Life is busy. And the busier it gets the easier it becomes to feel overwhelmed and run down. Put an emotionally draining or painful experience on top of the daily grind and our feelings of hope, happiness and vigor can become seriously compromised. This can impact our mental and physical health and can be damaging both in the short- and long-term, leading to burnout and illness.
One way to combat these effects and keep ourselves grounded is to write. To get in front of the never ending to-do list it can be extremely helpful to set goals and then schedule our steps and tasks accordingly. But in additional to this there are several other very important things you should be writing down that, when done regularly, can dramatically improve your immediate sense of well being, as well as your long-term health, wellness and life satisfaction.
Daily Positive Experiences
Many of use journalling to process the days’ events, which can sometimes focus more on the negative stuff. And this can be very valuable; it gives our brains the opportunity to do a more complete job of digesting our experiences and we are able to gain new perspective, release negative emotions and ultimately feel less bothered by the events of the day.
What we do less often, however, is write about our positive experiences, particularly the smaller, everyday things. But this is also important for us to be doing because taking time to write about positive experiences, both big and small, can have lasting effects on our mood and can even improve our physical health. Taking time to remember positive points in our day and then writing them down using positive word choices and emotions can lead to a greater recall of positive life memories over time and increased feelings of overall life satisfaction and fulfillment.
Recounting positive experiences has also been shown to help people move forward from painful experiences of the past as it helps to retrain the brain to access thoughts and feelings associated with healing and life beyond that of the negative experience.
As a bonus, these types of effects are increased if you share your positive experience with someone else, particularly if that someone is likely to respond in positive way (i.e. they are happy for you versus being jealous or dismissive).
Writing down daily and weekly achievements is a great follow up to goal setting. Creating your plan for the week gives you something to works towards, whereas noting your achievements provides feelings of confidence and helps you feel motivated to keep going.
Achievement journalling can also act as a buffer for feelings of frustration or disappointment at the end of the day. The reality for many of us is that the to-do list is never ending, and even when we try to schedule things perfectly into our calendar there is a very good chance things won’t work out as they did on paper. This can leave us with a sense that we “didn’t get things done”, when in fact we may have accomplished a great deal with the time we had. Sometimes even checking one thing off can be a huge accomplishment, but we miss out on acknowledging this because we focus more on the set backs.
The great thing about achievement lists is that they create a sense of balance. If you take the time at the end of the day to write down what you actually did you might be pleasantly surprised, which can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
A fantastic benefit of tracking your larger achievements is that at the end of 12 months you essentially have a year-in-review of all your successes. You can see, on paper, all of your accomplishments. This is great for several reasons. Firstly, it builds major confidence when looking at all the things you have achieved over a year, and it helps you to further identify your areas of strength. Secondly, you are able to visually see all of the achievements that you might have otherwise totally forgotten about along the way, which may give you a different and more balanced perspective on your life as a whole. Thirdly, you can use this list to assess your goals and priorities for the upcoming year. If you also take the time to jot down how you felt about your successes and what it was like when you accomplished your goals, you have a greater understanding of whether you are on the right track or whether you need to re-assess what’s important to you.
Studies have indicated a large number of benefits associated with practicing gratitude, including:
- Improved physical health
- Fewer health check-ups
- Increased feelings of happiness and empathy
- Decreased feelings of depression, anxiety and aggression
- Better sleep
- Improved relationships
Taking time each day to list the things and people you are grateful for can also provide a new perspective on your day and your life. It also increases your ability to be self aware and engages you in prioritizing what is really important to you. Finally, having an ongoing list of what you are grateful for in life can serve as a buffer during difficult times. It can act as a “rainy day” pick me up when you are feeling down, and it might even remind you of something or someone that can help you to cope with what is going on in your life.
For many people, it can be a bit difficult to sit down to a blank page and begin writing, so I’ve listed a few prompts to get you started.
- Write about a person (present or past) who has positively impacted your life.
- What is one thing you have learned this week? Why are you grateful to have learned this lesson?
- Write a letter to someone who has positively influenced you and your life (you choose if you want to send it or not).
- What was something you ate or drank today that you are grateful for?
- What part of your morning or evening routine are you most grateful for?
If you need more inspiration, there are endless journal prompt lists out there, simply Google gratitude journal prompts and find a few that speak to you. And if writing really isn’t your thing, drawing what you are grateful for is a fantastic alternative.
Do you use any of the above lists? If so, how do you find it impacts your day and your life? If not, are you inspired to give them a try? Let me know in the comments below.
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