Art Gratitude Journal
Having a gratitude journal has been a welcome addition to my peace of mind. Adding art into it makes it even better. But sometimes, when life is being really annoying and in your face, it’s hard to remember to be grateful. Instead, your mind usually has a knee jerk reaction. It wants whatever is bugging you to stop. NOW. So, it’s hard to do the opposite of that instinct, which is to shift your focus to what’s good in your life. Not to what’s lacking at the present moment.
This kind of thinking takes practice to master. When I first started a gratitude journal, I listed a few of the obvious things, like family, friends, health, food, etc. But after that, I drew a total blank. After musing over it for a bit, I started finding other things, smaller things…for example…
I am grateful for the moon because it makes everything feel quiet, peaceful, magical, and mystical.
I am grateful for blue-green oceans because they are so beautiful, like a big, natural sparkling jewel that you can swim in.
This was just a start but it really started making me notice things that I could appreciate right now. And adding art into it makes it even more effective because then you create a visual effect. Visual reminders tend to make it more memorable and therefore stays in your soul longer.
Smaller things are also even easier to find than bigger things. I found that when I focused too much on finding bigger things, my mind started to notice what I didn’t have instead of what I did have. And since the whole point of this exercise is to be grateful, looking at what I lacked was obviously not going to be helpful. So, if you are having that same kind of trouble, look at something small that you know for sure you can be happy about. For example, if popcorn is your favorite snack in the whole world (like me!!!!) then just thinking of one solitary piece of fluffy, buttery goodness is probably going to send your heart soaring.
If you find dozens of little things, those are actually going to add up faster. It’ll end up serving you more than that one big thing you may be searching for. And adding in the “why” you are you grateful makes it even more powerful.
Find Your Book of Magic
I found a great sketchbook in a used bookstore. Usually, I go there to try not to spend all my money on books. But they had a big display of brand new writing journals and sketchbooks. Naturally, I couldn’t resist. Since I love books and art, I chose a sketchbook with old fashioned looking books lined up across the cover. I was also tempted to get the one with Van Gogh’s Cafe Terrace at Night on the front. But I really liked the first one because it was different than what I typically see on a sketchbook. Most of them are just plain black or as I mentioned, depict famous artworks.
You can use any kind of journal you want. You can buy one or you can even make one. For years, I used to use the speckled composition books. I still love those books. They are cheap, especially if you go to Walmart during the back to school sales. And you can really let your imagination run wild in them.
I would write endlessly in them and paste pictures I cut out or draw. Stuff got hot glued to the cover and inside. I would take the book to school all the time too, and write in it when I was supposed to be paying attention. Most of my teachers thought I was taking notes so I rarely got caught. 😀 I had a bunch of them, filled to the brim, packed with my stories, poems, and drawings. I don’t use them much anymore because I’m too busy with other forms of creation. But I know I will always hold a special place in my heart for composition books.
1. Draw something that symbolizes “gratitude” or “appreciation”.
2. Design a key for “enlightenment” or “good luck” or “inspiration”. (I ended up doing this one as I wrote this article! See below.)
3. Pick only two colors that represent “peace” to you. Color the entire page with these colors then illustrate the word “peace” in the middle.
4. Make a gratitude tree or flower. Write things you are grateful for on the leaves or the petals.
5. Draw what you are most grateful for right now.
6. Illustrate the best smile in the world.
7. Draw a food that either looks happy or makes you feel happy. Or both. 🙂
8. Draw a sound that you are grateful for.
9. What letter of the alphabet are you most grateful for and why? Make a detailed illustration of it.
10. Draw a place made just for you. It can be outdoors or indoors.
What Happens Over Time with Gratitude
Above, I mentioned that this way of thinking takes some time and practice to master. And by master, I mean, your mind automatically shifts to it without you having to make a conscious effect to do so. When you are still operating in “knee jerk reaction”, this can feel impossible to accomplish. You have to really work at making your mind think another way.
But once you are able to do this, you will start to feel better in little ways. And the little ways will add up over time. I remember it took me almost two weeks when I first started consciously practicing gratitude to feel better. It wasn’t a huge difference that early in but enough for me to notice. It was like a wall of resistance finally shifted within me. Suddenly, my mind decided this wasn’t so bad after all. Especially, since it produced results. My brain went from fretting every time something went wrong to almost ignoring it for awhile and thinking about something else that made me feel good.
After more practice, I felt like it was easier for good things to come to me. And that makes sense. Why should good things come to you if you are totally ungrateful? I mean, if you were to go to someone and give them a beautiful flower yet all they did was rip it up and throw it back in your face, would you feel like giving them more stuff? Probably not. I imagine the universe to work in pretty much the same way. It offers but you have to notice and appreciate it to receive it.
I don’t consider myself a master of this practice. While it is definitely much easier than it was in the beginning, there are still plenty of days where I am just not grateful. Nor do I want to be. I’ll feel sulky and grumpy and the only thing that I want is to be left alone. But what’s important is that I’m not like that every waking minute. I’m sure you have bad days too. Practicing gratitude through my art and writing definitely helps in keeping those good days and even better days around to stay!
These are some great journals I’ve either used or have on my list to try in my own art and writing exploration. Check them out, maybe you’ll get inspired too!