Several years ago, my husband recommended I start a gratitude journal to help with my mental health. The general idea is that every day you list three things that you are grateful for. You can do bullet points or journal several whole paragraphs; these specific things that you are grateful for can be anything from daily events in your life or as simple as “running water.”
I resisted this idea because I thought that forced gratitude would have the opposite effect, making me resentful and inclined to wallow in any misfortunes. But I decided to give it a shot when my therapist recommended it, and I found that it hasn’t turned out that way. In fact, it has been great for my mental health during the COVID pandemic.
I’ve been doing my daily gratitude journal for over 150 days now. I’m using a great app called Presently; it’s really nothing fancy, just a space to freely write every day.
Mostly, I use it to document things that made me smile that day. Things like:
–Naps –Epik High’s awesome playlists –Star Wars Zoom backgrounds –Taking photos of flowers in the rain –Donuts –“COVID AND CHILL” written in railroad ties by the train tracks –“Waterlemon” [which is what my kid calls watermelon] –Being productive at work –Clean(er) office –Purring kitty on my lap
It turns out that what really helped my mood wasn’t the act of thinking and writing positive things, but rather seeing what I’d written on previous days and re-reading over my list of happy things. Even looking through it now as I’m writing this, I’m smiling at seeing the funny things my kid said or the delicious foods I ate.
I admit: there was one day where I just wrote “Blahhhhhhhhhh not feeling grateful.” I don’t want to use this journal to enforce a mentality of toxic positivity where I always have to look on the bright side of things. My sadness, anger, anxiety and frustration shouldn’t just be dismissed. It’s still important to acknowledge our negative feelings so we can deal with them.
My gratitude journal helps me stay in the present and focus on the things that are important. Thanksgiving in particular is a time to reflect on what we are grateful for. We may be celebrating small this year, but we are still celebrating!
I called my husband out onto the porch of our new house one evening this week to see this amazing creation: a spider had built a stunning web in between a post and a bush. And he was posing beautifully right in the middle of his work of art.
It may not be exactly what we would normally think of as a labor of love, but I appreciated his efforts, which seemed to me both practical and beautiful.
As I was recently cleaning my bookshelves in preparation for moving, I came across an Algebra II notebook from high school. Leafing through it, I discovered why I had saved it for all these years. It was not for the details of matrix multiplication. It was for my doodles in the margins that I did when I was bored in class.
Among other things, I apparently spent the better part of my sophomore year writing out the Longfellow poem “Paul Revere’s Ride,” which I had memorized and can still recite the majority of.
You can read the full poem here. While it certainly a white man’s version of history, and not an entirely accurate one at that, it is a lovely poem that is such fun to recite.
I did throw away the algebra notebook after I took these pictures. I don’t think I need to know about the Binomial Theorem anymore.
My photography efforts have stayed very close to home in the past six months since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Most of the camera roll on my phone involves my two-year-old, with a few of the new house that we are moving into next week.
My most common subjects in the summer are always the flowers in my yard; I gave a few examples for this recent challenge. Since then, I’ve been working on close-ups of flowers, something I’ve always struggled with in terms of framing and focus (my phone does not have a good macro setting). I was really pleased with this hydrangea from my front yard. I will miss this bush when we move!
I used the editor in Google Photos to give it just a tiny bit of pop. I’ve also been doing some cropping for better focus.
Need a feel-good news story to pick you up today? Here you go. It’s certainly nice to see Ohio in the news for non-COVID reasons.
The Akron Zoo, where I worked briefly about 10 years ago, recently got a new resident: a blue lobster. Employees at the local Red Lobster restaurant, which is literally down the road from me, discovered this specimen in one of their shipments and reached out to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which put them in touch with the Akron Zoo. It turns out that only one in about 2 million lobsters are blue, which certainly makes this lobster pretty special!
“Clawde” then got adopted and relocated to the zoo, which happens to have a lot of experienced aquatic animal keepers because many were hired on there after SeaWorld Ohio closed in 2000. After settling in there, zoo staff discovered that the lobster was actually female, and she was renamed “Clawdia.” She’s being housed in the Komodo Kingdom building where the aquatic exhibits are located, though you can’t visit her yet as all zoo building are currently closed to the public due to COVID-19 precautions (the zoo itself is open).