I recently completed the 5 day “Gratitude Challenge” on Facebook. Normally I’m not a fan of doing the challenges people present on Facebook (no ice bucket challenge for me), but this one actually coincided with something I was already doing so it seemed fitting.
I have begun reading “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Psychology of Happiness”. I’ve had the book for years but only ever read the first few chapters in it. Recent events in my life have caused me to undergo a self evaluation in which I realized I didn’t truly understand what it meant to be happy. Sure I know what happiness feels like in a temporary sense, but I wanted to dig deeper, to know what truly makes someone genuinely happy and optimistic in life and able to ward off feelings of depression and pessimism.
One of the chapters in the book was devoted completely to the concept of gratitude and giving back. Volunteering was covered in great detail, but I already knew that could boost a person’s morale. The concept that struck me the most was a simple one – to begin a gratitude/gratefulness journal. The idea is simple. Each night before you go to bed you are to write down 3 things that you are grateful for. These could be from that day, that week, or even from years ago. They can be as small as you’re grateful that there was pumpkin pie on the dessert menu at the restaurant today or as elaborate as you’re grateful you didn’t get the job you applied for years ago because you ended up in a better career field. The goal is that no matter how harsh of a day you’ve had that by focusing on 3 things that you’re thankful for you will increase your appreciation for life and have an improved outlook.
I’m not someone who prefers writing to be required. I could never stick to keeping a running log. While I know the more I write the more I’m inspired to write, forcing myself to do it daily becomes a “chore” to me and I don’t like that. I was hesitant to start a gratitude journal for this reason, but trying to keep an open mind I began to do it anyway. I don’t wait until right before bed as I don’t think well with a fuzzy brain, but once I’m settled in the bedroom for the evening I grab the journal and jot down at least 3 (sometimes more) things that I’m thankful for.
As the days went by I realized how much of a “mental timeout” the activity had become for me, and how it didn’t feel like a chore at all. It gave me a chance to reflect on the day, and while some days it has been a challenge to do because I had a horrible day, it really does put a lot into perspective. I “cheated” in a sense by not using the journal for 5 days because I was able to do the challenge on Facebook instead. I know when Thanksgiving approaches people tend to do a 30 days of thankfulness which is along the same lines of the gratitude challenge. I think it’s something people should begin doing for more than 5 or even 30 days. It requires less than 5 minutes out of your day to jot down 3 things that you’re grateful for. I can attest that it really can start to make your outlook on things change even if it’s just for those few minutes of writing. Life is full of challenges and it can be daunting, but if we take a few minutes for ourselves to reflect and see what we have to be grateful for then I believe we’ll all be a little more positive and happier.