okay. Far from it actually. I hadn't experienced that much loss at one time EVER- let alone at a time that the world was still very much not normal & when I was supposed to be figuring out what to do with the rest of my life.
However, it did let me capture these moments in my life and feel through them as putting them down on paper made them more real. As a people-pleasing perfectionist, one of my fatal flaws is shoving my emotions down (only for them to typically bubble up at the worst time). By bringing even the gut-wrenching moments to life, I gave myself the space have emotions by myself in a safe space and ultimately came out better for it.
Don't worry- the original intent of my gratitude practice came to fruition too as I started illuminating more of the bright spots in life, whether it was something small I experienced in the day-to-day (like the food I was obsessed with in the moment) or something earth-shattering (like one of my dear loved ones being at peace).
An added bonus of this practice has been the ability to look back at my writings and experience those moments again + see how far I've come. It's often extremely hard for us to see how far we've come from any point in our lives because we typically dwell in the present or, sometimes, future. But by coming across these journals at random times or simply flipping to the beginning of my current journal, I'm reminded once more of how much growing I've done- because as people in our twenties, we do a TON of growing, whether we realize it or not ✨
The approach I've taken to this gratitude practice takes me literally 5 minutes/day, so if you're considering a gratitude practice but feel like you won't have time, this is for you!
When I wake up in the morning, complete two sections of my practice for myself: Affirmation Station & Morning Thanks.
In Affirmation Station, I write myself an affirmation for the day according to how I may be feeling about what's going on in my mind. My therapist suggested adding this to my practice in December 2022 and it has been a game-changer to my confidence as I'm providing myself with targeted encouragement towards my current insecurities first thing in the morning.
I'm also sharing these affirmations on my Threads, so if you're interested in the affirmations I write (+ the odd inner workings of my mind), give me a follow!
In Morning Thanks, I simply write down 5 things I'm thankful for. As I mentioned before, these things can be as little as basic necessities and as big as life-altering moments. Here are a few examples from my life lately:
Today, I am grateful for...
The green smoothies I've been nourishing my body with
Another year with many of my kiddos from last year
Taking time to rest & rejuvenate without guilting myself
Having the confidence to stand up for myself & my needs
Being more social than usual
Before I go to bed, I round my journaling session out for the day with a Daily Recap. This component is a nice way to reflect on the day as I don't put any restrictions on how much I'm supposed to write and what I'm supposed to talk about, but its greatest benefit to me has been the ability to look back and see what any regular day of different seasons of my life looked like. I have entries from the low points of losing ones & to the high points of getting new jobs and everything in between. With these entries, I am reminded of heartbreaks, triumphs, and the mundaneness I once lived in.
What I've Learned
If I've learned anything from this process, it's been to find the good in every day. Even the worst of days have bright spots in them- I promise. It does the mind wonders to pinpoint these bright spots by putting them down on paper because, eventually, your mind will start to seek them out on its own- without you having to do much.
I've also learned the discipline it takes to keep up with a practice like this. As I mentioned above, it's really only 5 minutes/day, so it's super attainable for even the busiest of people (it's me, hi 👋🏻). Attainability and habit stacking are two huge keys to making any new addition to your routine stick. To illustrate, before I get out of bed in the morning, I do my morning journaling. Now, the desire to get out of bed is linked to my need to journal, so my journaling gets done at the same point of my day daily. If you want more on building new routines that stick, leave a 🙋🏻♀️ in the comments below!
I know journaling isn't for everyone, especially not in my exact manner. However, based on my experience, I think having some sort of practice is critical to cultivating a healthier mindset overall. Therefore, I implore you to find some ways to infuse your life with gratitude- whether you say three things you're grateful for to yourself in the morning, point out moments throughout your day that you're grateful for, or keep a physical log like me. The world, and your mind, can always use more gratitude ✨