You might think that, as a writer, I'd be naturally inclined toward participating in a daily journalling practice and that, without effort, I'd be able to stick to a regular routine, greeting any opportunity to write with abundant enthusiasm! The truth is that I'm a haphazard, inconsistent journaller, at best. I'll get in a good groove of writing every night for weeks on end and then suddenly I'll fall off the cliff of responsibilities, descending into the abyss of tasks, emerging many, many weeks later with only a foggy memory of this little book here. So although I've kept diaries and journals for most of my life, it is not uncommon for me to start entries with "The last three months of my life have been busy. To recap..."
I've been trying, TRYING, to get back into the habit because I have found that when I stick to it, the practice of taking a few minutes every evening to write about what's going on (AND ALL THE FEELINGS) has an immensely positive impact on my life. My journal becomes a place to let things out - the good, the bad and the ugly - that I otherwise tend to keep in, and the practice of writing about how I feel about things, and the choices I'm considering making in my life along with their pros and cons, helps me to process what's going on inside my often far-too-busy brain. When I write in my journal before bed, I sleep better, and wake up with a healthier, more positive outlook on my life and any challenges I'm facing.
When I manage to write in my journal, I make it a point to end my entries with a list of three things I'm grateful for that day. This is not a revolutionary idea, by any means, and it is backed by scientific research that strongly supports "an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being." In my experience, I've found that this exercise alone allows me to gain some perspective and set aside my troubles, at least for the moment.
Recently, though, I've added another exercise to my journalling routine, an exercise that I've come to think of as writing my "Ta Da!" List. Following my list of the three things I'm grateful for, I write a list of three things I did well that day (Get it? "I did this! Ta Da!" Corny? Yes. Clever? If you say so). My far-too-busy brain is exceptional at drafting long To Do lists but not so great at celebrating the things I actually do and this exercise helps me to do just that. These accomplishments don't have to be of the climbed-Kilimanjaro variety. They can be simple, simple things and in fact, I have found that acknowledging the seemingly simplest of my day's accomplishments is the fastest route to a sense of satisfaction and success.
Some examples from my journal of the things I did well:
- "I washed my face"
- "Laughed and had fun with the girls"
- "Ate healthy things"
- "Stayed calm with my daughter when she was trying my patience"
- "Didn't beat myself up"
- "Went to the park even though I was tired"
- "(Mostly) had a positive attitude!" TA DA! You're welcome, family!
Several years ago, I came across what I consider to be one of my favourite things on the Internet. In a forum about "things you like to tell or remind yourself about when you have 'woe is me' moments to steer yourself out of self-pity/moments of weakness and back into awesomeness", contributor Zozo offers this gem:
"I start going down a list of my accomplishments. If my mood is particularly crappy, I'll do a lot of "oh, well, that doesn't really count," but I can eventually wear myself down by sheer volume, even if it means counting "remembered to buy cat food" and "emptied the dishwasher" as accomplishments. 'Cause you know what? I emptied the fuck out of that dishwasher."
I heart this 4eva.
This is what the "Ta Da!" List is all about. It's about emphatically celebrating your successes, no matter how insignificant they may seem, because the thing is they are NOT insignificant. These successes are important because, on the whole, our days are not made up of Kilimanjaro moments. They are made up of washing our face, and staying calm with trying toddlers, and emptying the dishwasher moments.
So go ahead and give yourself the credit you're due, and consider making it a daily practice to do so, whether in writing or not.
What have you accomplished today?
You gave the dog his medication. TA DA!
You didn't eat the entire bag of chips. TA DA!
You emptied the fuck out of the dishwasher.
TA fucking DA!
Jump for Joy is a series on JTTG about small, simple ways to boost the joy in your life.