Instead of a Gratitude Journal, Try a Love Journal

Photo by Alexis Brown.

Gratitude is probably one of the biggest wellness movements of the 2010s, and I was definitely a part of that ride. I wrote two whole chapters about gratitude in my book and have written about gratitude on this blog a number of times.

One of the biggest things I discovered, way back in the day, was that a) thanking other people can make you feel weirdly good about yourself and b) the concept of a gratitude journal can be hacked to help meet almost any specific needs you have.

For example, when I hated myself, I used the basic concept of a gratitude journal but instead of just writing down generic good things that happened that day, I would write down very specific things that indicated that I was a worthwhile, valuable, loveable person. This way, I could experience gratitude and also teach my brain to see the evidence of my goodness, not just the horribleness I was used to looking for.

This homespun version of a gratitude journal completely turned my life around.

Then a couple of months ago, I read a study that people who feel loved in small ways during their day-to-day have higher senses of well-being. I immediately had a little pity party in my head, because it's "obviously" much easier to give and receive small acts of love when you're in a romantic-style relationship and I wasn't. My brain decided that because I live alone, am single, and almost two hours of my day is taken up commuting to and from work, I would NEVER get to feel loved on the daily and would thus be CURSED with lower well-being.

This is, of course, baloney. It's ridiculous and it's mumbo-jumbo. There are many kinds of relationships that give love and so many ways to receive it. I just need to see and appreciate it, like I did in the past with learning to like myself.

Thus came the seed for my new wellness movement. If the '10s were about gratitude, the '20s will be about love. I started an "I Feel Loved" Journal: a record of all the ways, large and small, that I receive love in my day-to-day life.

If you already have a gratitude practice or even just a regular journalling practice, you can probably easily plug this concept in and give yourself a little reminder every day that people love you.

My problem is that, despite an iron-clad commitment to my original gratitude journal and seeing the very clear benefits for my own well-being in the past, I have struggled to keep it up. Every once in a while I recommit to a gratitude practice and stick to it for about a month before it gets forgotten. Something about pulling out my notebook right before bed and thinking back through my day just feels clunky right now. I also find it weirdly hard to think back through my day and identify those moments after the fact. I forget things.

So here's my latest version of a Gratitude/Love Journal: an ongoing list in a note on my phone.

That's it. I have my phone with me 99.999% of the time, and so when something happens that makes me feel loved, I can jot it down there pretty easily.

The threshold for getting on the list is pretty low: a hug or a text from a friend counts, even if I see or hear from them all the time. (After all, if we go back to my "I'm not in a relationship" pity party, if I was in a relationship, it would mostly be hugs and cuddles and "I love yous" from the same person every single day, so it's got to count if my bestie says hi, too.)

I thought about doing a new note every day, but I kind of love the idea of how long and unwieldy this list will become. At some point, there will just be SO MUCH love in my life that I have to start a new list because this one got ridiculous, and isn't that a great thing?

My intention is to review the list (or that day's additions) at the end of each day to remind myself of all the goodness, and that happens often enough that it counts as a part of it even though it's definitely not regular.

I have just started, so there hasn't been a major transformation yet. And there may not be one beyond the pleasant little reminder that "Oh! That could go on the list!" when a little moment of love happens.

These kinds of practices are worthwhile, after all, even if they don't completely change your life.

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