A month ago exactly I set myself the challenge to write in my gratitude journal every day for 30 days. I said I would let you know how it went so here it goes! Although I did not fully complete the challenge (I wrote only 23 days out of 30 – scroll down to find out what went wrong), I am happy to report that I have felt the positive effects of the exercise.
Setting the scene
January is one of my worst months depression-wise. Christmas being so family-oriented and me still not having a family of my own always makes December a little tricky. This year was no exception and even though I did follow my own advice as per my article 7 Expert tips to survive Christmas with your family I totally fell apart towards the end of Christmas Day, although I am very proud to have managed gracefully up to that point. This ended with my lovely dad offering me dating advice… I may be single and childless but I do have very loving parents and sisters. And for that I am deeply grateful.
Back to the point. Christmas is tough on me and so it has somehow become a tradition that I spend January getting over it and putting in place some new strategy to help me find true love. So in a nutshell January is all about recharging my positivity batteries and this year is no exception.
This year is also special because I am no longer on medication. So this January is a real test of whether the systems that I have put in place to manage my depression are working.
And the good news is: they are!
The impact of the gratitude challenge on my wellbeing
So as I said this is a difficult time of year for me. Which is precisely why I choose to do this challenge at this time. And I am glad I did.
I feel that forcing myself to focus on the positive things in my life have really helped me through this difficult time. On a good day finding 3 things to write down was very easy because they all related to good things that would have happened during the day and the task took maybe 2 or 3 minutes.
Extract from my gratitude journal – a good day entry:
“I am grateful to be living alone and able to afford a luxurious flat
I am grateful I was born in 1980 and not 1880
I am grateful I was born in Europe where women have rights and can live their lives the way they want to”
But on the not-so-good days it was a very different story. It happened a few times that I spent up to 15 minutes thinking hard about what I could be grateful for on that day.
Extract from my gratitude journal – a not-so-good day entry:
“I am grateful for my niece
I am grateful to my parents for their very generous gift
I am grateful for the beautiful meal we shared today as a family”
Reading back on the last month entries something suddenly struck me. Something I was not expecting.
What I have learnt from this experience
Something suddenly dawned on me that I had never grasped until now:
I am the one responsible for my own happiness.
There are 2 angles to this. What I mean is that I am responsible for all the good things in my life but I also mean that it is my responsibility to keep myself happy. Let me explain.
I am responsible for all the good things in my life
Here are the things that came up the most in my journal entries: living in the UK, living in the flat where I currently live in, my mentors, my job. And if I take a step back, the bigger picture comes up: I am responsible for all those things.
Living in the UK
I wasn’t born in the UK, I moved here because I was offered a job here and I choose to stay when it would have been easier to move back to France at quite a few points. Even now that the UK is living the European Union, I choose to stay and I am currently applying for permanent residency with the aim to apply for citizenship.
The flat I live in isn’t my own but it is my home.
When I moved back to the UK after my international assignment in Denmark, which had been so eventful and where I experienced some of the lowest points of my life, I needed a home. A real home. Somewhere where I would stay for a while, that I would have furnished myself and that would be peaceful. I called it “mon havre de paix”. The idea was that no matter how stressful my day would get, I had somewhere peaceful to go home to.
I dreamed about this place for a while. Finding a flat in the UK when I was living abroad was challenging as I couldn’t visit the properties myself but 2 of my closest friends helped me and together we found THE flat. I spent weeks searching online for the furniture I wanted which I bought with money that I had spent months saving. I then took a week off for the move and made it all happened.
This is the happiest place I have ever lived in and this is all because of me (with the help of a few friends along the way of course).
In the order I have met them: Matthew Hussey, Ed JC Smith and Olivier Roland.
These 3 awesome people have had a huge impact on my life over the last 3 years.
It all started with me wondering what I did wrong to always end up falling for the wrong guys and thinking: “it would be so great if there was a dating guide, telling you how it all works”. So I walked into Waterstones with this in mind. And here he was: Matthew Hussey, the dating guru smiling at me on the front cover of “Get The Guy”.
This was the start of my personal development journey. I got a lot more than just dating advice from this book. And this led me to go to the Matthew Hussey Retreat which has nothing to do with dating and everything to do with personal development and it changed my life.
From there I started to think about maybe one day becoming an entrepreneur. And this is why one day I ventured to the Breakthrough Success Summit of Ed JC Smith and started following the You Tube Channel of Olivier Roland.
These people have changed my life for the better. Each one of them in a different way. But the reason they were able to do it was because I let them in in the first place and I listened and applied their advice. And so once again this is all because of me.
I have mentioned in previous articles how stress at work has been a huge contributing factor into my descent into depression hell when I was on assignment in Denmark. When I came back I spend time learning new stress management techniques. My job was inherently stressful but I didn’t really know another way and I thought that being a lawyer I was condemned to have a stressful job. These limiting beliefs we have!
The truth was that this particular job was extremely stressful but not all legal positions are. And so I decided to move into a new role. Being very fussy as to what role I wanted to take on next it took me a while (about 18 months) to find the right fit.
But it was worth the wait. I have a good work-life balance, the work itself is interesting and challenging, it is on occasion a little stressful but nothing compared to my last role and I have the best team.
Some might say I was lucky but this isn’t luck. It took me a fair amount of work to get here. I spent some time reviewing my priorities and carefully defining my objectives and criteria for the next role. I chose a mentor who turned out to be instrumental to my success. I spent time preparing for my meetings with her and I made the most of the time that she would give me. I got brilliant advice and I applied it.
So here to I shall happily take the credit for having secured this position.
It is my responsibility to keep myself happy
Writing this journal and pushing through this month with the strong determination that I would NOT relapse is taking responsibility for my happiness. Without realising it this is exactly what I have been doing since I decided to take action and fight depression back.
This is me finally standing up for myself, having positively decided that I will be happy and that I refused depression to take me down. And doing everything that is in my power to be happy.
As I mentioned above, this is not always easy. Controlling one’s emotions is in fact very hard. But the system I put in place is working: the routine, the physical exercise, spending times with friends, watching comedies, this blog, all of it contributes to me being able to handle the tough days better.
And for that I am very grateful… to myself.
Writing EVERY day… at bedtime
Well, hum. It sounds like such a simple task but then somehow that did not quite happen. I did write most days but not every day.
This is where I think I went wrong… I had set myself the task of writing in the evening before bed. I think the timing of the action was not the best for me. What happened is that usually by the time I was ready to go to bed I was exhausted and just the idea of having to stay awake for another 5 minutes to write seemed too much of an effort.
So instead I am going to incorporate gratitude into my morning routine. And because sometimes things seem to just come together, it happens that there is a gratitude part to the new morning routine that I follow as part of Healthy Lean & Sexy 12 week program that I mentioned my last article The Power of Accountability.
What about you peeps? Have you tried it and what have you learned from the experience? Looking forward to reading your answers!!