By: Sapna Fliedner MSN, HHC
As Thanksgiving week approached, my inbox filled with stories of “How to be Thankful on this day” or What are you Grateful for?” Or lovely little grateful game ideas. Even my children asked “Why do they only ask this question once a year?”
Every morning, no matter how chaotic our day is, I ask them to tell me 3-5 things they are grateful for. I again ask them at bedtime. It is a way of life that brings in goodness every day of the year.
So how do you start your day? Are you ready to take it on with vigor and clarity, or are you mired in a barrage of thoughts that sidetrack you from your task at hand or bigger vision? If the latter rings true, here’s a routine that allows you to easily access your most creative, clear-headed self.
Morning Mind = Malleable Mind
During that dim time at dawn before you are fully awake, you have a special window into your unconscious mind. Working with that mysterious and powerful part of your mind can help you achieve deep transformation in your life. One tool to put on this path is a daily journaling exercise called Morning Pages.
An idea founded by Julia Cameron in her bestselling creativity guide, The Artist’s Way, and adopted by millions around the world, this simple technique involves free writing for three pages first thing in the morning. Here’s how she explains it: “…what [Morning Pages] do is clear your mind. It’s as though have taken a little Dustbuster and you go poking it into all the corners of your consciousness and you come up with what you put on the page.”
I started this tradition with my girls last year. We called it our gratitude journal. Everyday, they were to put 5 things they were grateful for and add 2 things that they were grateful for in the future…in other words, future events. This gives you an air of expectation that good things are about to come. My daughters love doing this, thinking it is something magical. Teaching my girls gratitude has helped them to slow down and notice things…in other words, stopping and smelling the roses. What good is life if they learn counting/ math skills but can’t count the joy in their life? Or if my house is clean but my attitude is a mess? I’ve always taught my children to do their best in life and school but don’t beat yourself up over a grade. If they have tried their best, you leave the rest. In other words, surrender. I told them “God doesn’t really care if you get an A or a B, or any other grade. You must learn how to love, give love and receive love. That’s what is important.
Teaching children to keep a gratitude journal have better attitudes towards school and their families. In fact, people who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals such as health, academic versus those who didn’t keep one.
Children who kept gratitude journals were also more sensitive to situations where they themselves can be helpful, altruistic, generous, compassionate, and less destructive, with more positive social behaviors and less negative social behavior.
On the other hand, research shows that youth who are ungrateful are “less satisfied with their lives and are more apt to be aggressive and engage in risk-taking behaviors, such as early or frequent promiscuous activities, substance use, poor eating habits, physical inactivity, and poor academic performance.”
To kick off the New Year,I bought everyone in my family “The 5 Minute Journal.” I bought this because between running a business, kids activities, cooking, cleaning, errands…life can get really crazy. I loved that they had prewritten pages and it only really takes 5 minutes. So there are no excuses not to do it! It is a simple concept: You write down 3 things you are grateful for, 3 things that would make today great and your daily affirmation. For the evening, you write 3 amazing things that happened today and how could I have made it better. Simple. In fact, it has been said if you do this for 21 days straight, you will begin to see amazing changes to the brain. Studies have shown that the brain develops new pathways. Basically it is like a toothbrush for the brain!
I really dislike seeing things like : “Lets make 2015 great, 2016 is going to be your year, etc, etc. By the end of the year , you see posts that say, “Was 2015, not the year for you?” Did you know that every year is your year and every day is your day. It’s not the once a year resolution you set, but the little things you do every day that makes your life and year great.
How It’s Done
Keeping your journal by your bed will help you get in the habit of reaching for it while you are still in a partial sleep state. Commit to writing three full pages, longhand. It doesn’t matter what you write, and it’s perfectly fine if what comes out is wacky, fragmented, or nonsensical.
However, if you’re someone who prefers structure, here’s a writing sequence to help you get into better harmony with your unconscious mind:
- Dreams – These are messages from your unconscious mind; try to recall your dreams and recount them in as much detail as possible. If you don’t remember your dreams or didn’t have any, don’t belabor it; simply move on.
- Gratitude – Jot down all that you are thankful for from the previous day.
- Stream of consciousness – Write anything that comes to mind, however ugly, petty, or mundane. What comes up may surprise you, but merely observe it without judgment. Remain uncensored and get it all out; just let it pass from your mind to the page. Don’t worry about anyone else reading it. This is a private journal, for your eyes only.
- Intentions – Once you’ve cleared out the proverbial cobwebs, set a deep intention for your day.
Some mornings you may find that you come up blank, but that’s fine. Simply repeat, “I don’t know what to write,” or some other similar phrase over and over again. But make sure to always set your daily intention.
As you go about the habit of writing you will uncover unconscious thoughts you never knew you had before. As these thoughts come out, you may start to gain a very high degree of clarity, even helping you solve problems that have been nagging at you for quite some time.
By dedicating time to your morning pages you give yourself a valuable gift of self-care—one that allows you to shine a light on your inner world and access the creative power within.
The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal by Julia Cameron
“Put Your Subconscious Mind to Work” by Michael Michalko / Psychology Today