Keep a Journal

I like writing, so documenting how I break down limiting beliefs, face my trauma, or evaluate some new approach has been a valuable tool for me. It can be a type of meditation, where I block out the busy world around me and escape the negative thoughts my brain may have been spewing. Rather than waste brain power by telling myself “I’m so lonely” and “I’m a failure” and “Nobody really likes me” on repeat, my mind is now able to be analytical and creative, and I can make connections I may not have made before.

Journaling has been shown to be especially helpful to people with PTSD or some other form of trauma. Even if writing about very personal painful experiences and ideas, there is something about it that makes it feel removed or more objective; it becomes easier to process those painful emotions and triggering thoughts. In fact, journaling has been shown to be particularly helpful to women recovering from intimate partner violence. This link has several ideas for methods of journaling specific to your current situation, whether you are in a dangerous relationship, recovering from one, or managing anxiety as a symptom of your trauma.

Even if writing isn’t your thing, keeping a journal of daily gratitudes and accomplishments is super valuable.

Start your day with positivity by writing out one or more gratitudes: for a kind word, a specific life situation, a tasty chocolate, a great conversation, a fun experience…whatever comes to mind. Think about the benefits you receive in life, the grace you’ve experienced, the little joys you may stumble upon. Expressing gratitude helps us feel more positive emotions and a greater sense of optimism, relish good experiences when they happen, improve our health, build strong relationships, and be better equipped to handle adversity.

And, every evening, write down at least one acknowledgment of an accomplishment from that day: doing the dishes, making a new friend, finishing a project, doing something outside your comfort zone. There is always something to acknowledge, even if it is as simple as having picked up that pen to write your morning gratitude, drinking adequate water, or taking your vitamins.

When you are depressed or anxious, it can be next to impossible to recognize an accomplishment or find anything to be grateful for; you lack energy and motivation, nothing feels worth the effort, and your negative thoughts instantaneously drown out any positive thought trying to sneak through. But, consider this: might it offer even a modicum of goodness in your day if you have a journal of your thoughts written to yourself as a reminder that good stuff does happen and there have, in fact, been reasons to smile?

What you document doesn’t have to be as impactful as falling in love or getting a new job; it could be a memory of sticking your hand in a bin full of buttons at the fabric store or catching yourself whistling as you walked to work. There’s something to be said for acknowledging simple pleasures and basic tasks that may normally seem inconsequential.

If you want to take gratitude to the next level by having it impact more than just you, then outwardly express gratitude to people in your life. Be specific. Be complimentary. Remind them of why you love and appreciate them. Recognize their hard work or humor or talent.

I often find that I focus on gratitudes during the springtime. It fits with the theme of more sunshine, singing birds, and flowers blooming. For the past several weeks, I have been texting short love notes to friends. Who doesn’t enjoy receiving a random thought of appreciation? It makes me happy to know I made them smile, and I wasn’t even in the same room. Last week, I picked up 4 silly and brightly colored greeting cards – one for each of my close colleagues at work. It’s been a tough couple months for all of us – work and personal lives combined – and I thought everyone could use a reason to smile and to feel seen. I filled each card with descriptions of their traits and attributes that I love, and I added a recognition that they shine even in these tough times. I was specific, intentional, and sincere. Just writing these thoughts made me feel so good – to see how lucky I am to have amazing work colleges. Then, a short while later, I was recipient to four warm hugs (some accompanied by tears.)

Make someone’s day – either someone you know now or a future you.

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