This marks the end of the my second week of consistent gratitude journaling since I’ve gotten re-started with that practice. It’s been helpful to be doing this again in several ways, and it is very interesting to observe the process, the things that make it on my list, and the effect that it is having on me.
I’m already noticing that this is becoming a habit. It’s easier to remember to do each day, and I’m finding myself mentally making note of things during the day as they happen as things I want to be sure to add to my list that night. In that sense, it’s making me more aware of things I am grateful for throughout the day rather than just at night when I make my list each day.
I still tend to feel each night like the list I’m writing isn’t having much impact in the moment. I don’t feel any better most nights after writing the list than I did before I started, but I am noticing other shifts that are less immediate.
I am already noticing a significant reduction in the amount of gratitude even-though-itis happening as I make my lists. This is not because I’ve been working hard to eliminate it; it’s just fading away as I become more focused on noticing, experiencing, and expressing gratitude. I’m also still noticing how much the practice of re-reading the lists of previous days lightens my mood. Particularly when I review my week in preparation for this weekly post on gratitude, I find such joy in reviewing all of the wonderful things I’ve written down about my week and being reminded how just how much goodness I experienced.
In the past when I’ve used gratitude journaling, I have never included this step of the weekly review. I simply made my daily lists and never looked at them again. So this new addition to the practice—although it was an unintentional byproduct of my plan to write about my gratitude rather than a consciously developed practice—has proven to be an unexpectedly rich benefit in increasing my sense of gratitude and learning more about the things that inspire gratitude in me.
It’s fascinating to begin to notice trends in the kinds of things that appear on my gratitude lists, and it’s a great way to learn more about what makes me happy. The two most frequently mentioned groups of things are those involving nature (rain, a new water-lily bloom, walks outside) and encouraging interactions with other people, both in person and online. Other categories that show up with some regularity include self-care items (naps, good food, hot baths), good news, and personal accomplishments of some kind. It’s giving me a picture of the kinds of things that I would do well to include more often in my life for happier days.
There was one day in particular this last week, however, when my creation of the list had a powerful impact in the moment. It was a really down day for me. I was feeling unusually discouraged, so I began writing my list feeling like it was a waste-of-time chore to be marked off the list so I could go to sleep. But as I wrote my list, more and more things kept coming to mind from that day. My list for that day is longer than my “required” five things, and I even turned the light back on twice because I thought of more things to add after I’d put it away and gone to bed. By the time I finished my list for that day and was drifting off to sleep, my discouragement had faded and I was filled with such joy and gratefulness for my many blessings. It profoundly transformed my mood and outlook in the moment for the better that night.
In general, I’m noticing a greater resiliency in my mood. Things that once would easily have sent me into an emotional tailspin are having a lessened effect. Even when I do allow my mood to become dark, I am bouncing back much faster. And a couple of mental/emotional patterns that I’ve been trying to shift for some time have begun loosening their hold on me without any effort on my part. I’m just noticing that I’m less reactive, more aware, and have greater space to choose healthier options in the moment.
As I head into my third week of this renewed daily practice, I’m looking forward to seeing what other unexpected benefits and learnings this practice will bring. The gifts I’ve received so far more than outweigh the time spent on doing this each day!
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