Every single thing in your life starts with a thought. When we don’t nurture our thoughts, they tend to be mainly made up of regrets of the past, worries of the future and never-ending reviews of to-do lists. This leads us to feel constantly regretful, worried and stressed, feelings that our nervous system perceives as negative stress. However, when our thoughts are of loving others and ourselves, and feeling grateful for even the simplest things, our system releases positive hormones which keep our body growing and repairing. Gratitude is one of the most powerful thoughts we can have, as it directs our mind away from what we don’t have or makes us unhappy, to what we do have and makes us feel happiness.
Replace Regret, Worry & Stress with Gratitude & Happiness
We can be grateful for sunshine, delicious food, freedom of choice, shelter, and being alive another day.We can be grateful for a hug from a child, a smile from a stranger, a call from a friend, and a quiet moment alone. There are endless things to be grateful for, but we often need a reminder to think this way. One of the best reminders our family has found, as a way to feel gratitude together, is to keep a happiness journal.
What is a Happiness Journal?
When I occasionally find myself feeling very blah – low motivation, boredom, stuck in a rut – I read self-help/psychology/personal growth books, to work on my Thoughts. One winter I stumbled upon a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. The book transformed my mood and gave me numerous tools I could use at any time to pick up my ‘happiness levels’. One tool that I have enjoyed for over a year now is keeping a happiness journal. I had kept a gratitude journal before, but it never lasted long. The success of my happiness journal this time is due to a couple key factors:
1. Calling it a Happiness Journal seems to include more thoughts than you might write about in a Gratitude Journal.
2. Write down things that are happy, made you happy, you are happy about. Draw smileys or pictures; doodle; dream. Collect happiness quotes. There are no rules!
3. Keep the Happiness Journal by the table where you eat meals, so you remember to use it.
4. Use the happiness journal with your spouse, kids, family, friends – whoever is eating with you at the time. Or do it alone!
5. No pressure to write in the journal every day! Just do it when you remember or feel like it or need a boost.
6. A Happiness Journal doubles as a diary, memoir or family keepsake when you flip through past pages to relive happy memories.
We keep our Happiness Journal on the shelf with the cookbooks, next to our breakfast bar where the we eat most of our meals. It’s often dinner times when we’ll remember to pull it out while we’re eating, and we simply say, “Ok, what are we happy about?” and start writing. We date our entries and who was there, use a multi-coloured pen and lots of smiley faces, as our toddler Kaiya loves them. Looking at our dates, there are entries a week apart, a month apart or even 3 months apart. We just write in it whenever we remember or feel like it. If one of us is having a tough day or feeling down, that reminds us to pull out the Happiness Journal as well, as it is always great medicine for the soul.
Thoughts are at the top of our Primal 6 Keys to optimal health, as they are the most important. Fortunately, our thoughts can be one of the easiest things for us to change. We don’t have to learn about nutrition, read food labels, organise a work out or get a prescription to change our thoughts. But because it is easy to fall back into the old habit of negative thinking, it’s important to incorporate some strategies into our daily life to remind us to direct our thoughts toward our happiness. Journals and diaries are wonderful outlets for writing our feelings and when we title a diary or notepad a Happiness Journal, we bring forth appreciation, joy, gratitude…and our health reflects that. Happy mind, happy body.