Hello, I’m Mary, and I’m a gratitude journal failure.
I felt so confident this was going to be something I loved! I have so many things to be thankful for! I love writing things! I have so many journals waiting to be filled!
No. I hated gratitude journaling. Absolutely hated it. Not thankful for it at all, actually.
In the beginning of 2017, I decided to make resolutions one month at a time. Things I wanted to try, things I had been putting off, things I needed to get refocused on. Looking at all the things I wanted to do in the new year felt daunting as I tried to set some goals for January.
Writing a book proposal, running every day, trying new recipes, and reading my Bible daily made me feel like I needed to quit my job, move away from my family, and give up sleep to accomplish. Instead, I divided them up, one goal a month. January was spent re-focusing my heart on reading my Bible every day. Holiday hangovers, kids out of school, packing up a house, moving, and getting settled nearly kicked my butt, but I stayed focused and read (most) days. Using a daily Bible that paces me through the whole year has been great for accountability.
I’m back in a groove and excited to read the Bible from start to finish this year (less excited to currently be spending my time in Deuteronomy reading about all the laws the Israelites had to follow, but that ends eventually, right? RIGHT??).
As February started, I grabbed a new journal (I have 5-10 standing at the ready at any given moment because who even knows when they’ll need a few, or perhaps a dozen, cute notebooks? I like to live a life of preparedness and this is how God made me. Deal with it, Chris Graham.) and settled in to bed each night reflecting on my day and what I was thankful for.
The first few days were easy.
I’m thankful for my kids. Individually, of course. I didn’t want to take up only one space with that thankfulness item when I could list each one separately and take up two spots.
My goal was to list three things every night. After a day spent teaching, unpacking, making meals, folding clothes, painting walls, grading endless essays, and a million other things on a never-ending to-do list, I was mentally spent and just wanted to get the thankfulness part done.
I was thankful for my bed, for my husband, for my dog. I was thankful for the activity we did that day, the activities we didn’t do that day, the heat warming our house.
We lead a very quiet and very blessed life. It wasn’t that I didn’t have things to be thankful for. I have many, many things to be thankful for. I just didn’t like listing them out. I say thanks countless times a day. I whisper prayers of thanks as my daughters run down the driveway to the waiting bus. I say thank you as I load groceries into our car. I am filled with gratitude as I stand under scalding hot water in the shower ten minutes longer than necessary just because I can.
I’m really bad at writing things because I “have to” though. It’s like school all over again. Yes, I can write. No, I don’t want to.
Last fall I read (listened to, actually) Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. It’s a great book, I highly recommend to everyone. One thing she shared was her belief that everyone falls into one of three (or was it four?) personality categories. I don’t remember all of them, but I knew before she even got to the explanation I fell into her “rebel” group. Rebels don’t do what they’re told just because someone told them to do it. Even if they sorta/kinda want to do it anyway.
THAT IS ME. DO NOT TELL ME WHAT TO DO, I WILL NOT DO IT.
This made a lot of problems for my parents growing up. Knowing this tendency I still have as an adult, Rubin explained ways of doing things that will set someone who is a rebel (ME ME ME) up for success and what will always lead to failure.
It was an eye-opening book. I should have known the gratitude journal wouldn’t work. I had heard others do it and love it. I was intrigued. But I wasn’t necessarily lacking in the thankfulness category—diving into the Bible a few years ago greatly changed the way I see my life—and adding something I probably didn’t really need just felt like another thing I had to do instead of something I enjoyed.
I enjoy reading my Bible every day, and I could tell you countless benefits I’m receiving because of it.
The gratitude journal felt like it was taking some joy away from the in-the-moment thankfulness I was already doing.
What made me finally stop? I just kept writing about food I was eating.
February 3rd: I am thankful for Girl Scout cookies.
February 5th: Thin Mints are a gift from God.
February 9th: I am so thankful for that box of Samoas I had for dinner.
February 10th: I’m so grateful for dinner out when I’m too tired to cook.
February 12th: Thin Mints.
February 15th: I am thankful for stretchy pants.
Just kidding. I just made that last one up. Unfortunately, the others are not made up. I just really like food, guys.
Dear Jesus, thank you for cookies and fast food. Amen.
I really wanted the gratitude journal to work. I had visions of climbing into bed each night with a heart overflowing with thank yous. I imagined I’d be curled up under the covers with my dog, writing in my cute, flowery journal barely able to contain all the gratitude spilling out of me.
Instead, I just made myself hungry.
At first, I felt like a failure for not loving the thankfulness journal thing I was trying, but then I realized I didn’t have to like it. I didn’t have to do it. And you’re not the boss of me.
Woah, sorry, I don’t even know where that last part came from.
What I meant to say: I get to practice being thankful all day every day. I get to try new things in my relationship with God and find out how to best praise Him. I can say thanks without writing it down, and I can pray for eyes to see all the things, big and small, that He’s giving me without the need to track it. Somehow for me it loses some of the beauty that way.
I’m glad I tried journaling my gratitude because it helped me figure out a little more about my relationship with my Creator. And you don’t know until you try. < — lame, but true mom quote to end the post. YOU’RE WELCOME.