Gratitude is great. Focusing on the good, no matter how big or small- what’s not to love? But sometimes things aren’t all rainbows and sunshine and recognising that without feeling the need to look at your life with rose-tinted glasses can be a relief in a world in which it feels like you’re putting out *bad vibes* if you’re anything other than a member of the positivity posse. For those of us who can’t help but feel a little glass half empty at times (spoiler: all of us), let us introduce: ingratitude journaling.
It’s okay to feel sad, stressed, at the end of your tether, angry, betrayed and any other emotion deemed ‘negative’, because sometimes life gives us no other choice, and this is what ingratitude journalling is all about- letting out the emotions you’ve squashed because they feel uncomfortable or easier to repress and giving them permission to take up space, just for a little bit.
The past few years have been especially heavy, and not acknowledging the hard times along with the good can in fact be detrimental to our nervous system and health- what we don’t feel or acknowledge consciously is likely to show up in our bodies elsewhere at some point, be it tension headaches, upset stomachs or twinges in our back when something goes wrong. Living an experience that isn’t authentic for the sake of ‘staying positive’ is the epitome of toxic positivity, and we’re waving goodbye to it in 2022.
You let it out honey, put it in the book.Gretchen Weiner
Truth be told, although there are certainly feelings we’d rather not feel, there’s actually no such thing as a bad feeling. Emotions exist as a way for our minds and bodies to communicate something as feeling right or wrong within us, guiding us in a direction that brings us peace or warning us of the things that don’t align with our values. They may be uncomfortable, but there’s always something valuable to be gained from reflecting on why something makes us feel a certain way, and ingratitude journaling is a great way to hone in on this aspect of self-discovery and uncover what makes you tick. Understanding what triggers anxiety, feelings of shame and discomfort can be a superpower in helping you manage your mental health more effectively and set you on a path for healing when you know the true root of an emotion. The journey to knowing yourself is a lifelong one, but digging deeper into the feelings we might immediately want to get rid of will accelerate your journey tenfold.
“Writing things you’re ungrateful for won’t make them go away, but it will help give you direction.” says Chance Marshall of Self Space, the on-demand therapy service: “It will help you identify patterns, themes and things that are repeated. It will help you focus on the things you can change. It will move you from awareness into action.”
Here’s why awareness might just be the step you’re missing in your mental health development…
Imagine you’re dating someone new, it’s going well but they’re suddenly going through a busy patch at work and say they’ll be on their phone less in the day. Rationally, you know this is no reflection of your closeness and their feelings for you, but you still find yourself feeling a little rejected after being left on ‘read’ for a few hours and your mind starts running away with you. Instead of pushing down, squashing the feeling completely and arranging last-minute drinks with the girls to take your mind off it, what would happen if you sat with those feelings? If you paused for a moment and looked a little deeper at your past experiences and what this might feel reflective of? Maybe a previous ex whose communication was so lacklustre you might as well have been having a convo with yourself, or you realise it’s reminiscent of your relationship with your mum who you feel never quite acknowledges or hears your needs. If we ignore the emotions trying to signal to us that we’re seemingly in danger or being reminded of a previous situation that hurt us, we move closer away from healing and thus the process begins again.
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.Carl Yung
Interested? Let’s talk about the basics of ingratitude journaling…
- Find a quiet spot to sit where you won’t be disturbed.
- Grab a journal or piece of paper and a pen. Top tip: hand writing is preferable to typing as our thoughts are naturally slowed along with the pace of pen to paper, making it easier to process our feelings and allowing us to dig deeper.
- Start listing the things that have gone wrong, left you feeling disappointed, cheated, hard done by or tearful. The job you didn’t get that you know you would have been perfect for, the ex who cheated with the girl you *knew* was sus all along, the nagging flat mate whose cleaning standards you can never seem to live up to, or the argument you had with your sister over who was responsible for the Mother’s Day card that was never purchased. Let it spill out onto the page in all its messy glory, unapologetically.
- Read back your list and divide it into two columns: things you can control and things you can’t.
- Reflect and think about some small and tangible changes you can make to the things that are within your control, maybe having an honest conversation with a friend about something that’s irked you, and practice acceptance and kindness towards the things that are fractious, knowing it’s okay to feel whatever has come up.
Writing an ingratitude journal isn’t about going from 0 to 100 on the negativity scale, it’s about balanceMarshall – Self Space
Being honest with the feelings that are naturally part of the human experience doesn’t make you selfish or mean, it makes you self aware enough to understand that we are not our emotions and venting in a healthy way can be just the tonic we all need. And remember, ingratitude journaling isn’t always about giving space to the things you want to change, it can also help shine a light on the parts of your life you’re thriving in and the opportunities and people that make your world go around. “Writing an ingratitude journal isn’t about going from 0 to 100 on the negativity scale, it’s about balance,” continues Marshall from Self Space. “Life is full of good, bad, beautiful and ugly things and reflecting that in our writing can be a really freeing practice. Take it easy, don’t force it. You can continue with a gratitude journal alongside, you could even split a page in half and have ingratitude and gratitude alongside each other.”