Late last year, I found the novelty of living in the city, working 9-5 and holding down a side hustle wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I thought I’d be beaming with new stories all the time, but, after doing the same thing day in, day out, the grind I so desperately wanted started feeling repetitive and unexciting. I’d get on the phone to my folks once a fortnight and describe the past fortnight and it was always the same – going to work Monday to Friday, seeing friends on the weekend, tucking into a new TV show, all with the same monotoned level of excitement.
I could hear how ungrateful I sounded, and even writing this article now my eyes want to roll to the back of my head. I hated what I was becoming – the hamster in the wheel. I knew how good I had it, I just couldn’t feel it.
I’d lay awake thinking, “Is this it?” Looking forward to the weekly meat raffle at my local pub, paying bills and getting old? I’d always thought my mental wellbeing was fairly good, but I also knew feeling like my life would never improve from the current rut I was in was a red flag. I needed a mental wellbeing reboot ASAP and starting a gratitude journal was the most low-cost and low effort change I could start the very next day.
“A gratitude journal simply involves recording, on a regular basis, all that we appreciate in life, all that we’re grateful for, all that’s going well or even, how we managed what wasn’t so good,” explains Dr. Tim Sharp, ambassador for Queensland Health’s mental wellbeing campaign, Dear Mind, positive psychology advocate and founder of The Happiness Research Institute.
So at the start of 2020, I took the plunge.
Granted, it was just an ordinary, dated diary from the supermarket, sitting in the sale section next to protein powder and cosmetics, but it was about to become my magic book. Dedicated ‘Me Time’ had arrived.
Every successful person I follow on Instagram boasts about ~dreaming, believing and achieving~ whatever you want into existence (as well as how to get a bigger booty in 21 days, of course), and look, if Sandra from my hometown who owns three investment properties and a thriving online business can do it, so can I.
When first starting out, I read a Headspace article that encouraged me to start small and just begin with whatever was physically around me – three simple things I’m grateful for. So, no shockers that when I flick back to those first couple of weeks in the diary, it’s filled with just words saying ‘pen, breakfast, electricity’.
The first four days were definitely a struggle – the last thing anyone wants to add to a rushed morning routine is waking up even earlier to put a pen to paper – but from the fifth day and beyond I became a full-blown, wishful thinking addict.
I even found myself going to bed preparing for, and getting excited about, what I’d write down during those 10 minutes the next day. Becoming thankful for the smaller things was subconsciously and slowly seeping into every area of my life, and I loved it.
In fact, I haven’t missed a day since January 1st.
Over time, I’ve still stuck to noting down three things a day, but have gotten specific on why I feel grateful to have access to these things that I used to devalue as simple. My personal fave is writing about the people in my life and answering questions like, ‘Who has done something this week to help me or make my life easier?’ From my landlord approving a rent reduction after I lost my job, to friends lending me something to wear or a stranger letting me merge into their lane during peak hour, there are plenty of acts of kindness all around me worth celebrating.
Recording these has helped me to not only appreciate and register the gestures, but it’s also shown me how I too can spread the love, show kindness and make a real difference to someone else’s day too.
It’s become so automatic for me now to grab my journal as I’m waiting for the kettle to boil, and jot down 3 things I’m grateful for over my morning cup of joe. Starting everyday sitting and reflecting has become just as vital as going to the gym – I think clearer, my baseline of happiness is higher and smaller things don’t irritate me like they used to. I shudder now at the thought of pre-gratitude life – I would’ve spent that time mindlessly scrolling socials, already putting my mental wellbeing on the back burner for the day.
That’s the thing with having a gratitude journal – once you start taking notice of what does go right in your life, you can’t stop. How genuinely appreciative you feel starts spilling out of you. “Those who are more grateful are also happier and healthier; they have better quality relationships and enjoy better quality of life,” Sharp told me, and I couldn’t agree more.
Sometimes I feel like I’m part of a pyramid scheme pushing essential oils onto the people around me, but I can’t stop – this appreciation business really works.
After a solid twelve months of beginning my day with three things I’m grateful for, all I can say is thank bloody god I started when I did. Honestly, challenge yourself to do it for 21 days. I promise you’ll be – yes, you guessed it – grateful you did.
At times, it’s been the only light in my day, especially going through the rollercoaster that has been COVID-19, not to mention all the after affects, like being made redundant and appealing for rental relief. To keep writing those three different things down that I’m grateful for each day has given me some perspective and made it all seem… okay.
There are no future investment properties or a thriving business in sight – just a roof above my head, good tucker and access to the internet.
But you know what?
I feel pretty bloody lucky.