I quit setting New Year’s resolutions years ago. They’re too easy to break. I had a tendency to overshoot, fall far short of my goals, and get frustrated. I’ve chosen a word for the year since 2013, and I usually have some goals for the new year, but nothing structured. This year, I decided to try something different. Each month, I’m choosing one area I want to focus on—a spiritual discipline, a habit, or a small change I want to make. I’ve chosen most of them, and I’m thinking about the last couple of spots I need to fill. After a year of small changes, I think I’ll look back and see a big change in my life.
For January, my small change is gratitude. I’ve written before about how gratitude changed my life. But during the past few years—years full of moves and pandemics and general chaos—I got out of the habit of daily gratitude journaling. The effects of losing this habit were noticeable: more stress, more anxiety, more complaining, more negative thoughts. So this month I’m focusing on getting back into my habit of daily gratitude.
I started the new year with a new journal. My old one was barely written in, but there’s something about the fresh start of a pristine new notebook that helps reset my mind for a new year. I also printed off One Thousand Gifts prompts from Ann Voskamp, whose book by the same name started this gratitude journey years ago. You can find the prompts free on her website.
Each morning, I start with my journal and my favorite pens. To be honest, I have a lot of favorite pens, but for journaling, I love PaperMate Flair felt pens. I use a Paperage journal with 100 gsm paper, so there’s no ink bleeding through the pages. Sometimes I have a ton of things to list and I don’t use the prompts at all. Other days I’m struggling and use the prompts to help me get started. I list at least three things per day. Sometimes I list a lot more.
Whether it’s a short list or a long list, I find that gratitude journaling changes me. It trains me to look for things to be grateful for. It changes my mindset from pessimistic to optimistic. It makes me look at the world differently. The timing of this habit was no accident, either. God knew I would need an outlook of gratitude when I found out at the beginning of January I would need surgery. It was a scary start to the year, but I found so many things to be grateful for and saw God’s hand in so many details. Gratitude journaling helps me remember the many blessings He showed me in small moments.
Do you keep a gratitude journal? I’d love to hear about it if you do.