For someone who likes to write as much as I do, I’m terrible at journaling. I’ve tried various times since I was a teenager to be consistent at this, and have consistently failed. It might have something to do with my OCD tendencies…if I don’t write EVERY DAY, then eventually I give up and just stop completely. But the little book Instant Happy Journal: 365 Days of Inspiration, Gratitude, and Joy, by Karen Salmansohn (Ten Speed Press, 2015) caught my eye. Since my retirement motto is “rest, reflect, reinvent, and read”, I’ve decided to give reflection and reinvention via journaling another try.
This perky little volume promises to “…train your brain to focus on where the most inspiration, gratitude, and joy are to be found. Soon you will say farewell forever to a glass-half-empty mindset and say hello to a new awesome-seeker mentality.” Hmmmm. Seems like a tall order, especially for a person chronically prone to cynicism and melancholy, when not downright depression. And I’m particularly suspicious of “instant” and “happy” being used together. But I also know through struggling with depression that training your mind to be more optimistic and grateful is a key way to manage the harder periods. So while some of the “prompts” (in education jargon) seem a bit forced, even silly (“People hear how you vibrate. What did you do today to vibrate at your happiest? What can you do more of?”), others ring truer. “Talk about your blessings more than you talk about your problems” sounds like something my sensible – and seemingly perpetually happy – Nebraska grandmother would have said.
Based on a recent University of California study finding that those who wrote (albeit once a week) about what they were grateful for experienced an increase in overall happiness and well-being than those who wrote about problems or random events, this book does resonate with my own previous experiences. I do find that when I can focus on my blessings rather than my problems I feel better about the world and my place in it. In fact, one of the most helpful writing experiments I’ve tried was a “gratitude journal”, where I sought to document five positive things every day. Which, of course, I stopped doing when I failed to do it every day. What seems different about this journal is the assortment of “motivational quotes, scientific studies, and thought provoking questions” that provide variety and possibly even intellectual rigor to the process. Given that I spent the weekend plunged into sadness over the Paris terrorist attacks and the inane reactions of many of my compatriots (I’ve GOT to stop reading Donald Trump quotes, they send me into spirals of despair…), I’m determined to at least give this book a try…this time with permission to not be perfect. It may take me longer than 365 days to actually complete the journey, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my on-again, off-again pursuit of yoga, it’s that it’s okay to take breaks and return. The value is in the process, not the pursuit of perfection.
There. I feel better already!
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.