Finding Rest in the City

What I Learned from Writing a Daily Gratitude Journal

A year ago tomorrow, Denver’s stay-at-home order began. We were home with our kids, ages 2, 5, and 7, and our seven day old baby. While we had planned on being home a lot during our last baby’s first few weeks of life, we didn’t expect the world to shut down and stay home with us. Every where we turned there was scary news filled with large doses of disappointment and uncertainty. As the fear continued to rise, something inside of me nudged me to make sure did something to protect my mind during this time and be grateful for what was in front of me. I decided to challenge myself to share something I was grateful for every day of the stay-at-home order (you can find my first gratitude post here). We thought the mandate would last a few “short” weeks, but the time grew to 45 days. After the mandate was lifted, instead of ending my gratitude posts, I felt the nudge to keep going.

I had termed my posts “covidGRATITUDE.” My incorrect use of capitalization was merely to remind myself to focus on my gratitude instead of fear and uncertainty. As the days went on and the end of the pandemic was no where in sight, I made a goal to continue my posts for a total of 365 days. It’s been quite a journey and these are some of the things I’ve learned along the way:

Why Write a Daily Gratitude Journal
Photos from my gratitude posts.

4 Reasons I’m Grateful for My Gratitude Journey

1. It’s a habit that helped me pick myself up.

As someone who has struggled with postpartum depression with previous babies, I tallied all the external stressors the pandemic was hurling our way and I started getting nervous. I knew staying mentally and emotionally healthy with a baby and three other kids was already going to be tough for me. But since I had already struggled with this, I knew a few tricks for giving PPD a run for it’s money. This included eating well, exercising, drinking lots of water, attempting to get as much sleep as possible with a newborn (which isn’t a lot), and staying mentally and emotionally sane. My gratitude posts became a way for me to stay focused on something good happening in my day, in spite of what was happening around the world. They say it takes 21 days to make a habit — I’m grateful that I’ve had 365 days to help me incorporate this life-giving practice into my everyday life.

2. It helped me hold space for conflicting emotions.

More is starting to be said about toxic positivity. If you haven’t heard of it, toxic positivity is essentially the idea that no matter what happens to us, we should continue to think happy thoughts. While there are definitely benefits to having a positive mindset, not allowing ourselves the space to feel more difficult emotions like disappointment, sadness, anger, and grief, prevents us from fully processing and healing from our pain.

Gratitude isn’t all or nothing.

Jen Wilder

Fortunately, my gratitude journey didn’t lead me in that direction. Instead of feeling forced into “happy vibes,” it showed me that I could have painful emotions about one thing and still be grateful for something else at the same time. Gratitude isn’t all or nothing. As I look back at what I’ve written, I can see so many highs and so many lows throughout the year. There were days where gratitude easily flowed out of me and there were others where I struggled to find it. What it taught me was, that even on our worst days, there is always something we can find to be grateful for.

Why Write a Daily Gratitude Journal

3. It shifted my perspective.

When I first started my daily gratitude entries, I was worried I would run out of things to say. I feared I would resort to being grateful for random things like pickles (which I don’t even like!), or unflashy, but crucial items of clothing (like new socks), favorite foods, or material things we own. As we spent so much time at home, there were hundreds of those types of things I could’ve chosen. With four kids, two of which are still in cloth diapers, I could’ve told you how grateful I am for our washer and dryer every single day! Yet in 365 days, I found that these topics didn’t remotely make up the majority of my posts. If this year has revealed anything, it’s that our material possessions can be taken from us in an instant. I wanted to remember more about this year than just our stuff!

Gratitude isn’t something happy people inherently have — gratitude is a choice we make every single day.

Jen Wilder

I resolved to dig deeper when I had the mental and emotional capacity. Apart from sharing multiple gratitude posts about my sweet, snuggly newborn, I wanted to come up with something original each day. I began waking up each morning thinking about what I might be grateful for that day. Sometimes, evening would come and nothing had “hit me.” And then, it would appear in the sunset, or a movie on the lanai, or something sweet one of my kids would do before bed. It wasn’t always easy to find, but it revealed itself when I kept looking. What I found is that gratitude isn’t something happy people have — gratitude is a choice we make every single day.

Why Write a Daily Gratitude Journal

4. It gave me an opportunity to decide the impact I wanted to have.

Before my gratitude posts, I had been a very sporadic contributor on social media. There also hadn’t been a clear purpose in my sharing and my gratitude offered the clarity in direction I needed. During the year, there were many events throughout our country that provoked fear, rage, and blame inside us all. There were moments I found myself getting sucked into the wheel of drama. And as quickly as I got myself sucked in, I had to find a way to step back out. I wasn’t who I wanted to be or become when I engaged in that way.

My gratitude kept me focused on being a positive influence in a year filled with so many negatives. I truly enjoyed sharing something positive and genuine with my social media sphere each day. It felt good being able to share thoughts and ideas that didn’t provoke people to anger, but instead may have encouraged some amount of goodness or even curiosity. This journey reminded me how much I love penning my thoughts and that I want to use what God has given me to bring Him glory!

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Hi, I'm Jen!

Nice to meet you!

I’m a homeschooling mom of four and recovering perfectionist on a journey to live a more restful life.

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