To kick off the first #WeeklyKindnessProject of the new year, I want to start teaching my girls about self-compassion and that being kind to ourselves is just as important as being kind to others. In fact, self-compassion is being cited as one of the most important life skills and has three aspects: mindfulness, common humanity (knowing you are not unique in your hardships) and kindness to yourself. There are several things that we can do to foster self-compassion on an ongoing basis, but one activity to get us started in the new year is creating our own gratitude journals.
Our Gratitude Journals
My daughter’s amazing Kindergarten teacher has her class write in a gratitude journal on a pretty regular basis. In each journal entry, the kids write and draw five things they appreciate about their lives. My daughter’s entries have spanned from cake and pie to her family members to dancing. It’s an awesome way to not only delineate the little and big things that are positive in each child’s life, but it also highlights what’s top of mind for them. For instance, the week after the presidential election my daughter wrote that she was grateful for ‘Hillary,’ or when she saw my brother in the fall, she wrote ‘my uncle.’
Yesterday my daughter and I decided to model after her class activity, and started our own gratitude journals at home. We each took a simple lined journal, and started writing out what we appreciated that day. For her first entry, she said that she was grateful for her family and listed out all of our names. I wrote that I was grateful to have spent the holidays with our entire family, that we were starting the journal as partners and that the four of us were going out to dinner. We then read each of our entries to each other and that was that. Pretty simple exercise and it took only a few minutes to complete. I’m not sure yet what cadence will work best for our journal entries. Ideally we would do this on a daily basis, but even if we can do this a few times a week, my hope is it fosters a greater appreciation for our lives.
Doing it together
I want to do our gratitude journal entries together for a few reasons. One I think it’s important to be a role model for my girls to share with them what I appreciate in my own life so they see that positive energy. Second my girls are pretty young, so I want to encourage this as a fun activity we do together- not a chore. Third I could use some gratitude exercises in my life as well. This is as much a self-compassion exercise for me as it is for her!
Benefits of Gratitude Exercises
Gratitude exercises have been shown to be greatly beneficial. Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, states that gratitude exercises can block negative toxic emotions, can help reduce stress, can improve self-worth and allow us to celebrate the present. “According to a study by researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida, having participants write down a list of positive events at the close of a day—and why the events made them happy—lowered their self-reported stress levels and gave them a greater sense of calm at night,” per Arianna Huffington’s article.
There’s so much we can do to practice self-compassion, and I will continue to experiment with different activities this year with my littles. Keeping a gratitude journal is just one such activity. And what better way to start off 2017 than establishing a journaling practice as a consistent positive ritual in our everyday lives.