How to Create a Gratitude Journal That Actually Works

How to Create a Gratitude Journal that Actually Works

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough – Oprah Winfrey

It’s easy to become bogged down in minutiae, particularly during days when even the smallest of things doesn’t go as planned. As someone who naturally adopts a ‘glass-half-empty’ perspective on life when things don’t go my way, I find it difficult not to get pulled into a wave of negative energy that affects my mindset and how I function.

In an effort to try and gain a more positive perspective in my day-to-day life, I started to fill out a gratitude journal of all the beautiful things that I have to be grateful for, and I discovered that it was an incredible helpful tool to boost my mindset on even the most difficult of days. Actively forcing myself to focus on the positive has indeed had a positive impact on my perception of how I live and work. Continue reading

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Tracing the Past

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My grandparents on their wedding day

The greatest man I have ever known was my grandfather, Alfred. A northern Englishman to the core, he wore a flat cap and grey cardigans and regularly asked me if I was ‘courting’ anyone (which seems a bit silly now as I was 10 years old at the time). He was a warm, funny and a quintessential gentleman. I remember that he always had a little white paper bag with a selection of chocolates that he would give to us whenever we saw him. He made up his own lyrics to different songs, my favourite being ‘Me Grandfathers Clock’, and had sayings like “Eeh, put skin on yer back like velvet” every time he ate custard. My sisters and I adored him and would look forward to his visits. He had a hard life, he and my grandmother were poor, but my mother’s memories of her own childhood were filled with happiness, kindness and love, and she never wanted for anything. He put his family first, working manual labour jobs and even becoming a a coal miner at one point, but he never talked about himself.

Unfortunately, he died when I was 16 years old. He developed senile dementia and I witnessed him deteriorate from a healthy, intelligent and witty human being to the point where he didn’t know where he was or who we were, in an awful hospital that has since been closed down. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t take the time to get to know him properly.

A few years ago I had a little bit of time during a holiday, and so I decided to trace my family history. Growing up I had just my parents and two younger sisters – my mum didn’t keep in touch with any of her distant relatives and was an only child, and my father’s family disowned him when he married my mum and so it was just the five of us. I had virtually no information to start my research aside from a single photo album. I spoke to my mother and asked her for any details, but my grandfather had always remained reasonably private about his early life and so she could only give me vague memories of things that he had shared during her childhood.

It turned out to be a fascinating experience. My grandfather, born in 1919, was living with Frank and Margaret, and took their surname until the age of 14. When he left school he was given his birth certificate so he could find a job. He discovered that his mother’s name was actually Emily, and so he adopted her last name from that point on. My mum told me that he knew a woman called ‘Big Emily’, who he assumed was his mother, but he never knew for sure.

I signed up to Ancestry.co.uk and obtained a copy of his birth certificate, and written on there was ‘Emily…’, but had no father registered. By sheer luck I found Emily – one of her other children, my grandfather’s half-brother, was researching his family history and had posted a picture of her (looking like my grandfather in a wig) and this led to quite a fascinating set of discoveries.

Emily was living with her Auntie Margeret and Uncle Frank in 1911, and according to the census she was working as a belt maker in a factory. Her mother, Mary (Margeret’s sister) had committed suicide in 1905 by swallowing nitric acid after losing a child at the age of just a few months and her father, Frederick died in 1898 from TB. My grandfather was born out of wedlock in 1919, and he continued to live with Frank and Margaret, which makes me think that Frank was the father. I remember my grandfather once told me that Frank was an abusive man, recounting a memory of a clock being thrown into a fire, and my mum added to this that he died of diseases brought on by alcoholism in the early 1940’s. Margaret never liked my grandfather and was quite openly hostile towards him, but he never understood why. It makes sense that her dislike of him could have been caused by her husband’s infidelity with her niece.

