Why Having A Journal Of Things That Make Me Happy Gave Me More Purpose In Life
Monday, 09.09.19, 4.33 p.m.
“I met the daughter of this aunty who delivers Indian food to us daily again. She conversed way better than she used to. I think she’s 5 now. She said that it was her birthday yesterday and I need to give her a present. She bolted with my umbrella. Later when she came back (the umbrella safely returned), she grabbed my hand and kissed it. I asked her what she was doing and her reply was ‘Marrying you’. I laughed so hard”.
Saturday, 14.09.19, 8.32 p.m.
“Drum rolls people….. MY FIRST EVER ARTICLE HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED BY CRUNCH!”.
Journaling has always been my safe space since I was 17. A space where I can unapologetically be myself and everything I thought, felt and experienced was valid. But it’s so easy for it all to get depressing when we constantly focus on writing away our pain. So I switched it up to include more gratitude. I started to journal all the things that made me happy and the result was a more purposeful life. Here’s why.
1. It helps me view myself realistically during a crisis.
Being mere humans, it is difficult to navigate everyday life perfectly. We are no Amy Santiago. Inevitably we sometimes mess up and the self-criticism that can follow can be brutal. I have messed things up more times than I am proud to admit. Most of the time, it’s my anger issues getting the best of me than my rational, calm mind. Post-mess-ups are when my brain is loaded with every nasty thing it can throw at me.
But having a place where I can look that contains the times I’ve been kind, loving, a life of a party brings me some perspective. Perspective on the complexity of my character and experience.
I was a bad friend to someone but I was also someone who left extra coins in the water dispenser for the person after me. I hurt my dad’s feelings but I was also the daughter who stood up for her dad. It allows a deeper understanding of the self that is more realistic than everything my post-mess-up brain is waiting to tell me and adds to the purpose of accepting the flaws during times of crisis. It gives me the benefit of the doubt towards myself and helps me see I have the potential for goodness and to continue working on myself to do better.
2. It instils an appreciation for the ordinary.
I will never miss a chance for me to preach about the concept of little things. Quoting myself from my previous article on mindset changes, “The concept of little things is easy. It is the tiny, mundane, and often simple things that we overlook in our daily lives but deserve our utmost attention and appreciation”.
When you make it a habit to journal the things that make you happy, you’ll soon realise there are very few of them. This is because our idea of the things that make us happy are superficial; monumental victories and spectacular vacations. But we are not going to go win awards or visit Langkawi every day. When you realise that, you begin to look inwards and the mundane parts of yourself and your day to find the good and the happy. It is the littlest of joy that enriches your life and gives you purpose to build a life that isn’t based on superficial happiness.
3. It helps me find solace during my hard days.
Some days are just hard. Nothing has to happen to knock you out of your game. Things can just feel low and heavy for no apparent reason. On days like that, it is so much easier to say there’s nothing good/happy you can find in your life. But when we constantly journal and train our minds to seek the little things, it makes the day bearable. “Yes, I did accidentally cut two of my fingers and burnt another two but at least my cake tasted great. I’m happy about that”.
Or on days when there is absolutely nothing you can find, it’s a great feeling to look forward to your little things. We call it hope. Our every journal entry about the things that make us happy is a testament to how good days exist. A bad day doesn’t take the good days away and better days are yet to come. It adds to the purpose of navigating the highs and lows of my everyday life while counting my blessings.
4. It serves as a reminder.
We are forgetful beings. Sometimes I forget that singing makes me happy. I get too caught up in my work, I don’t remember the time when I painted flowers with my best friend and it felt amazing. I get too caught up with my classes, I forget how much I enjoy my evening walks.
Having a journal of things that makes you happy serves as a reminder to repeat them. Laughing with your friend last Friday gave you that dopamine boost you needed. Whenever you crave or want to feel similar, you have a journal full of evidence on what helps you get there.
Life is too short to always worry about what can go wrong or what did go wrong. By journaling what makes us happy, we’re taking the power away from uncertainty/fear that makes us lose sight of all the good/happy things in life. Right now I am terrified of what I’m going to make of myself once my final year is over. But reading back about the time I got my first piece published on Crunch when I never imagined being a writer, I have a feeling that somehow everything will fall into place. I just need to keep looking for what makes me happy and I’ll end up where I belong.
If you’re interested in doing more journaling, check out this article on 10 helpful journal prompts for better self-reflection.