This was the question my therapist posed to me in my last session.
I winced at the idea.
I’ve always struggled with the idea of writing about the good things each day – anxiety rears its unwelcome head.
What if there are no good things? What if that makes me feel bad? Do I struggle to make something up in the name of completing my daily journaling goal and then feel bad for faking happiness?
I wasn’t so sure. But my therapist was keen for me to try. Just note down three things – however big or small – every day that I have been grateful for.
It can’t be that hard right?
The conversation came about from a pattern we’d been discussing that I tend to instinctively fall towards negative thoughts and expectations. Hence the immediate dismissal of gratitude journaling.
But I think I was looking at this practice all wrong.
Gratitude journaling has been – in just one week – the start of a positive cycle. It felt a bit weird to start with but by taking the time to notice what’s good in my day, I’ve started making more time for me to notice good things and to make good things happen.
In a short space of time I’ve been able to notice patterns in the things that form a strong basis of what I’m grateful for – and also how that actually expands the more I give myself time and space to think about it. I’ve recognised that there’s a lot more scope than I originally thought that you could be grateful for.
I started the week with fairly simple, obvious things in my list of three; my cat, good food and family. Although I knew these would come up, it felt good to actually recognise their important daily role in my feelings of positivity.
This week I have focused on pausing, stopping and doing nothing. My body and mind has needed it. In turn, as I started moving closer to the end of my week-long journaling task, I noticed that my three responses were changing.
Aside from the immediate, physical things in my life that are good – I started recognising habits, qualities, traits and privileges that I hold too.
I’ve started to realise that feeling grateful isn’t just about what we have but what we are, do, think, feel and are able to do.
This week alone I’ve been grateful for my ability to afford things simply because I enjoy them and my ability to commit to changes that will make me happy. I’ve also realised that alongside my family being important, it’s quality time that really matters.
I’ve also recognised, importantly, that I do have the ability to slow down and breathe in the good things around me, and not just perform the act of pausing but to actually do it, and enjoy it. In fact, it turns out I’m not a to-do list, and ticking things off a to-do list isn’t really that important to me in the grand scheme of things.
It might seem obvious but it took the small step of just writing three things down a day to make that clear to me. So, I think this task, far from being a chore, is actually going to become a habit.
Could you try a week of gratitude journaling?
If you can push through any initial feelings of apprehension, it starts to feel more natural and part of your daily routine – just like brushing your teeth!
Let me know if you’re planning to give it a try in the comments.