Emily went on to marry a man named Charles in 1927, eight years after my grandfather was born, and NEVER told anyone in her family that she had another son. It was only when I contacted them that they were aware of his existence and after I explained to them my findings and emailed them my pictures of him they accepted it without question. I then discovered that Emily lived in the next town to my grandfather and she died in 1989, only eight years before him. She is even buried just a few plots away in the same cemetery. How heartbreaking – they could have passed each other in the street on a number of occasions and wouldn’t have known.

Yet despite the obvious sense of abandonment he must have felt, he was a hard-working, kind and generous man, and I was very lucky to have him in my life, even if it was just for a short time. It’s amazing how resilient some can be in the face of adversity.

I learned a lot during the process, particularly in the fact that I have a strong working class northern English bloodline that is extremely evident in mine and my sisters characters even to this day. What I found most fulfilling about the experience was being able to share my findings with my mother. She was astounded at the photograph of Emily, who was her grandmother that she had never met, and I was delighted to reveal a family history that she would never have known about. We’ve agreed that we are going to visit the graves of our ancestors to pay our respects.

Now I have a little bit of history that I can tell my own children…

What about you guys? Do you have interesting stories in your family history?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks.

Things I’m Glad I Didn’t Do

ImageI’ve never been a huge risk taker – I’ve always tried to follow the rules and do what is expected of me. I don’t have any wild tales of drunken debauchery, I’ve never woken up in a strange place with a strange person… I’ve been quite a good girl in my time.

An ex-boyfriend requested my friendship on Facebook not long ago. I declined it – after fifteen years I have no reason to communicate with him and if I am being honest I haven’t really thought of him much in that time – but not before I snooped through his profile as much as his privacy settings would allow. He looked much older, he’d obviously been working out and he was the proud father to three kids. He seems happy, and I’m glad, but there was one thought that kept popping into my head during my little stalking session:

Thank god that wasn’t me.

He wasn’t a bad boyfriend and I’m sure he’s a brilliant father, but after seeing his pictures I couldn’t help but feel like I had dodged a bullet.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

During recent months I have spent some time reflecting on life, often culminating in thoughts of regret or nostalgia. However, here are the things that I am glad I didn’t do.

Getting the dolphin tattoo I so desperately wanted. I don’t like needles, the colour would have faded by now and I have gained so much weight it would now resemble a whale.

Borrowing money from an ex. He offered to lend me enough to get me on the property ladder. I’m glad I refused – I discovered that he was cheating on me not long afterwards.

ImageTaking drugs. Plenty of my friends have dabbled on nights out, but I’ve never regretted not taking the risk. I have an addictive personality and bad luck – not a good combination.

Taking things further with someone I was seeing in my gap year. I found out that he gave his girlfriend after me syphillis.

Becoming a professional violinist. The competition is far too high – I wouldn’t have coped.

Getting my hair permed again. Blonde afro’s look great on some. I, however, looked like a reject from ‘Annie.’

What about you guys? Do you have thing in life that you’re glad you didn’t do?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to ‘like’ my new Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/Suzie81Speaks

Recovery

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After the last few weeks I have been left feeling, quite honestly, hugely depressed. I would normally consider myself to be quite a strong person – I’ve had tougher times than this in the last and have managed to support myself through it, but after the recent news about the house I crumbled a little, threw myself an enormous pity party and have spent the last few days wallowing. I’m still weak from the hospitalisation that I had two weeks ago and the doctor has given me a note for the rest of this week, so I have been grateful to have the time to attempt to process everything. I’ve questioned my karma lots over the last few days – why me? I’m a good person, I work hard… Why do I have to constantly feel I have to battle with everyone?

However, while I don’t feel that there is anything wrong with occasionally focusing on the negative, there were several things yesterday that slapped me in the face and told me to get over myself.

