In this article Heather joins us to discuss the importance of a gratitude journal and how it transformed her life.
About eight years ago, I participated in a 40-day yoga immersion and one of the exercises we were assigned on day 1 was to write down 8 things we were grateful for each day. I had never been much of a journal person. I think part of the reason was because I had been living with anxiety since my late teens and the idea of putting my thoughts down on paper scared me. In my head, they could remain abstract and I could keep them to myself. Writing them down would give them a place to materialize outside of my head, and this wasn’t something I wanted to entertain. However, transformation was the name of the game when I joined this 40-day immersion, and I made a commitment to myself to go all in. I wasn’t going to start picking and choosing what to do just because it was out of my comfort zone. I had let fear guide my actions for the better part of two decades and this was an opportunity to do things differently. Besides, it was just writing down what I’m grateful for so the risk seemed pretty low.
The first week went pretty smoothly. It was as if I had a stockpile of people, places and things that would step up on command – my mom, my dad, my dog, my kids, my husband, etc – the easy stuff. After that first week, it got a little more challenging as I was determined not to repeat what I had already been grateful for. I’m not sure why I did this. It wasn’t part of the exercise. The rules and restrictions we put on ourselves are very interesting when we allow ourselves to notice them.
About two weeks in, I began to notice a shift. Throughout the day, I found myself looking around and thinking about what I was grateful for so my time with that journal would be easier. Thoughts of gratitude began to replace the anxiety-laden ‘what if’ thoughts. I observed nature more, found myself being grateful for the sunshine, the beautiful flowers as they were blooming, Mother Earth. When people in other cars would wave me through, I would feel a true sense of gratitude for them, rather than just going through the motions of waving back and continuing my drive. My life became more relaxed, my heart more open.
I have since led several 200-hour yoga teacher trainings and I always have students begin a gratitude journal on day 1 in the hope that I can pay it forward and share the gift that was given to me by this simple exercise. They often share similar experiences.
I don’t remember much else from the 40-day yoga immersion other than the intense 5:00am asana practices, but I’ll never forget that it is where my gratitude journey truly began.
Heather is an E-RYT 500 Hour, YACEP certified yoga instructor. Her mission as a yoga teacher is to provide a space and a practice that invites students of all levels on a journey of self-exploration and self-discovery that they can take off the mat to lead a consciously-aware, loving and fulfilled life. She has led several Teacher Training programs and continues to teach weekly public classes and individual private sessions.