The Daily Practice That Will Change Your Life
Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
I started gratitude journaling at the beginning of April 2019. I’ve suffered from anxiety for years, and those issues were particularly present in my life at that time. I wanted to find a fix, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. I’d heard about journaling and had even tried doing it through an app a couple of years beforehand, but I always felt like I didn’t have time and lacked the motivation to fill it in each day.
I started following Rachel Hollis on Instagram around that time and learned about her method of gratitude journaling: the Start Today Journal. I went out and bought a beautiful new notepad (stationery addict, anyone?) and started the next day. I’ve written in it faithfully nearly every day since.
What is Gratitude Journaling?
Wikipedia says: ‘A gratitude journal is a diary of things for which one is grateful. Gratitude journals are used by individuals who wish to focus their attention on the positive things in their lives.’
That’s pretty vague and you may be wondering how on earth you actually go about it. Read on for an explanation of the process I follow, which is in two parts: the bit you do once when you start, and the daily practice.
Before you start writing anything, close your eyes and imagine the best version of yourself in 10 years. There shouldn’t be any restrictions and the image should be detailed. If you’re stuck, think about the following:
- What are you doing?
- What do you look like?
- How do you go about your day?
- How do you treat and speak to people?
- What do you love to do?
- What sort of food do you consume?
- Who is in your life?
- Are you happy?
- What are your priorities?
- What do you do for work?
- What is the most important thing to you?
Once you’ve got a clear image in your head, write it all down as quickly as you can, without missing anything.
Next, turn your notes into ten dreams that would make your vision a reality if they came true. They could be things you want to achieve, things you can accomplish on a daily basis, or ways you want to consistently behave, but the key is to be really specific and to write them as though they’ve already happened. The theory is that something is much more likely to happen if you write it as though it’s already happened than if you write it as something you will achieve in the future. Rather than it being just another item on your to-do list, it’s something your brain starts focusing on right away.
The Daily Practice
- Start by writing down five things you’re grateful for. If you can, try to think of small things that are specific to the last 24 hours so that there isn’t too much repetition or crossover from day to day.
- Write down ten dreams you’ve identified as though they are already a reality. I use the heading ’10 Dreams I Made Come True’. For this part, you’ll be writing the same ten things down every day until you achieve one of them.
- Write down one goal that will get you closer to achieving one of your ten dreams. This should be something specific and measurable, and it will be your main focus until you achieve it, at which point you’ll pick something else. For example, if one of your dreams was ‘I earn £X per year’, your goal could be ‘Rewrite the copy on my website homepage to cater better to my ideal client’ or ‘Identify 10 leads and make initial contact’. The key is having a focus and sticking with it until you make real progress.
Changes I noticed right away
Forcing myself to come up with five things I’m grateful for makes me think back over how I felt the previous day and makes me appreciate the little things. Some days it’s hard to come up with five things and other days I have more than five. I try not to repeat myself and think of new things I’m grateful for, but when I look back there are themes and some things are very similar, just worded differently.
The practice of writing down what I want to achieve and how I want to behave helps me focus on what really matters. I’ve taken action towards my dreams and goals, both for my business and in my personal life. I’ve also felt so much more creative and inspired since starting this practice. I truly believe that positivity breeds positivity and that the opposite is also true.
I can be quite critical of myself and others, but focusing on gratitude and positivity helps me with that aspect of my personality. When I look back at previous entries, I can tell when I was feeling anxious by what I was grateful for and that helps me track patterns in my feelings.
I now really look forward to those ten minutes each morning. It’s me time, alone with my thoughts and dreams. If there’s a day when I really don’t have time or I’m away from home and don’t have my journal with me, I really miss it.
My 3 Tips for You
- Don’t commit too much time. I really like that it only takes me a few minutes to fill in my journal, because it means I can fit it in around everything else I have going on. Make it easier for yourself by limiting the number of prompts or questions so you can’t use lack of time as an excuse.
- Find the method that keeps you motivated. I’d tried an app on my phone with all kinds of different prompts, but I just wasn’t motivated to fill it in. It really helps me to have a pretty notebook and beautiful colored pens (did I mention I have a thing for stationery?). But if you’re an app person through and through, pick one of the many journaling apps out there and just get started.
- Decide what time of day you’ll journal and be consistent. Mornings are best for me because I usually get time on my own first thing. Later in the day, I’m tired and there are other distractions. Pick a time when you usually get a few minutes to yourself. Once you’ve felt the benefit of journaling, consistency comes so much more easily.
If you’ve ever thought about journaling and weren’t sure if it was right for you, or even if you’re hearing about gratitude journaling for the first time, give it a go. There’s no need for a new notebook or an app to give it a try – just grab a pen and paper and start writing.
Susie Jackson is a freelance translation project manager, Spanish to English translator, and academic copy editor. She helps freelancers become more organized in how they run their business by providing tools, tips and advice through her blog: http://sjlanguageservices.com/freelancers. You can connect with her on Instagram (@the.organizedfreelancer) or Twitter (@jacksonsusie).