Have You Tried Keeping a Gratitude Journal?

The summer before my final year of teaching (2013-2014) found me babysitting my two grandsons while their parents worked. I had submitted that as my plan for the summer and received no complaint. The first day of summer break, I also became the primary care giver and coordinator for my mother when she was diagnosed with cancer. Some days life was a juggling act.

That year found me I negative, paranoid, and cynical about the 34 years I had spent as a teacher. Although I was excited at the idea of retiring, my retirement was not taken under positive conditions.

That last year, at the meeting after my first observation of the year, my principal targeted me as a “needs improvement” teacher. I had completed 33 years as a satisfactory or exceptional teacher; so, why was this year different?

First, it wasn’t because of anything I was or wasn’t doing in the classroom.

Instead, it was because I hadn’t participated in any of the professional development workshops that had been held over the summer.

When I had informed my principal that I had emailed her the previous spring of my summer plan to babysit my grandkids, she displayed no compassion. I learned later that she was marking teacher’s evaluations with “needs improvement” because she needed to show the Board of Education that she was able to turn some teachers around.

I found myself traversing the negative attitude path. I had been labeled a “needs improvement” teacher, my mother had passed away, I was working to clean out Mom’s home, and I was retiring.

Escaping that negative attitude (or lifestyle) has proved difficult. A psychologist would probably have also declared me depressed.

The negativity affected every aspect of my life: my eating habits, my exercising, my pursuit of creativity, my housekeeping habits, my sleep patterns, – everything. As the year 2014 drew to a close, I realized I had to take my attitude by the reins and pull hard to the direction of the positive.

I have read how keeping a gratitude journal helps in seeking out the positive in your life. I had tried it before, but I had trouble being consistent. I missed a day, then found myself missing a week. Then if it was ok to miss a week, why not a month. I found myself too tired to write at the end of any given day to write, and then, there were days where I could search hard and find nothing to be grateful for. (As I look back, there were things to be grateful for each day, but I was so engulfed in negativity that I couldn’t find it.) Finally, I couldn’t remember where I had placed the hard-bound notebook that I had purchased for my gratitude journal.

Image courtesy of topstep07 at
Image courtesy of topstep07 at

This year, 2015, I have started again, but with some clear cut rules.

1. I bought a large, bright spiral notebook that makes identifying things I am grateful for easier.

2. During the day, if I find something I should be grateful for, I jot down a brief note about it.

3. I only look to write down three things I am grateful for. If more tumble onto the paper, that’s great.

4. I take time to think about one special or memorable event of the day and write at least a paragraph about it.

5. I added a section for the day’s philofax 365/30 list. If I can’t think of something to be grateful for right away, I can focus on the list for the day. I have found that things to be grateful for sneak into the forefront of my mind while I am thinking of something else.

6. If I am too tired at the end of the day, the next morning I make looking back at the day a priority.

I want to live the year 2015 in a more positive, upbeat way.

Do you?

How can you personalize your gratitude journal?

How do you remember to log the things you are grateful for?

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