Gratitude Journaling :: What It Is and How It Helps My Sanity


Like many other moms out there in the world, I tend to get in bed at the end of a long day with a lot on my mind. This mental list may or may not include the following:

  • the many things that I didn’t complete that day,
  • replaying moments of impatience with my children that I could have handled better,
  • a list of things to Google search,
  • my work meetings for the next day,
  • whether or not I remembered to RSVP to some event,
  • and so on and so on.

The list can be daunting, discouraging, and exhausting. I have found myself sometimes going to bed already stressed out about the next day before I have officially ended the current one. I wanted to find a way to take my mind off the mess awaiting me in the morning regardless of whether or not I thought about it all night.

Changing My Inner Voice

I also wanted to change my reflective inner voice over my life. Carrying around a gray cloud of stress is not how I want to experience these years with littles (even though it can feel very stressful). So many are quick to remind me that these years are fleeting. I have felt the panic sink in when I look into the face of my oldest and still see a glimpse of my baby girl.

These years are fleeting, and there are many moments of good intermingled in the struggle. I needed to do something to loosen those good moments from the weight of the day and let those rise to the top.

Enter Gratitude Journaling

I got the idea of gratitude journaling from an old friend. She posted three positive things about her day on social media at the end of every day. I would often read through her very honest and transparent list. Sometimes they were as simple as:

  1. I got out of bed this morning,
  2. watched a good television show,
  3. and later ate a delicious meal.

Reading the simplicity of her lists inspired me to find the positive things that happened in my day, even if that was as simple as waking up that morning. So, I dug out an old journal from my bedside drawer and started one night. My first entry from that day reads:

  1. Cuddling with Elliot at bedtime,
  2. hearing him whisper, “Blow dart in your butt cheek,”
  3. and the sound of his giggle.

I distinctly remember the smile that spread across my face as I wrote those words. It’s the same smile that returns when I revisit that entry–and all the entries that follow. I would have never remembered those three things had I not written them down. They are such simple mom moments. Nothing about them stands out to me as particularly special. My son giggles about potty humor almost as much as he takes a breath. But revisiting them in my journal gives me a feeling of joy and appreciation for that simple moment. It made a would-be forgotten moment frozen in time.

Gratitude journaling is a form of self-care.

Keep it Simple

For me, I have kept it simple. Like my friend, my goal is to identify at least three positive things. Some days are easier than others, but overall this act of reflection has been a win-win.

Taking the time to think about my day, identify those positive moments, and write them down has taken the place of my dreadful mental to-do list. It’s helped me trade stress for gratitude and positivity over the things that fill my days.

It has also provided a sweet record of those everyday moments that will be gone before I know it. This is a relatively quick exercise, and the benefits far outweigh any costs.

If you find yourself in a similar place worn out by the day-to-day and dreading the to-do list for the next morning, I encourage you to put gratitude journaling into practice.

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Caitlin moved to Alabama from Virginia as a young child and has lived in and around Birmingham since. She earned her Master’s degree in Social Work from The University of Alabama and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She currently works full-time at a local, nonprofit child welfare agency, Agape of Central Alabama, and holds the title of Adoption Supervisor. She oversees both domestic and international adoption and specializes in educating families on attachment based, trauma sensitive parenting. As a parent, and a domestic adoptee, Caitlin finds great joy and fulfillment in her profession. Three years ago, 1 month before her 30th birthday, Caitlin was reunited with her biological family. Caitlin has since developed relationships with members of her biological family and has shared those experiences with her adoptive family. Personally and professionally, she has been surrounded by some of the bravest of women, from all sides of the adoption triad, who have greatly impacted her view of the world and her identity as a mother. She currently calls Bluff Park home, where she lives with her husband Wally, of 13 years, and their three children, Rowan, age 6, Elliot, age 3, and Remy, age 1. In her free time, you can find her working out in her makeshift garage gym, drinking copious amounts of coffee, or working hard to make the people around her laugh.