4 steps to using a gratitude journal
I shared in my recap post about our experience with Nancy Ray's Contentment Challenge that one of the biggest takeaways I've had from the challenge is beginning the practice of consistently using a gratitude journal. Last year, one of my best friends gave me the 40 Days of Prayer + Gratitude journal from May Designs. And it sat on my bedside table for months following because I couldn't figure out how to jump into it! But using a gratitude journal as the prescribed activity during the second month of the Contentment Challenge gave me that reason, and writing in this journal has truly become one of my favorite parts of how I spend my days. So, I wanted to share more about the four steps I use to make it a priority in my life!
Step 1: Set aside the time
Part of using PowerSheets each month helps me to identify not only those big monthly goals that I share here, but also weekly and daily actions and habits that I want to grow. So, during the month of April when I started using the gratitude journal as a part of the Contentment Challenge, I listed it as one of my daily goals that I wanted to focus on cultivating during the course of the month. Having the space to check it off each day helped reinforce the behavior quickly, and it also helped me see progress I was making in using a tool that was new to me!
As I've gotten more comfortable with this practice, I'm spending about fifteen to twenty minutes reading a passage from my bible and then writing down my thoughts and reactions in the journal. I often will try and start my day with this activity as I find it gives me a clear head and heart to move through the day with. But if I wake up late or if I have an early meeting, I'll save this time for my lunch break instead! Keeping my bible and journal next to my desk means I see it as soon as I sit down to start my day, and also serves as a great visual reminder to take that time for myself regularly.
Step 2: Set the mood
One of the things that has helped me most in becoming comfortable with the action of using a gratitude journal is listening to music when I do it. It took me a little bit of time to find music that really helped to inspire me during this time each day, but now that I have identified what I enjoy listening to during this activity, I can quickly turn on a song to help me get going with my journaling.
The other thing that has helped me to set the mood during my quiet time is turning my phone on airplane mode and making sure I'm marked as away or unavailable on work chat platforms if I've already logged in for the day. Knowing that I won't have any interruptions or notifications pop up really allows me to focus in on the daily passage and reflection.
Step 3: Use your resources
The bible that I have is a King James Version (KJV), and one of the things that I really like about that translation of the bible is that the language used often allows me to interpret what a passage means to me because I have to put it in my own words. But, because this is an older translation, it also means that sometimes the language isn't always easy to quickly understand. So it's important to be aware of and use my resources!
Often I'll have open an internet browser and website that offers the ability to search multiple translations of the bible. That way, I can type in the verse I'm reading and check it against more current translations, like the New Living Translation (NLT) or the New International Version (NIV), and have a different version of that same verse available to me. While it's still an important part of my process to write that KJV verse in my own words, having the other translations easily available helps with the overall reflection portion of my quiet time.
Step 4: Have fun
One aspect of using a gratitude journal that I have really come to enjoy is the creativity that comes during this quiet time. I have never been a very confident artist - honestly, I think my drawing and hand lettering skills are really not that great. But using a gratitude journal and a journaling bible has helped me to be less critical of those artistic skills and instead embrace that I'm growing in variety of new ways!
Something I really like about my bible are the wide margins. They give me the space to rewrite verses in my own words, to add pictures or take up space with larger letters. I also have gotten in the habit of recording the date by each verse on the day that I read it so I will be able to eventually flip back and see my progress over time. This combination of the wide margins of a journaling bible and the pages of my gratitude journal give me the space I need for not only reflection and meaning-making, but having fun while I do it!
Through this process of using a gratitude journal, I've realized that writing down the things I am grateful for can be a powerful activity. It's easy for me to tick off the big things that are always noticeable - a roof over my head, food on my table, or a loving and supportive marriage - without spending the time to recognize why I'm grateful for those things. Instead, making myself take the time to consider those smaller things that I sometimes overlook or aren't always present - like the friendships I've made here in Tallahassee, or my ability to give back to others through my creative interests - has really helped me to find contentment in both the seemingly regular and the wonderful parts of my life.
I'd love to know - have you ever used a gratitude journal? What are some of those parts of your life that you are most grateful for? How do you organize your day to allow for quiet reflection time when you need it? Share you thoughts and experiences in the comments!