This past month I’ve been reading “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown. It has a number of gems throughout, but there was one chapter and passage in particular that stood out to me. It triggered something within that helped me realize what it is I’m truly seeking, joy. The passage reads:
“Twinkle lights are the perfect metaphor for joy. Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments – often ordinary moments.
Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down extraordinary moments. Other times we’re so afraid of the dark that we don’t dare let ourselves enjoy the light.
A joyful life is not a floodlight of joy. That would eventually become unbearable.
I believe a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude, inspiration, and faith.” – Brené Brown
Though happiness is important, and goes hand in hand with joy — it is joy that truly sustains. Happiness is more so attached to the external events in our lives, whereas joy on the other hand is the internal hope and gratitude we feel despite the outside factors.
I’ve mentioned my gratitude journal in a prior post, but I wanted to delve a little deeper because I’ve recently begun to realize the change it’s had on my life. Before I decided to start my gratitude journal, I found myself falling into a bottomless pit of self-doubt, worry and disappointment. It was weighing on me heavily, and although I knew I had finally begun to live a life for myself, slowly I began to ruin it. I knew I needed a change, and I don’t recall if it was my therapist or an article I read, but I felt the best first step would be to start a gratitude journal. I’ve always been one to journal, and still have one that I write in regularly, but I wanted something separate.
I started my gratitude journal prior to reading “The Gifts of Imperfections”, and had been keeping up with it pretty consistently. At first it was difficult to figure out what I was grateful for each day (I tasked myself with writing down 5 things each time, which seemed like a lot). Fortunately, it began to flow much more easily after a while and during the day I found myself thinking “oh! this is good, I’m going to add to my gratitude journal later!” I felt myself shifting from this air of doubt and disappointment to one of optimism and .. joy. I didn’t realize that it was the latter until I began reading the book, which is why I connected so deeply with the above passage. In order to live a joyful life, you must practice gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of this joy.
There are literally studies that show the importance and impact gratitude journaling has had on the mental state of those who use them (7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude). With repetition our minds can be trained to think a certain way, which ultimately effects how we feel and behave. If we’re constantly complaining, or spewing negative self-talk, our thoughts and actions will reflect that. So, why not train our minds to be optimistic and in line with what we love and desire?
Here are some quick tips on starting and maintaining your own gratitude journal:
- Get a journal! I have a small pocket sized notebook lying around that I hadn’t used. Given that I’m not writing essays it was perfect!
- Don’t plan a specific time (i.e. 9:30pm). Instead, pick a time frame in the evening to do it. My time frame is “anytime before bed.”
- Keep the journal by your nightstand so you always see it before you sleep and easily remember. After a while it’ll even become a symbol of gratitude itself, and merely looking at the outside of the book will make you feel bursts of joy.
- Pick a specific amount of things you’ll write each night. Between 3 – 5 so you don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
- Don’t make the list too deep. This is all about finding the beauty in the ordinary instances in life that you would usually overlook. When it finally started to get warm, I wrote down that I was “grateful for the sun hitting my face as I was out running errands.”
- Take it easy. If you miss one day, don’t beat yourself up about it. This is for your well-being and to help relieve stress not cause it. Though it is best when done daily, do it when you can until it eventually becomes a daily habit.
As Brené Brown says, I of course would like to experience happy moments, but I want to live from a place of gratitude and joy. I’ve realized as of late that true self-care is a practice, one that should no longer be taken for granted.