Truthfully, I have never been very good about journaling. I always start strong, write for a few consecutive days, and trail off within a week. For me, a journal has always served as a sort of sounding board or outlet to vent about my day or how I was feeling about a current problem, but there had never really been a true intention for my entries. However, that has changed over the last few years.
During the fall of my junior year of college, I helped lead a youth group retreat for first-year students at SMC. During some of our down time between talks and activities, it was common to spend it journaling about the weekend. However, I was a bit stuck. I wasn’t really focused on the retreat I was leading but instead, worrying about things back at school or at home. That whole semester, I had been finding it more and more difficult to remain present in the moment, and too caught up worrying and upset about other aspects of my life. It was very draining. This looming black cloud was following me into my classes, my yoga time, even my precious free time. Stuck, I went to the adult group leader for some guidance.
Anna, our assistant campus ministry director and head of all the campus ministry programming, was the group leader for this retreat. If you don’t know Anna personally, I can tell you she is empathetic and kind, sort of a mother figure for students in this home away from home. When I explained my situation to her, I received some truly wonderful advice. She had said that she had gone through something similar when she was in college and was advised to begin a gratitude journal. In it she would write everything that she was grateful for that day. That way, she was able to look beyond the troubles of the day and see just how many wonderful blessings that she did have. I was intrigued by this sort of intentional journaling and decided to give it a try.
I decided to give myself parameters for this gratitude journal so that I didn’t get off track like I had been known to do before. First, I bought a new leather bound book for the sole purpose of my gratitude journal and planned to write in it every night before I went to bed. This would serve as a cleansing tool = the blessings and positive aspects of my day would be fresh in my mind before bed as opposed to the things weighing on me that I might otherwise mull over all night. Second, the goal, per Anna’s advice, was to write down a list of everything that I was grateful for that day. She had said that every day might not be wonderful all the way through, but there are always at least five things that we can be grateful for. Then, to build off of this, I gave it one final parameter. I started writing a second list, at least three things that I was praying for that day. These would be my intentions.
I have to say, I absolutely loved the idea of this gratitude journal when Anna first told me about it and I love it even more so now. I am able to end my day on a positive note and feel less weighed down by things that are stressful during the day. I am able to be more present. I also have been finding myself more in touch with my goals since I have been writing them down as intentions. I feel that writing them down gives me accountability so it motivates me to actively work on them, and ultimately be successful in my endeavors. It has also encouraged me to change my perspective and shift my focus away from just thinking about myself. In writing the things that I’m praying for that day, I’m now also thinking of who else might need a prayer and some support in their own endeavors. I love ending my day this way.
Gratitude journaling has become an important aspect of my before-bed routine and leaves me with a clear, happy, and open mind. What are some of the intentional journals that you keep?