Gratitude journals aren’t for everybody. I recall last year I tried to make my one gratitude journal in which I wrote five things I was grateful for everyday. All those self-help gurus told me to! This was my homework! Of course, it was hard to make myself write everyday, but it also felt tedious and repetitive. Maybe that’s why some people eventually started advising, “Eh, don’t write everyday. Write one thing, like, every other day, I don’t know.” Either way, I wasn’t connecting with what I was writing, maybe because I was just listing things. There was no feeling of fulfillment.
Sometimes, I questioned whether what I wrote was really important. Was I just sounding shallow? Materialistic? “Thanks for my Tori Burch bag, me! I’m grateful for my broke ass because now I’m one luxury bag richer, and that’s a sign of true wealth!” I’m kidding, but who’s to say you can’t be grateful for your comfortable flats from Target?
Other “deeper” things felt like, “Well, duh, of course,” moments for me. It felt obligatory to write it down, like “family.” Of course I was grateful for family! I was listing these things and going, “Well, now that I got family, food, shelter, and shit out of the way…” Just kidding again. But I’m not kidding in that those points weren’t resonating deep within my soul like I was hoping. Eventually, I stopped my gratitude journal completely and haven’t deigned to look back at it.
The experience made me realize gratitude journals weren’t for me–but that didn’t mean gratitude wasn’t for me. That definitely doesn’t sound right. Imagine me going up to someone who is waiting for me to say “Thank you,” and, upon realizing, I go, “Oh, ha, sorry, I don’t do that anymore.”
Looking back now, maybe I should have been more specific with the things I was grateful for. Instead of jotting down “family,” I could have written something lengthy about how and why I’m grateful for my family. Still, that doesn’t quite jibe with me, and if you’re anything like me, it hasn’t been working for you, either. That’s why you’re here, waiting for me to finally get to the damn point, right? Fine, fine. Thanks for sticking around.
Here are my two suggestions on what you can do instead:
Be grateful in the moment
Practice mindfulness. Instead of wracking your brain for a past moment or an object that you appreciate, be more aware of your present moment. When you are suddenly feeling happy or fully at peace with yourself, absorb yourself in that very moment and think of why you are feeling that way. Is it because you are with family and everyone is smiling? Is it because your dog put his chin on your lap or your boss complimented you on your project?
Learn to truly embrace that happy moment and be fully present for it. That is true gratitude. Living in the moment is showing your appreciation for it. You are fully aware the moment will pass, but it was nice while it lasted–and hey, it may come back around someday. Then you can be grateful for it all over again!
Write your favorite moment
Instead of writing in a gratitude journal, write in a regular journal as often as possible–and in that entry, always, always include your absolute favorite moment of the day. It’ll help detract you from all the bad stuff that may have happened so you can focus on something you actually want to remember. While you build this habit, your perspective will naturally start to change, too, as you look for the good in every day and enjoy that rewarding sensation every time it hits you that “Ah, yes, this is my favorite moment today.”
This has been my new “favorite” thing to do. Just the other day, I pulled out the gingerbread house kit I bought for Christmas and finally made it, and it was the highlight of that day. Into my journal it went to be immortalized. It was silly, but it was also fun and wholesome. Relish those moments, and you will be naturally indulging in the sweet practice of gratitude.
There you have it. For those struggling with gratitude journals, wondering “What’s wrong with me?” and struggling to appreciate life, try these two tips instead and know that I am with you. It is hard to always be grateful, to always love your life, so think of moments rather than things. I think the gratitude journal focuses on things, whether it’s meant to or not, but these suggestions focus on moments–and that’s what life is all about. All the little moments of your day.
Today I am grateful for you! Thanks for reading my post this week and hope to see you again next week!