I’m not, by nature, a very optimistic or light hearted person. I have a keen eye for seeing everything that can be improved, whether it be the painting hanging crookedly on the wall or the way my father pronounces “thermometer.” (He’s Dutch but has lived in Canada for 25 years and still can’t say it right!) I can often see all the possible negative outcomes of a decision and choose to avoid risks unless they have a high enough probability of working out in my favor (which would actually mean that it isn’t much of a risk to begin with). This way of thinking kept me out of a lot of trouble growing up. But it also means that my mind can be wound pretty tight.
Why and How to Keep a Gratitude Journal
Instead of getting stuck at a place of fear and worry and an unhealthy level of perfectionism, I have found a way to increase the level of joy in my heart, thereby increasing my enjoyment of life in general. I still fall prey to bouts of depression but this is one of the ways I beat the negative internal chatter.
Learn to Count Your Blessings
I started counting my blessings about 10 years ago, shortly after I got married. My husband and I were living off of his first year mechanic apprentice income and I was in school full time and had an unpaid position as a trainee in the financial services industry. We needed something to keep our eyes on as we decided each month whether we needed some more fuel for the car or whether we could buy a block of cheese and loaf of bread. We regularly sat down and listed all the wonderful things in our life: he had a job he enjoyed, we had a roof over our heads (and we always managed to get the furnace running again), we had a couple very sweet kitties, my parents regularly invited us over for dinner. Simple things that kept our heads in the game an allowed us to move forward.
Through all the ups and downs in our lives, I’ve tried to continue this habit. For the last few years, I’ve taken the time to write out those blessings. I’m a pretty black and white person and my journal is not embellished in any way. It’s also very straightforward and to the point. No fluff. I’m pretty strict with myself in my process but feel free to change it up so that it fits your personality. If you love doodling or details, go ahead!
What are You Grateful for?
There is really only one “rule” I set for myself: I must list three things I’m grateful for every morning. I guess that’s two rules. 3 things. In the morning. I’m not really sure why 3 works so well but I have found that the first couple can be really easy to think of while the third forces me to be a little more creative and introspective. I write it down in the morning, before my day officially starts, because I have to be grateful for my blessings even before anything good happens. It also allows me to remind myself of those blessings when my day doesn’t go as well. It encourages me to choose joy for the day.
My first method of this was to have a journal specifically for gratitude. It worked wonderfully because all of my thoughts were in the same place. It is amazing to have a list of so many things I’m thankful for all in one place. It’s neat to go back to see that I am regularly grateful for my family. A good reminder on those days when crankiness invades our home.
Use Your Day Planner
A few months ago I got a new day planner and began using it as my gratitude journal. The habit of writing down my 3 blessings daily made the switch to my new planner feel like I was sitting down with an old friend. I now write out my blessings before I write out my daily to do list. Again, I love to go back and see the things I’m grateful for. Like folded laundry and the ability to stay sane when our mornings have a rocky start (my morning time is interrupted numerous times by little people).
So there is a simple method to help you count your blessings on a daily basis. Gratitude is a choice and it’s worth it to make that choice a daily habit.