What Happened When I Wrote in a Gratitude Journal for a Week

I am an extremely grateful person and try to show appreciation every time a new blessing enters my life, but sometimes I find myself lacking in consideration of those blessings, especially the small things. Sometimes I even find myself vying after things I don’t possess or talents in which I am weak which ends in stress, insecurity, and frustration. I was intrigued, then, when one of my friends mentioned that she tracks gratitude every morning by writing a blessing on a slip of paper and burning it during her yoga sessions.

As I constantly am working to better myself, I thought tracking the things I feel gratitude towards might be a great stress-reliever as well as medium to truly expressing the joy I have with the world around me. In order to do so, I decided to try writing a gratitude journal. Here is how my first week went…

Having zero experience with writing a gratitude journal, I did a little research before beginning the adventure. While some websites recommend writing one blessing a day, some others suggest setting a goal of daily things to be thankful, and some even suggest blowing all structure to the wind and simply going with the flow of writing items throughout the day as you think of them. Being who I am (that is meticulously organized and a sucker for lists), I decided to set a goal for myself to have a minimum of five things per day which I am grateful.

Some days I wrote all items at once and other days I jotted them down throughout the day. I attempted to keep all my blessings pertinent to the day at hand — noting specific people, places, and things which happened on that day which I was grateful for.

I did not write more than a phrase for each blessing. Instead, I took the time to consider and pray to God thanking Him for each blessing as I wrote them. At the end of each night, I reopened my journal (which is my bullet journal containing pretty much my whole life) and ran through my gratitude list again for a final prayer session. This practice brought back memories of the little and big things which made my day so wonderful. I did not go to sleep feeling stressed or frustrated once this entire week, but was pleasantly surprised to find myself sleeping better than I have in months. It was an amazing experience!

I also wanted to be more open with stresses I was facing each day to be better prepared on how to handle them. So in addition to my daily five blessings, I also included one obstacle which I felt may impede my happiness on that certain date. I wrote each obstacle at breakfast and focused my energy on overcoming it throughout the day. I found that stresses, specifically the one mentioned each day, seemed to diminish as I continued to be positive and open to every possibility. Knowing what to be weary of allowed fodder for my prayers and I also felt closer to God throughout this week as I leaned on Him to help me beat the fires for which I felt better prepared.

Each evening, as I reexamined my daily list, I also answered the question, “How did today go?” by writing a short snippet. I began with the line, “I felt…” and gave an honest answer. Some days may have had a negative inclination, but the further brief explanation always seemed to bring back round a silver-lining to those feelings. There was always the promise of a better tomorrow, and that better was what I would strive for when I woke the next morning.

With that in mind, I’d like to share my week’s gratitude lists and obstacles:

Monday the 9th

  • waking up to a four-seasons landscape
  • a body that aches due to growing stronger
  • friends who ask how the weekend was
  • whale butter dishes
  • mentors who open doors to their lives and home
  • Obstacle: a tweaked shoulder and lifting it above my head

My first day of gratitude tracking, and I think I hit the nail on the head with my very first posting. It is April 9th and it was still under 30 degrees and snowing Monday morning. I was not a happy camper when I woke up at 5:30am to hit the gym only to find I had to scrape my windows. Ugh! However, with the intent of finding positivity in my day, I decided to look at the bright-side of the weather: I live in a state where there are four seasons, and I absolutely love that! I can’t control the weather, so why let it control my mood for the entire day? Also, whale butter dishes are amazing and I happened to get a little email Monday morning stating a friend had purchased it off my registry. Better yet, I got a smirk and eye roll from G when I told him — he loves that I find happiness in simple oddities.

Tuesday the 10th

  • sunshine and the promise for weather to break
  • coffee. enough said.
  • unexpected solutions
  • new Netflix finds to make me laugh
  • coconut chocolate cookie crumbs for dinner
  • Obstacle: getting through a busier-than-expected Tuesday when I am already tired

In my defense of stating weather as my first blessing for my first two days on this journey, I did write them at breakfast while I’m staring out a window. Tuesday was a rough day. My hormones were on the fritz and I was straight-up moody all day. No matter how much I tried, my mood simply wanted to be in a funk. Coffee, as always, was one blessing I couldn’t highlight enough on this day.

