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Gratitude's Cycle

by Lori Palmer-Tulley 11 months ago in happiness
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Experiencing the Practice of Daily Gratitude

Whilst some describe writing as a form of escapism or temporary relief from life’s noise, I’ve found practicing daily gratitude through journaling to declutter my mind and connect me to the simple beauties of every day.

Certainly, I was in need of some mental peace while surviving my first year at university in isolation from COVID-19. During November 2020, any tranquillity diminished in my mind by isolation’s loudness, my flatmate recommended that I note down three things to be grateful for each day, as she had recently practiced it during her Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for anxiety and depression. She added that this could be anything: from the way the morning’s light looked in my room, to the sharpness of my sensations, from gratitude for my own qualities even to the banality of different objects’ usefulness to me in getting on with my day. Naturally at this point, the idea seemed like artificial therapy to me, or rather a state of mind in which only fairy tale princesses and the like could express without feigning it completely.

Nonetheless, I tried regimenting my mornings with gratitude. Taking my flatmate’s recommendations verbatim, I rather uncreatively noted down my gratitude for ‘today’s frosty sunshine’ and ‘the bitterness of this one strawberry in my cereal’ on 1st January 2021. In the following months, my daily gratitude entries became a way of pre-setting my mornings to peace and appreciation, providing me with at least one purpose for every day. My journal started to collect gratitude for things both trivial and more profound, as I wrote about ‘being able to get myself dressed every day’ (10/01/21), ‘fleeting senses of peace’ (23/01/21) and ‘letting myself heal’ (23/02/21), evidencing my developing ability to process my mind’s state and focus simply by writing it down. At this point, although my motivation hadn’t changed much, merely the act of clearing my mind each morning seemed to quieten the parts of my brain that only wanted to complicate my worries and avoid peace. Simply feeling this capacity to change my mental environment absolutely encouraged me to believe in my ability to enjoy peace without difficulty.

Continuing to practice gratitude throughout my second and third term of university, my attitude allowed me to genuinely appreciate the little moments and privileges of my day-to-day. At a time when I was juggling several deadlines and stress, it’s pacifying to look back and recall that I was grateful for the simplicities of having ‘access to the news’, ‘receiving my prescriptions’, and ‘birdsong’ (03/05/21). Writing down not only joyous sights and sensations, but also a gratitude for trivial parts of my day was important in grounding myself in peace during points where I felt dissociated or disconnected from the richness of every day.

Whilst it’s not usually advised to go back through your journaling or gratitude journey, I wanted to demonstrate the cyclical nature of gratitude, where I’ve found peace by appreciating the process itself. Upon reaching a point where I genuinely believed in the simple beauty of gratitude, I felt inner peace from reflecting on my relationship and growth with my mental health. Practicing daily gratitude allowed me to gain control over my worries and low moods and, in doing so, helped me understand how my brain copes and responds to stress. With an understanding and gratitude for all my body does for me, this reconnection to myself brings me back around the cycle of gratitude - to this piece's reflection on the process of being thankful.

Even though some days with myself can still be tough, I would recommend this practice for anyone looking to improve their relationship with and appreciation for themselves. Accepting our brain’s capabilities to switch mindsets to where the default in the morning isn’t to check social media or the news’ noisiness allows for more room to learn about ourselves, as well as the potential inner peace we can bring to every morning.


About the author

Lori Palmer-Tulley

Undergraduate at the University of Warwick in English Literature and French :)

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