Finding Solace in a Gratitude Journal

I am a pessimist. I have always seen the glass as half-empty, and I have never been able to make out the silver lining.

As high school students, pessimists or not, we have all been bogged down by negativity at one time or another, whether it’s because of a bad test grade or a small misunderstanding.

I have always tried to justify my pessimism by believing that if I expect the worst, I will not disappoint myself. But, after years of living with this attitude, I have finally come to understand its antithesis — gratitude and optimism. As cliché as it may sound, I realized that we truly do forget to be thankful for the day-to-day happenings that make life just a little bit better.

In the beginning of my sophomore year, I started a “gratitude journal:” a diary in which I write one positive thing that happens to me each day. At first, I found myself pondering journal entries for hours on end, unable to recall a single positive occurrence. I repeatedly zoomed in on the unfavorable incidents of the day, merely overlooking the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of “good” ones. I was stuck in the mindset that each entry had to consist of a grand event such as winning an award or taking a vacation, when, in fact, it should have been just the opposite.

As time moved forward, the daily accounts slowly became a routine part of my life. The entries became increasingly easier to formulate, to the point where I had to decide between a few possibilities. I realized that I was surrounded by things to be thankful for, from the friend who lent me a pencil to the nine hours of sleep I got the night before. While my entries were simple and seemingly inconsequential, they held just enough meaning to put a smile on my face.

Perhaps the most impactful part of the journal, however, is re-reading my entries. Going through my journal frequently relieves my stress and increases my productivity. During bad times, it reminds me to keep my chin up, because circumstances are never as dour as they seem.

After I began my journal, I progressively became more aware of the positives in my life. Constantly on the look out for potential journal entries, appreciation-worthy moments suddenly started emerging anywhere and everywhere. I later registered that these phenomena had always been there; I just hadn’t noticed them before.

And ever since, I have fully cherished every subsequent trip to Baskin Robbins and family movie night – the little things in life.

This piece was originally published in the pages of The Winged Post on March 12, 2014