Due to a temperamental phone that provides me with text messages on its own schedule, I also found out that in addition to a volunteer meeting I had Tuesday evening I was expected to play in my volleyball league’s tournament at 8:15pm. After all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and get some sleep, the late game was not ideal. Coffee, again, was my champion on Tuesday.

As for unexpected solutions, that volunteer meeting could have gone one of two ways: bitch fest or peaceful resolution. Thankfully for my stress levels, it went the latter.

Also, I chose to begin Santa Clarita Diet after (depressingly) finishing the latest season of A Series of Unfortunate Events and I *clap* am *clap* so *clap* glad! Ohmigoodness, I was crying from laughter — a feat in itself on Tuesday — after the first episode and haven’t stopped binging the show at every opportunity this week. Any show which involves Nathan Fillion, humor, and zombies is gold in my book. Highly recommended!

Wednesday the 11th

  • hearing from friends whom I haven’t seen in awhile
  • girls nights and reminiscing on the good ol’ days
  • funny mix-ups
  • work projects to quicken time
  • partner who openly looks forward to a future with me
  • Obstacle: being open to helping financial advisor get more experience and not be selfish with my time

Wednesday I was in much better spirits than Tuesday (the joys of a womanly body!) And my spirits continued to brighten as I had numerous conversations with my best girl friends. First, Toto alerted me to two packages which should be arriving at my home, mistakenly. She meant to ship them to herself but registry woes occurred. We both had a good laugh over the entire situation (she’s also the one who sent emails unknowingly to me on Monday of the whale butter dish she had purchased off a different registry.) Then another of my bridesmaids hit me up and I was given a flood of videos of her 10-month-old daughter. I could hardly contain my squeals of happiness watching the little girl while on lunch.

Another big shout out to G for making my lunch hour as well. We only have a half hour to chat throughout the work day, and our texting conversation was all about a house we are interested in visiting. My heart always soars when he talks about our future together and all the plans he has for us — gah! We ended lunch with a textual high five (and yes, I am going to trademark that terminology) and promise to schedule an appointment with our real estate agent friend as soon as possible.

The day ended in a girls’ night out with one of my oldest friends, Saki. I hadn’t seen Saki since her wedding in January and was so happy to hear how great marriage has been for her thus far. Plus, I lived vicariously through her many stories of her honeymoon in the Philippines. Sigh.

Before dinner, I “met” with a financial advisor via phone call. A friend of a friend, I had only agreed to talk with him out of respect and self-given obligation to help him get more experience in his career. I didn’t get to go for my scheduled run and had a bit of an attitude going into the call, but actually found the talk to be enlightening. Especially going into married life in a few months and thinking ahead at merging financial accounts. So I was thankful for the opportunity following the chat.

Thursday the 12th

  • prayers answered for Baby Slack
  • free Thursday evening events
  • no need for a winter coat #Spring
  • this quote: “every interaction results in one of three ways: good feelings, ill feelings, or indifference.”
  • excuse to wear heels
  • Obstacle: patience in hearing how C & S’s appointment and how MIL’s surgery went

I had a nervous stomach the morning of Thursday. Not only were we to hear the outcome of a doctor appointment for our future niece/nephew, but my future MIL also had surgery to repair her ACL. I felt a bit calmer by 10:00am though. G’s brother and SIL texted the family with good news, all was well with Baby Slack! Later in the afternoon we also received word that MIL’s surgery was successful and she was en route home to begin the healing process. It was so great to hear prayers had been answered in both cases.

Thursday also brought Spring temperatures to Southwest Michigan. Finally. Shedding the winter layers and saying goodbye to the snow from Monday, I pranced in a dress and heels to G’s and my evening outing: a presentation by Captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger. The presentation was amazing, and even better being we were given the tickets free of charge. I will definitely be looking into Sully’s book Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters after hearing him speak.

Friday the 13th

  • leg day
  • puppy bellies
  • shortened Friday work days
  • paying off debts
  • fires while camping
  • Obstacle: focusing at work with excitement of the retreat this weekend

This evening G and I are heading to a retreat weekend with the House group. So the majority of my day was attempting to focus on my work-at-hand and be in the present rather than looking forward to what the weekend promises. Thankfully it was an easy day to find thankfulness in the moment.

