“Dear Diary, I love my new Starter jacket. And my friends. I love school, reading, my new Lip Smacker roll-on lip gloss, and Saved By The Bell – I totally relate to Jessie.” I’m sure I wrote something along those lines when I was 12 years old, which is why journaling in my 30’s seems so awkward.
I hadn’t kept a diary in decades, but this spring I wrestled with existential questions like who am I, what are my passions, what makes me happy, and where am I going? At the time, it all felt overwhelming. Journaling helped me map this all out (as did this surprisingly helpful resource found on WikiHow), and the habit stuck. While some adults find memorializing the details of their day valuable, I focus on a few lists when journaling.
3 Things I’m Grateful For
I tried to journal at night, when the events of the day are fresh in my mind. Unfortunately, I am tired after 6pm, and Jello after 8pm. My mental peak is in the morning, which is when I write. I think about the day before and I write down three things for which I’m grateful. This is the easiest list I write. Frequent list-makers include my husband, my daughters, coffee, my house, my career and colleagues, our generous network of family and friends.
“If you only say one prayer in a day, make it ‘Thank you.'” – Rumi
3 Things That Brought Me Joy
In reading Option B by Sheryl Sandburg and Adam Grant, the authors noted the importance of paying attention to joy. Think about the number of times you need to feel joy in a day to be happy. Then, start noticing those moments or start making them happen.
A well-made scone makes me happy. I prefer scones that are crispy on the outside and fluffy like a sweet bread inside. This delicate perfection makes a well-made scone hard to find. Many bakers seem to make scones drier than they need to be for spreads or coffee-dunking, which is not my jam. So every morning, I add part of a worthy scone to my breakfast. It’s the first thing I eat each morning.
It’s fun to find or create just three moments of joy each day. Again, some moments happen by chance and some happen by choice. Each morning I acknowledge and appreciate three of the previous day’s joys and I write them down.
My “3 things I’m grateful for” and “3 things that brought me joy” lists are similar, but distinct. For me, joy is this great delight; it’s a spark of elation. Gratitude, on the other hand, is being thankful and appreciative. I can be grateful for things that brought me joy, but I don’t necessarily find joy in the things for which I am grateful. For example, sometimes I am grateful for grief; but I likely did not find joy in my grief. This is why I use two different lists.
Eureka Moments and Quotes
At the end of a much-needed yoga session last March, the instructor passed me a post-it that included a quote she had shared at the end of class. It read,
“Spring is a time to find out where you are, who you are, and move toward where you are going.” – Penelope Trunk
Wow. I read and reread that quote. I pinned the post-it to my desktop and it motivated me on a pursuit of the substantial questions it begs. I keep a space in my journal for quotes that move me, like this one.
I have a few bucket lists. The majority are food related, but I only have three. Of course, I have a “Before I Kick the Bucket” list. This list includes activities like seeing the Grand Canyon and learning to make French Macaroons. I also have an “Ice Cream Parlor” bucket list that includes different ice cream shops around the Twin Cities that my daughters and I are visiting this summer. My girls enjoy eating ice cream, but this list is totally for me. It’s an easy way to inch back into the adventurous spirit I had before having littles under five, a time when everything includes a safety hazard, health hazard, or choking hazard. I also have a “New Restaurants” Bucket List.
I swear I have headaches every single day! Under oath, I will tell you that I take way too much Advil and there is no way my liver is able to function properly as a result. But then I check my headache log and I realize that I have headaches once or twice a week and I only take Advil sometimes; and other times I try water, food, or Tylenol. As a result, I know it’s safe to presume that my liver and other internal organs are fine.
In my 30’s, I just don’t bring the gossip like I used to. But my journal helped me find myself again. I’m forever grateful. XOXO