Hi there, friend!
This post is provided in response to many requests, over the course of months upon months. I am so sorry for my delay! As can be read in some of my more-recent instagram/facebook posts… I’ve been figuring some “stuff” out, letting some internal “stuff” run its course ;-) But I hope to be back… with a fresh skip in my step!
Anyway, for those of you wanting to start your own gratitude journal but are struggling to know where to begin… here I provide you with my process, my structure and format. PLEASE NOTE that these are not “INSTRUCTIONS” of which you must follow for your experience to be successful. There are so many ways to tweak this basic outline – the most important aspect of your gratitude journal is for it to reflect YOU. When you tweak things here & there to become more reflective of who you are, the process becomes more natural – and is therefore a bit easier to establish as a positive, life-centering habit.
Evidence of its effect –
This process was introduced to me by my counselor, Carol McClure. ((As you’ve heard me exclaim over and over and over again: She . Is . Absolutely . Fabulous. If you live in Ohio and find yourself stuck in a rut, check her out – just a little plug ;-) ))
Anyway, I began working with Carol in February of 2014. I was somewhat newly married and had recently graduated from grad school, a brand new working adult, and had moved twice within a year. On top of all of those transitions, I’d always struggled with the seasonal blues (( clarifier – I’ve not been diagnosed with seasonal affect, yet I’m pretty certain aspects of it fall into the mix of my make-up somewhere ;-) )) My inability to cope or muster up any ounce of my own, natural “personality” began some early wear-and-tear on my marriage – to the point that my husband finally said aloud what I had been tossing around in my head: I needed to get some help. When I arrived for my first appointment with Carol, I was in a dark place.
The first thing Carol did with was help me re-establish my sense of identity. That was a really neat, beautiful process that brought with it so much light in and of itself. (Perhaps that’s a process I’ll have to share in another post!) That process is what allowed me to begin gratitude journaling – and include within my gratitude journal process, a section that reminds me of my identity, and leads me to see my identity in a positive light each day. I tell her and others that starting my gratitude journal was an absolute game changer. Even on the darkest of days, because it was my “homework,” I was “forced“ (I use that term lightly) to find the good and see the light. By finding the good and seeing the light, I began to see my days being filled with more goodness and more light. It didn’t end the grayness that would sink into my soul with the clouds, but it kept me steady. It gave me a branch. It kept me from becoming smothered. And when the grayness did come, it would dissolve so much more easily – one day at a time, without much effort of my own, at all!
So, here’s how it goes –
First things first: I start the beginning of each month with a new strip of washi – I went ahead and added some on the entry that is pictured in the main photo attached to this post simply for you to see how it looks, but I usually only do the washi for my FIRST entry of a new month.
- I suggest replacing the “my husband” category with YOUR family members – which may mean keeping it titled as “my husband” and/or adding to the list with the names of your children. If you don’t have a spouse or a family, perhaps the names of your roommates – or the friends within your innermost circle with whom you do life with. I don’t care if you’re in a “tiff” or a “down season” or straight-up frustrated with these people – they are your people. They’re the people He’s placed in your life – for a reason. Search for those reasons. FIND a reason to be thankful for them – whether it’s something small they’ve done within the past 24-hours, or an aspect of who they are that is helping you to grow, nourishing you, teaching you. You’ll be amazed ((first-hand-experiencer here!!)) at how your love for that person / those people truly deepens in its roots, by simply taking the time to see the good in them each day.
- From there ((or maybe even start with this one!!)), I thank Him for an aspect of who He made me to be. By setting aside time to assess YOUR own goodness – your attributes, your gifts, your strengths – aka HIS perfection within you – you’ll gain awareness of YOUR purpose in life – you’ll become more secure in who you are, and the meaning that your life truly does add to others. Again, depending on the day the types of things you reflect upon here may vary among “small” moment experiences – such as, finding success in not responding angrily toward so-in-so’s behavior or bigger – or “deeper” moments of understanding your design – such as, thanking Him for your ability to bring comical relief to situations filled with pain and sorrow (I have a friend who is SO GOOD at this, and I witness her using this gift time-and-time again to various people placed within her path!)
- Finally, think big picture. What’s made you smile over the past 24hrs? Who’s brought you laughter? What’s an activity that you were given an opportunity to enjoy? Sometimes when the days are dark and the night’s long, it can be hard to come up with something here – but find it. Those small things are what help to give you new hope for the new day ahead.
And that’s it! Simple, right?
I sometimes add to these categories. These are my top three, but when I start having trouble getting up in the mornings to head to school with a joyful heart, being grateful for my work, I add “my job” to the list – or, if I start having trouble with a specific person in my life I add them to the list… and I begin to see the light, feel the light, and am better equipped to then BE the light. Sometimes I vary up my lettering, but truly… I usually do keep it simple. This process is a personal giving of worship from my heart to My Father; it doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to be real. He’s given us so very much; He deserves every ounce of raw reflection in gratitude for it in return.
I hope this helps you in your journey toward cultivating a heart of gratitude! I pray that upon giving it a chance – day after day – many, many days in a row… that you too will be able to share its life-changing effect with others <3