First, our gym session focused on legs and glutes which is always my favorite workout. Then I received a picture of Lacey (my parents’ new pup who just had intensive surgery) and her adorable puppy belly sporting a big incision. We weren’t sure if she would make it through the surgery, so seeing the picture of her home, safe, and seeking belly rubs was a relief. Then I skipped lunch to leave work a bit early and head to the bank to fully pay off my credit card. Returning home to pack and meet with G to head to camp was a bit of a rush, but was made better once we were surrounded by friends and enjoying a campfire — even if the rainy weather demanded the fire to be in a fireplace rather than outdoors.

Saturday the 14th

  • camp life
  • Spring showers
  • community and great discussion
  • reminder of why choice were made
  • so much laughter with good friends
  • Obstacle: getting through an active day on limited sleep and being patient once that deprivation hits

Camping is one of the best memories of my childhood, and I cannot express the emotions felt when I am able to participate in camping now as an adult. I revert back to a carefree child, full of energy and positivity and a refreshed sense of my place in the world. Something about being in nature gathers me closer to God. And this weekend was no exception. With only 5 hours of sleep, I came into Saturday a bit groggy but ready for a day full of deep discussions and fun activities. I am blessed to say my friends did not disappoint!

Sunday the 15th

  • so many transitions in only a year
  • wonderful retreat memories
  • movie days with my love
  • warm beds with spinach and feta bread
  • crock pots
  • Obstacle: staying awake on slippery roads

The retreat was rejuvenating and inspiring this weekend and I will be writing a post about it sometime in the near future. We discussed community and its impact in our lives, something which I have been struggling to pinpoint in my own life lately. However, after this weekend I feel more assured on my communities and my part in them.

I had a great talk with some of my girlfriends while getting ready this morning as well. We talked about how different our lives were at this retreat compared to last year’s in March 2017. I had to smile. Over a year ago I was jobless with financial stress overwhelming me, I was in a loveless one-sided relationship, and I was at the beginning stages of depression. My friends were both in poor places as well a year ago. This year, though, so many great transitions have occurred in our lives to bring us to joyous and grateful states. God is so good!

The only other negative of today, aside from actually leaving retreat, was the unwanted ice storm happening outside in mid-April. The roads were slippery and I fought drowsiness returning home. It is becoming apparent I’m getting old! I once used to be able to stay up to 4am and wake up at 7am to be completely okay the rest of the day. Now I require a minimum of eight hours of sleep or I’m down for the count. Thank goodness for a man who was in the same boat as me and was just as willing to get home, watch movies, and eat pizza for the remainder of the day. Also, thank goodness for crock pots because meal planning for this week was just not going to happen.

Looking over the past week, I am filled with all kinds of warm emotions. Even on days where my mood wasn’t exactly peachy, this gratitude journal is a sort of happy scrapbook of memories I can treasure in the future and look back on fondly.

Overall, my experience with gratitude journaling was heartening. I plan to continue this practice as it decreased my daily stresses, created better awareness of enjoying the little things in my life, forced me to evaluate all things in my life as blessings (aka find the silver linings), and helped me find better rest.

I’ve never kept a traditional journal because of the time commitment. I’ve failed numerous times at trying to sit down and write my daily thoughts. I simply don’t like writing so much by hand — I much prefer blogging. I also feel guilty if I skip a day, adding stress for no more reason than not meeting my own expectations.

However, having a gratitude journal was not the same type of commitment. I never felt pressured to frantically think of items at the end of each night. Instead, I kept the journal open beside me and added to it as I felt called to do so. Actually, one of the worst parts was trying to decide what to list in the very limited five slots on a daily basis.

Once I created the objective to track my gratitude, I found I was being grateful for a lot of different things happening around me. Be it the noises, weather, busyness, etc. there was always a positive spin to everything that occurred in my life. It amazed me that I hadn’t always been cognitive of those little details, usually finding similar things bothersome or unnecessary. This was such a great meditative strategy to better appreciate all things in my life and happening around me!

Have you ever kept a similar journal or seek gratitude in another manner? I would love to hear more suggestions on this topic to either adopt or adapt for my own practice.

Until next time, friends,

My Cup of Thankfulness

How richly my cup overflows. (A very Happy Thanksgiving to you, my friends.)

With every year I age and mature, I seem to find a little bit more wisdom in what I find to be blessings. Each year I realize those blessings become things less and less. Instead, my blessings, for the greatest part, are the people in my life who love me, care for me, support me, and keep me grounded during times of turmoil and stress as well as achievement and excitement.

