Gratitude Journal

By now we’re all well aware of just how deeply the coronavirus pandemic has permeated into our lives. If there is one thing we’ve all learnt this year, it is how to stay at home. But even as we become more comfortable with the reality of our new lives, there are still many of us struggling to be productive and to keep up with work and university in these times. Keeping up good spirits and focusing on the positives is essential in such cases to renew and reinforce personal productivity. Enter Dankbarkeitstagebuch.

This week, I tried out the ‘Dankbarkeitstagebuch’, or the Gratitude Journal in English. It’s a simple premise with promising effects. The Gratitude Journal is meant to give you a new perspective so that you are better prepared and focused to start learning the next day. Moreover, keeping up this practice has also been linked to higher attentiveness and better goal-achieving.

At this time in June in the middle of the semester, I am swamped with learning as never before. On top of keeping up with online classes, I have to also write a seminar paper whilst managing two side jobs. In other words, a typical busy mid-semester season. So I decided to try out the Gratitude Journal in the hopes of recharging my motivation to learn and work from home. I began with the first step: to write out 5 things or experiences I had recently and which I am grateful for. I was told to focus on the seemingly small stuff. So I sat back and thought, “What have I done today?” My first thought was just worries about the huge list of things I didn’t fully complete today, but then I decided to look past that. I remembered that one of the first things I had done was to get some study material printed from the Uni library at Waldweg. So I wrote that down:

  1. Got study material printed from the University library.

So far so good, and simple too.

The next part of the exercise was a little more challenging: I had to introspect and think of what exactly I was thankful for in this situation. And so I thought some more. Walking into the library; into a shared university space after so long, had felt so good that I was actually in good spirits for most of the day. I was also happy to have my hands on actual paper again, since it also meant lesser screen time for my poor stressed eyes. Having even this tiny semblance of normalcy back into my uni life had me a lot more cheerful without me even realizing it.

I wrote all of this down, and then sat back and reread the whole thing. Reading my thoughts of the whole experience again also made me relive them. Gratitude was becoming a habit, and just like that, more things spilled out of me:

  1. Got back in touch with friends around the world who I hadn’t spoken to in a while. (While uni life is still just as busy as any other semester, staying at home has indeed made space for some free time for me to reach out to friends I hadn’t spoken to in a long time).
  2. Made amazing spaghetti for lunch. (I’m always grateful for good food, and I never underestimate the effect it can have on the way I feel).
  3. Went for a long run at Hochschulsport. (Taking in the fresh cool summer air and the soft sun both made me feel super thankful that we weren’t quarantined in the winter at least, and that we can always go out to enjoy the sun. Running by the Hospital later also made me grateful for the very fact that I could indeed run and was not bedridden fighting a deadly disease).
  4. Met a friend for drinks at a cafe outside. (Simply being able to meet a friend outside in a cafe and to order food and drinks that I did not prepare on my own gave me boundless joy. I literally walked back home humming to myself).

I sat back and looked at all I had written. Whew! I didn’t know I had done so much in one day. Writing down the things I had done and introspecting them, had not only made me aware of my gratitude for these seemingly small things, but had also cemented it. Keeping up this journal, I imagined, could easily help me be more aware of the good things in and around my life – something that has become all the more important in the face of constant bad news coming in from around the world these days. And simply focusing on the good things in one’s life can go a long way in making the day a success.

There are many other reasons to have a Gratitude Journal that I learnt during the process. Keeping it as a habit can in turn be helpful to make productivity and happiness a habit. Your first entry into the journal is meant to help you see the positives in your life, while keeping up with the journal can help you make this outlook an easy and effortless part of your life. Of course, the Gratitude Journal won’t magically endow you with bursting motivation and strength to work all day, but what it will endow you with is a good, positive, and clean mindset to start working – and isn’t that more important anyway?

I’d personally recommend doing this exercise at the end of the day and before getting into bed. Going to bed with a positive mindset not only helps you sleep better but also makes you wake up the next morning in much better spirits to start working. And rightly so, the day after I wrote my first journal entry and headed out into a nice sunny day towards the library, the first thought I had was “What a lovely day to get some learning done!” Being stuck at home has us trying all sorts of new things, so why not try keeping a Gratitude Journal and make productivity and happiness a habit this quarantine?

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