Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Nature of Habit

What is it they say? If you can do something for 28 days it becomes a habit and is easier to continue? 

Last year I decided to create a Gratitude Jar.The idea is to write down, every day, something for which you were grateful, fill this jar and have something visual to remind you of all you have to be grateful FOR, and at the end of the year, spill it out and go through it as a memory of how great your year was.


Although notoriously bad at journaling, I thought this was a good idea. Every night before bed (so the last thing in my mind was a positive thought) I would scribble something I was grateful for on a snippet of colored paper, and drop it into a quart-sized Mason jar.
I will admit, to my shame, that there were days when the best I could be grateful for was my dogs or having a roof over my head. My problems are definitely first-world problems and feeling like there just wasn’t much to be grateful for without straining made me feel guilty and bad. At that point I expanded the scope of the jar and decided to include good things that happened that day: positive things that happened, which is always something to be grateful for in the end.

THAT worked! And my jar filled. And filled. And filled. I ended up with smaller and smaller pieces of paper and ended up shoving the slips in, but there they are. I only missed a few days out of the entire year, and I have to admit I feel pretty good about that.
I have yet to turn last year’s jar out and go through the slips. I know that was supposed to be part of the project, but for me, keeping tabs of my days, well, keeping tabs on the BEST bits of my days was what became the important part of the exercise. 

Then came 2014 and a decision. I hadn’t emptied the jar on 31 December. Did I want to just keep cramming paper into that same jar? Start a new jar? Put those 2013 pieces of paper somewhere and then use the now empty jar? Or did I want to give up the practice? Make it a one-year thing?

The entire month of January passed with me faithfully scribbling on little slips of paper and dropping them into the pen-holder on my bed table while I tried to make a decision. 

The truth is, I had trouble dropping into bed without taking that moment to reflect and find something good out of my day. Even one of the WORST days I’d had in a long time, when I was feeling pitiful and angry at bedtime, I was able to find something for which I was grateful, something which had made me happy. And if I DID lie down and pull up the covers without filling out a slip? I felt edgy and had to sit back up and do it. 

But the slip of paper thing was bumming me out. I’m not sure why, but maybe because I knew when it DID come time to look through 2013, I’d have to dig and sort and shuffle to go from January to December. So for 2014 I’ve decided to move this newish habit into something I thought I wasn’t good at : Journaling. 

I bought a little journal. Just a little one. I don’t PLAN on writing more than the snippets I did for 2013. But on a very good day (and this is still a gratitude/good thing journal) on a VERY GOOD day, I may write a little more, and a new habit may be born. 

I’ll let you know in 28 days.

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