The last two Sundays at church have been quite the God-send for me. Last week the sermon was on a look into the beginning of Chapter 4 of Philippians, specifically verses four through six:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

One of my superpowers is worrying. I worry about my family, I worry about my friends, I worry about my car, my heat bill, the fight with my best friend in second grade… Heck, I come up with more plausible situations for the outcome of an argument in any given morning shower than there have been episodes of Survivor. It doesn’t truly take me a half hour to wash my hair; I’m actually dissecting every single direction the other party may go and my rebuttal so that I’m prepared! To quote Mark Twain, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

One might think that my biggest stress lately would be wedding planning. Yet in all honesty, it hasn’t been. As the holidays approach I find myself missing certain people in my life a lot and worrying over their absence more than is mentally and emotionally healthy. I’ve been using wedding planning as a detracting agent for this larger stress, and you know what, friends, covering one stress with another isn’t a great strategy. (Who would have thought!?)

These words in Philippians, along with a heavy dose of meditation this past week, reminded me though that anxiety will not help me through anything in my life. There is a reason God misplaced and/or replaced certain people in my life, and my path is in His hands. It is with this thinking that I wish to move forward with the remainder of 2017 and into 2018 and the rest of my life.

When asked if my cup is half-full or half-empty, I want my only response to be how incredibly thankful I am that I have a cup.

Not only do I want to remember this with the people in my life (which, as I’ve said, I consider my greatest gifts) but also with my other blessings such as my talents, my job, my home, my volunteering, and my possessions. There is so many things I forget to be grateful for throughout the day. Living with a grateful heart is only the beginning of greatness, after all. It is an expression of humility and of true thanksgiving to our Father for all He provides. It is a foundation for the development of so many other virtues such as faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.

A dear friend of mine has told me she makes a motion to begin every morning with a Movement of Gratitude. I think this is such an amazing approach to beginning the day. Though I am not positive her exact formula, I have been studying this theory and want to develop my own plan of action for the future.

So, before I get out of bed each morning and begin my day I will:

  1. Take five long breaths in and out
  2. Stretch every inch of body, paying attention to all my muscles and joints
  3. Express gratitude for waking to another day
  4. Smile for no reason
  5. Set intentions for the day
  6. Forgive myself for yesterday’s mistakes
  7. Compliment three things about myself

There are so many ways in which I could look at my younger years and not be grateful for the cup handed me. Within the last few years, I was not of the same mindset. I was someone who feared change, I held grudges, I criticized, and I was someone who thought she understood far more than she actually did.

Now though, I embrace change and roll with the punches. Even within the last few months I am amazed at how quickly I have adapted to changes I never saw coming — new job, loss of my best friend, engagement — all within half a year’s time. Sometimes I marvel at God and His plan. What does He have planned for me?

This thinking was reinforced with today’s Testimonial Service. The Sunday following Thanksgiving is always a service full of testimonies on how God has touched members’ lives at my church. It is one of the most beautiful services I have ever attended, and one which I was most grateful to witness this year.

Though all testimonies have a significant power in their own right, this year’s service was especially wonderful because G chose to give his testimony in front of the congregation. I’ve provided the video below so you are welcome to view this at your leisure, friends — he appears at about 36:20 — and his message is incredibly powerful. I could not be more proud to be marrying this man. G has gone through more trials in 29 years than most men do in their entire lives and he is still one of the most grounded, sincere, and upstanding men I know. His character was what initially drew me to him, and his quick-wit and humor, along with so many other amazing qualities, are what kept me coming back.

Following the service and witnessing the testimonies of multiple members, not only G, I was able to put my own life and situations into perspective. I am so incredibly blessed by God! He has guided me through some dark times this past year, in my own right, and brought me out unscathed and into a brighter and much more loving environment. It amazes me that I still allow myself to worry over trivial things when I know that He is always working towards the best in my life. It is time, again, to lay my worries at His feet and turn my face towards Him in prayer and servitude.

God is so good! 

This Thanksgiving was a great reminder of His blessings as well. Time was well spent with family and beloved friends. There were so many tears cried from laughter over the long weekend and far too much good food eaten — Wow! Do the women in our families know how to cook!

So as I move forward into the Christmas season, I am moving away from my worthless worries of the past and into a new gratitude spirit. Who would like to join me in my endeavor? You are all welcome!