With the cold and gray days of winter lingering, it is easy to fall into a bit of a funk. Winter seems so long sometimes, and everything takes more effort, more energy, and definitely more clothing, as even going outside to walk the dog becomes a process taking twice the time for bundling up and then un-bundling when you come back in! It is gray outside and at this time of the year, I often feel gray inside, too.
One way to feel hopeful again, and to stay on the brighter side of the remaining weeks of winter is to keep a gratitude journal. I know, I know, you’ve heard this all before and it seems either too cheesy, too time-consuming or unlikely to be something you stick with for any length of time, so why start? And did I mention it sounds a little cheesy?
But if you can keep it simple, a gratitude journal can be a five minute practice at the end of each day that will change the way you approach your life.
A couple of years ago, I moved into my current home. I had never lived on my own before, and while I was excited by the prospect, and really happy about my choice in a new home, I was also feeling very overwhelmed with the ‘what-ifs’… what if the roof leaked or I had an electrical problem? What if my basement flooded or someone broke in? Was I safe here (and of course that meant physically, mentally, emotionally)? It was easy for my mind to spin out of control as I imagined the infinite number of scenarios in which something bad could or would happen. I knew that this way of thinking was harmful and that this negativity was keeping me from enjoying my new life. And besides, I was OK. Everything negative was in my mind, so it stood to reason that if I replaced those thoughts with more positive ones, my approach to this new life would change, too.
So I began a simple habit that I still use almost daily to make sure I stay focused on what matters. I keep a small pocket sized notebook in my nightstand, and each night before I go to sleep, I list five things for which I am grateful. On good days, I can think of specific events to list, good and serendipitous things that have happened. On the rest of the days, I can list the basics: my daughters whom I love so much, my special friends who care so well for me, my health, my job that pays the bills, my warm bed, and if nothing else, the fact that I can go to sleep in a few minutes and forget the day ever happened!
Five things… simple. If I spend a minute thinking about each one, that is enough to remind me of my good fortune, and to make every day, no matter how gray and wintry, one to be thankful for!