Each morning before I begin work for the day, I like to brew a green tea and relax at the kitchen table with a notebook and pen. At this time, the world seems quiet. The day is just beginning, my mind is free from distraction and anything is possible. I turn to a fresh page, smooth the spine flat, and raise my pen to jot down five things I feel grateful for.
Keeping a daily gratitude journal is a simple way to create positivity in your life, no matter what you’re going through at the time. By making a note of just five things you are thankful for, you are physically acknowledging the goodness in your life. These points can range from significant events like getting a well-deserved promotion at work to minor moments like your children’s laughter, a week full of sunshine or coffee with a friend you haven’t seen for a while. Whatever it is, take note. If you’re ever feeling anxious, stressed or upset, you then have these pages brimming with gratitude to return to, over and over again. As actor and royal Meghan Markle said on the podcast Teenage Therapy in honour of World Mental Health Day, “I think journaling is a really powerful thing. It allows me to reflect on where I’ve come from and with that comes a lot of perspective.”
Gratitude journals aren’t the only valuable tool in the journaling workbox. If your mind is racing with thoughts, or you’re having difficulty processing a specific situation, a great way to unclog any mental fog is to write a page of free-flowing words. By having a conversation with yourself, your problems often become more manageable as solutions begin to present themselves. “Journaling can help us emotionally by managing anxiety, reducing stress, coping with loss, and accommodating uncertainty,” Professor Robert Kraft writes on Psychology Today.
To really appreciate the transformative power of journaling, commit to putting pen to paper every day. It can be surprising what you discover about yourself the more you commit to frequent, long-term journaling, as when we compose our feelings in a private space, we give ourselves the freedom to reveal our inner-most beliefs, fears and desires. As Professor Kraft writes, “It (journaling) can help us cognitively by encouraging us to analyse our daily lives, describing our concerns and fears and identifying what’s limiting or even sabotaging our goals.” By transferring our ideas from our minds to a tangible notebook, they start to exist in reality rather than being confined to imagination.
Whether you choose to start a gratitude journal, write sporadic, free-flowing journal entries or keep a daily dairy, journaling is a simple and free technique that nurtures your mental health. As a cathartic process, writing allows you to process moments, life events and daily thoughts in a way nothing else can, enabling you to build the most important relationship in your life: the one with yourself. Author and journalist Tina Brown told Elle UK that, “Keeping a diary is watering the oasis of your internal life and allowing your starved soul to have a say; it’s my soul in conversation with itself.”
Sometimes the smallest of actions – like picking up a pen – can be a humble act of kindness to ourselves. So, it’s time to start. Smooth open your notebook and ask yourself, what are you grateful for today?