I gave a client of mine the assignment to write in a gratitude journal for a week. He's not a particularly negative person, but he's struggling with some minor depression related to his life situation. When I asked how he copes with it he says that sometimes he writes in a journal, just as a way of getting his thoughts and feelings out.
I recalled my time in Brazil when, as a missionary, I spend most of my entire first year either with non English-speaking companions or companions I disliked. Sometimes both. During this time I filled pages and pages of a personal journal. A few months later when I had filled my journal I shipped it home and gave my family permission to read it. I was rather surprised when my Mom said she hadn't realized how unhappy I had been. Unhappy? I was having the time of my life! I could barely recall the frustrations of that first year and yet that was nearly all I had written about.
So I told my client to write a gratitude journal instead. I didn't want to patronize him so I was very straightforward: This was to help him focus his attention on more positive aspects of his life in hopes that by doing so he might feel a shift in his attitude. I told him I would do the same (because I could use such a shift myself right about now). We were not to ignore those things that weren't making us happy, but we were to focus especially on the bigger picture and recognize those things which we are lucky to have.
So tell me, dear reader, would this intervention work for you? How important is attitude in our overall mood? Is that something we can control with something as simple as keeping a gratitude journal?
I'll find out this week.