The Benefits of a Journaling and Gratitude Practice
I was listening to a podcast last year when I heard a story about Ben Zoma, a second-century Jewish sage who famously asked, “Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot.” It seems so obvious, and yet that podcast episode set off a lightbulb inside me. Of course! This is where we find peace and joy. It’s right in front of us. We just have to sit down and acknowledge it.
Until then, I had been working hard to make myself happy, doing things that brought me joy, buying things that brought me joy, and going places that brought me joy, but I had been going about it all wrong. When I first heard this on the podcast (seriously, I am so grateful for podcasts), I was already in the middle of a spiritual journey of self-improvement. Bringing peace and joy to my chaotic life was my number one mission. I had spent the last few years seeking simplicity and ways to control my random episodes of anxiety and depression, and it was like suddenly the door to the room I had been looking for was opened. This triggered me to start my own daily journaling practice. That taught me how to make a sustainable habit that worked for me. I would get up early each day and get my thoughts sorted out before my day even started. Someone then shared that they had a habit of writing down three gratitudes each day. I loved the idea, and so I started incorporating that into my own journal routine. It was eye opening!
I had so many amazing things to be grateful for in my life that had gone unnoticed. When I was busy moping around because of hardships I was facing (you know, the things we call life), I had been overlooking tiny moments of wonder. Once I began to push the weeds aside and focus on the beautiful flowers of my life that were hiding under them, I naturally began to feel more joy throughout my day. I would write my gratitudes on a Post-It note and put it on the mirror in the bathroom or on my computer desktop. These reminders such as, 1) I’m thankful I woke up today with air in my lungs; 2) I’m so thankful for the flavored creamer in my coffee; 3) I’m thankful I got five minutes to cuddle with my son last night, started increasing little by little. After a few months I wasn’t just listing three things each day, I was listing five or six things daily, until gratitudes were just rolling off my pen. And guess what? The effects were so convincing that my husband started setting the alarm to get up and join me for the journaling and gratitude habit. Each morning now the kids are sleeping quietly and we are sipping coffee and journaling together. Now that’s peace and happiness right there!
So why am I sharing this with you? Because for me it was a major game changer in my quality of life and my mental wellness. And because if you care about keeping your body fit, you should care about keeping your mind and spirit fit, too. The upcoming holiday seasons are often accompanied by increased feelings of anxiety and depression. Seasons of joy can still bring us seasons of stress and sadness. If you stop to wonder why, it’s actually relatively simple. It’s a constant desire have more and do more without acceptance of what we have. So this fall, let’s work on slowing down and savoring “our lots.” Whether your lot is a small corner of broken concrete or a ten acre luscious meadow, we have what we have, and sometimes we just need to open our eyes a little wider to find the beauty right in front of us.
Want to join me in a journaling and gratitude practice? I was hoping you’d say yes. In our ever-busy lives, journaling can provide a way to organize thoughts, record memories, and gain the self-awareness, gratitude, and focus that propel us throughout our days. It’s super simple; the practice of journaling doesn’t have to be all-consuming. Start out by setting aside 5 minutes each day to write, and this alone will have positive effects on your emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
Journaling has been, and continues to be, a life changing habit for me. I hope you will give it a try this November. If you do, I’d love to hear how it goes!