One of my goals at the beginning of 2018 was to start a gratitude journal in order to help me remain focused on positive things in my life. In 2017, I came to a full realization of how much negative thinking had caused me to focus on everything that was (perceived to be) wrong with my life and not on how blessed I actually was.
I also realised how easy it is to forget the things that happen to us. The years 2014 and 2017 were really positive turning points in my life but when I was trying to list some of the things that made them so special, I couldn’t remember most of them by the end of the year!
I have always been the journalling type – though not always consistently – so I challenged myself to write down 5 things I was grateful for at the end of every day.
I initially planned to use a journal and then realised I didn’t want to write them down in a book but wanted to fill a jar with my daily reflections since I plan on spending some time in December going through them one by one.
So I created a simple DIY gratitude jar. I already know I’ll be surprised by what’s in there when I review it at the end of the year.
I tend to have some challenges being consistent with anything I start and it was therefore really important for me to stretch myself in this area so even when really tired or not in the mood, I would still show up most days.
Buuuuuut… over the last 8 months, I did miss some days because of different reasons, be it forgetting (oops!) or tiredness/illness. Where possible, I would review the missed days and write down the things I remembered about them. In some cases, I couldn’t remember 5 things but I wrote down as many as I could.
After 8 months of keeping a gratitude journal, here’s what I was reminded of:
1. Small moments really do matter
There were so many seemingly minor things that I realised really made my day when I reflected on it properly. Having a homemade lunch and not needing to buy for example was something I found myself grateful for.
Seeing my nephew and niece was also something that I found myself writing time and again. Kids really do bring such joy (especially when you can hand them back to their parents after 2 hours :D).
I realised it’s very easy to remain focused on the big ticket things that are supposed to bring so much joy and forget about the small things in life that are most impactful. And that’s actually one of the key reasons I started this blog – to create and serve as a reminder of the many moments that evoke a simple “ah”, like a yummy, frothy cup of coffee, or in my case spiced chai latte.
This particular point really also hit home for me because I had been in a phase of waiting for some big moments in my life such as my own home and marriage. I realised was putting my joy on hold for those moments.
So I’m learning to maximize my present!
2. Family and friends are so important
There were so many times I wrote down one family member’s name or another – such as my mom or my sisters. I really began to appreciate my mom in a deeper way and recognised, even more, the many sacrifices she has made for our family.
My sisters – I have 3, with very different personalities – have been such huge inspirations to me in their own ways. And my brothers as well.
After losing my dad in 2014, the importance of cherishing your loved ones registered for me deeply. However, when the humdrum of life sweeps you over, it’s easy to go back to that place of forgetting that someone could be here today and gone tomorrow.
Like family, I began to really appreciate my varied circle of friends and their support. I also tried to be more supportive.
3. We COMPLETELY forget most of the good things that happen to us by the end of the day
We human beings are so forgetful. Like oh-really-that-happened-cue-the-clueless-look kind of forgetful. I’m super guilty of this.
With so much negativity around and the tendency to move from one thing to the next with lightning speed, happy moments can pass us by like dry leaves blowing in the wind in autumn.
I realised there were times when I was trying to come up with the 5 things that I really had to scroll back in my mind. Some of the memories seemed so far back that sometimes I thought “oh yeah, that WAS just today!”
Tell me I’m not the only one.
4. An attitude of gratitude works wonders for your mind and life
I know this isn’t groundbreaking news. But somehow it’s too easy to forget. Life comes and whoops us in the behind and our perspective can easily shift to everything that is wrong.
When I started really taking account of my thoughts and my words, I realised I complained a lot.
I was giving my power to situations and circumstances. Playing the victim.
But no matter how crappy the day might be, I reflect on the good things. There’s an immediate shift in my mind, emotions and general approach to life. Doing this just before bed also encourages better sleep because it quiets my mind and the positive emotions relax me.
Have you tried writing down things you’re grateful for? How has it impacted your life?
If you haven’t ever done this, join the train and start today. Let me know how it goes!