One of the things I've come to realize is that in order to create positive social change, you have to create positive personal change at the same time. Our personal challenges, in combination with the world's challenges, can feel overwhelming and paralyze us. To have the energy to help others, we have to keep ourselves balanced and happy too.
One tool to help keep life in perspective is a gratitude journal where you write down a few things each day that you are thankful for. They can be big things, like I'm thankful that I have a warm, dry place to live in the midst of this crazy California rainstorm, or small things, like I had a really yummy hot chocolate the other day.
Thethirtydayyear kept a gratitude journal when her mom was dying:
Corrie Haffly describes what she does when she doesn't feel grateful for anything:
"I have recently resurrected my earlier habit of keeping a gratitude journal. I did this after I came across an old entry I did before my mom died, about how thankful I was that she had come through her surgery, and how grateful I was for having her here as my mother.
There were so many things going on in my life back then, and if not for that journal, I likely would have had a very different, very negative view of everything. I was losing my mom, and I knew it, but rather than focusing on that loss, the journal helped me stay focused on how fortunate I had been that she had been there for me for forty four years. I wrote in that book first thing in the morning, then again before I went to bed at night."
Philippa Kennealy of The Entrepreneurial MD shares the story of how one of her clients, a doctor, used a gratitude journal to move through depression in her post, Can a Gratitude Journal Be An Effective Business Tool? She also links to a New York Times article, Let Us Give Thanks. In Writing which has a quote from the author of Happier, that speaks to why I think a gratitude journal can be effective:
"Usually my list involves many things from the previous day that I’m thankful for, but sometimes a couple items are things I’m thankful for in general; “the best hubby ever” and “Nutmeg the very cute cat” are ones that frequently turn up on my lists.
There are some days when I really don’t feel very grateful about much. In that case, I don’t force myself to write down five things, but I write down what I can. Usually, however, I’m able to find five things that I’m truly thankful for!"
"“If we’re not aware of the good things in our lives, then as far as we’re concerned they don’t exist.”Have you ever used a gratitude journal? If so, what was your experience while using it?
Photo Credit: January First by Crystal.