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?
This past few weeks have been a whirlwind of amazing new experiences! I’ve been working hard at my internship and we just had our first major event (a HUGE success by the way), got interviewed for the college website and marketing material, have been conducting interviews myself for my summer research, and I’ve been meeting TONS of new people! Needless to say this is a summer of firsts.
I haven’t always been shy, but somewhere along the way I lost a lot of confidence. I struggled to speak up, became afraid of trying new things and lost confidence in my abilities. It went on for a while like this, until I got to college. It really could not have come at a better time for me.
Just going to college itself was enough to make me buckle at the knees. I had always thought that I couldn’t wait to get out of my house and out of my town to see the world but I soon found that meant leaving my friends, family, and the comforts of home behind. I was being forced to be entirely independent and did not know anyone. I found the transition really hard and often questioned if this was really where I needed to be at this point in my life. I struggled to adapt, trying desperately to find the balance between school, friends, and sleep. I called home nearly every day sobbing, something I never in a million years thought I would do, and wanted to go home.
It was only once I started to venture out did things start to change for me. I joined a few clubs and weekly activities, started to hang out with the people on my floor and started to speak up in class. It was like emerging from being underwater, suddenly the world was crisp and clear.
The second year was even better. This was my year of adventures, for the lack of a better word. I pushed myself to meet people besides my floor, joined study groups, joined more clubs, and just generally hung out with people whether this was just playing frisbee or getting food downtown. Then there was my white-water kayaking trip, adventures by the quarry, and a retreat that spring. I dyed my hair, starting going to the gym regularly and was gaining confidence by the day. The more I felt confident, the more confident I became. I started an inspirational quote wall and became motivated each and every day.
One particular quote that I tried to keep in mind was this:
That was one thing that I tried to do as much as possible was stay optimistic. They say, the more positive you are, the more positive things come to you. That was my mantra, and it certainly was improving my outlook on things. As a final adventure that year, I signed up for a class in France for the summer and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. It truly pushed me to meet people I didn’t know, adapt in a world that was unfamiliar to me, and spent time enjoying the experience. That’s something I hadn’t been doing much; I usually keep my head down and rush around, always thinking about the next thing I needed to do, but France taught me to enjoy the experience while you’re in it.
I ate way too many baguettes and crepes, stayed up way too late every night playing cards, swam in a pond that was way too cold, saw enough beautiful architecture to last me a lifetime, and couldn’t have had a better experience abroad. That experience took me right into my junior year and I decided to take it by storm.
Junior year was filled with more new things than ever, and I did a lot of “growing up” that year. I had my first real interview, started working with at-risk kids downtown, started cooking my own food for when work ran late, and organized a trip to Ireland with a few of my friends. We had an absolute blast there and upon returning, I found I had more offers. First, a professor approached me and asked if I had plans for the summer. At the time, I was only thinking about heading back to my part-time job at home and said no. She said that she thought I’d be very qualified to do research on campus this summer so together we drafted a proposal and awaited the news. Second, a woman in the event planning industry I had contacted a long time ago had emailed me saying that she was interested in taking on an intern and asked if I would be interested in meeting for coffee and to chat. Of course, I said yes and treated this meeting like a real interview. I dressed the part, brought along copies of my resume and reference letters, and showed up early. Needless to say, she treated it like an interview as well and hired me on the spot. I was BEYOND thrilled. Then I found out the my research proposal was accepted and that I was awarded a grant to do the research. That really set the tone for this summer.
And here we are now. Me, I’m having the time of my life this summer working on campus doing the research and off-campus at my internship. So many new people and things to do, I can’t help but jump right in! So take my advice. It’s a oldie-but-a-goodie for a reason…Get out of your comfort zone! Like Jasmine said, It’s a whole new world! Get out there and explore it, you might just find yourself while you’re at it.