wellness

'The pandemic has turned me into a grumpy person. So I tried a gratitude journal for 30 days.'

I won’t lie, lately, I’ve been grumpy.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been feeling this way. We are, after all, encroaching on year three of the pandemic, climate change is causing widespread chaos across Australia, and we are being bombarded daily with the devastation and brutality of what is happening in the Ukraine. It’s no wonder that we’re all starting to feel a little, well, concerned. 

And, if you’re me, grumpy. 

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But it reaches a tipping point, this constant living under a thundercloud. Mine was coffee. Or to be more specific, mine was not coffee, because the issue was a lack of it at my office. My response?

“Oh my god, everything absolutely SUCKS!”

And then, a realisation – I was getting disproportionally upset about coffee (of all things) because I was already accumulating a list of things to feel bad about in my mind, and the coffee fiasco had flipped me over the edge. 

I decided I needed to do something.

I’m not really a self-care, self-help book kind of person. But I wanted something that would force me to look at my own life through a different lens, that would make me stop and appreciate the good, instead of focusing on the bad. 

Enter my $12 Kmart Gratitude Journal.

Image: Supplied.

It was low stakes: write three things every night that you were grateful for that day. It seemed an excellent way to snap me out of my self-centred, grumpy mood and into a better appreciation for what I had.  

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I’d give it 30 days, I thought.

And here’s how it went. 

Days 1-10 

I begin with gusto. 

My first 10 days I’m waxing lyrical about being grateful for the amazing people in my life, for the opportunities I’ve had recently, the connections I’ve made. 

I say thanks for my sobriety, my body, my partner, my cat. It feels good and I’m starting to see the benefit to this gratitude journal. 

Days 10-20

Okay, I won’t lie. I’m running out of steam. 

Something that seemed so simple and easy has become a chore. 

I’m tired at night. I’m working and studying full time. I don’t want to have to write more when I go to bed. And I’m starting to feel depressed that it’s becoming so hard to think of things to write down. 

Surely my life can’t be that bad? In fact, I know it isn’t – so why am I struggling, when I comb through my day in my mind, to pinpoint things to be grateful for? 

I start picking trivial things. One day, I write “toast” as a thing I’m grateful for (to be fair, I was feeling sick, and it was all I could make myself eat).

Image: Supplied.

Another day, I write “literature” – like… the entire concept of literature. That’s what I was grateful for because, I guess, I was really feeling books that day.

I suck at this, I start to think. This is stupid, and it’s just making me feel bad. 

Day 20-30

I realise something. 

Putting the trivial things is okay. I flick through my past entries and I read one about being grateful for the “Burmese mountain dog that jogged alongside me when I was running.” At the time, when I wrote it, I was like, “really? That’s all you can think to put?” Now, I’m smiling remembering it because that was a cute moment, and it did make me happy.

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I start to change my attitude to my entries. 

They don’t all have to be grand, sweeping statements that acknowledge my place of privilege in the world – sometimes they really can be tiny moments that made me smile. 

“Funky eyeliner,” I write one day as something I’m grateful for. “Having access to technology to communicate with loved ones far away” is the next day. 

Both made me happy, for different reasons.

And now 30 days is done.

I’m not going to say the gratitude journal changed my life. What I will say is that it certainly did help change my perspective on how I viewed my life.  

We tend to gauge how our lives are doing by the major moments that happen – a promotion, a big new purchase. It can lead us to overlook the small moments in life that are equally amazing. 

What the gratitude journal taught me was to look for happiness in the small places. With the larger world right now so scary and uncertain, I was thankful to learn how to actively seek out small pockets of hope and light and use them to make it all seem a little less glum.

The rehashes of my day used to be a hyper-focus on a single word that I said that someone might have taken the wrong way and a subsequent spiral into anxiety. 

Now, I’m looking for the good. Some days it’s easier, because this entire exercise has taught me to pause in pleasant moments as I stop and think, “oh, this is something I can write down later!” 

That, I believe, is something we can all learn to spend a little time doing. It’s easy to wallow in terrible feelings, and much less so to sit in the good. 

If you’re anything like me, the happiness is fleeting before I’m worrying about it being taken away or the other shoe to drop.  

Moving forward, I want to sit in the happiness for longer. I want to bask in it enough that I remember it when I go to bed at night and reflect on the day. 

I don’t know if I’ll keep writing in the gratitude journal every day. I might just do it on days when it seems really dark, and I need the reminder that there is still good in the world. 

Even if that good is just a dog grinning at you on your run. 

Shaeden Berry has a Bachelor’s Degree in Literature and Creative Writing and is completing her Masters in Secondary Education. She is a 30-something year old millennial, cat mum, reader, writer and accidental killer of plants. You can find her on Instagram @berrywellthanks

 Feature Image: Supplied. 

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