Before I continue, I’d like to remind you again about a fellow WordPress blogger’s struggles with fibromyalgia and the fact that she is at the point of losing her home. I was hugely inspired by this post, which links to a donation site to help her out. I hadn’t met Merbear until yesterday, but I was inspired by her story and the outpouring of love and support that she received from the amazing blogging community, and I implore you to check out this post, reblog and get her story out there.

http://notapunkrocker.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/important-please-help-save-more-than-a-house/

So, after the metaphorical face slapping I gave myself I woke up today and decided to simply move on. I know I have to move out, we’re lucky to have found somewhere new in such a short space of time that suits our needs, and the quicker I get my arse into gear the more organised and less stressed I will be about the situation. I can’t do a large amount of packing in one go, but I can do a little at a time and I’ll get there.

What about you guys? How do you deal with difficult times?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

First World Problems

Is your phone battery dying, but your charger is on the other side of the room? Is your cleaner running late? Do you struggle to hear the TV whilst eating crunchy snacks? Have you eaten too much lunch and are feeling too tired to work in the afternoon?

Life is tough.

This morning I was watching Sweet Genius, a programme that is reguarly shown on The Food Network. A contestant didn’t like what she had produced and so threw it in the bin and then became hysterical because her cake hadn’t turned out in the way that she had hoped. Continue reading

Things to Be Thankful For

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I refrained from writing these thoughts down on my blog and instead made a list in my notebook to be saved for a later date as I felt that perhaps this post was a little early and these reflections should be saved for New Year (and the realisation that all my American and Canadian friends would be doing the same in a few weeks during Thanksgiving, which we don’t celebrate here in the UK), but yesterday I read an absolutely gorgeous post by Dara from The Clearout about the birth of his baby girl and it tipped me over the edge (in a literary sense – please check out ‘Want To Change the World?’ – I reblogged it.) Suddenly the small list had turned into a five-page epic and I was desperate to collate them all on here to share with you.

My initial opening sentence was going to be ‘This year has been a difficult one‘ and when reflecting on the events of the last ten months as a proverbial ‘big picture’ I suppose it has. I have been so focussed (focused? I’m still confused) on the negative aspects of life that I often forget to pause and give thanks for the continuously good things. These are the things that I think most of us forget to be grateful for. Continue reading

A Lady Wot Lunches…

Ah, Monday. I love Mondays. It is fast becoming my favourite day of the week. I have Mondays off now and I genuinely look forward to them – gone are the Sunday night blues and even though the cat woke me up at 5.45am this morning I didn’t mind as I know that I have the whole day ahead of me to do as I please. Bliss.

It has taken me a little while to get used to it – I’ve always been lucky enough to have a full-time job since graduating in 2005 and it was a huge step to realise that I wasn’t coping well earlier this year and request to go .8, but work have been amazingly supportive and even gave me Mondays off without me requesting it specifically. I was initially worried about money, but i’ve lost a lot less than I expected so as long as I am careful I’ll be fine, even with the unexpexcted vets bills for Daisy. There’s the added bonus that one of my closest friends, MRH is also off on Mondays so I can occasionally be a ‘lady wot lunches.’ Continue reading

Monday Morning Musings and Thanks

After The Bloke and I spent yesterday packing I find that I am spending the first part of Monday morning sitting in my front room surrounded by boxes, packing tape, newspapers and bubble wrap. In my very first post I commented on the amount of ‘stuff’ that I own, but it was only when I started to organise all my worldly possessions and box them up that I realised exactly how much I’ve collected over the years. Twelve years ago, when I moved to the city to start univeristy, everything I owned could fit into the back of a car. I remember the day that I got my unconditional offer acceptance letter – I went straight out and bought myself a frying pan, a plate, bowl and cutlery from Woolworths in Bolton Town Centre (I’m showing my age here) and all these years later I am going to have to spend the day finding a large hire van to transport everything across to our new home next week. Continue reading

Thankful

The Bloke had a seizure last night. We’d just started getting ready for bed and suddenly he made some strange noises and then collapsed onto the bed. His arms were twitching, he stopped breathing and he lay there with his eyes open, staring at me. About thirty seconds later he woke up with no memory of what had happened. It was the scariest moment of my life – I genuinely thought he was dead at one point. After a few worrying hours at the hospital all tests came back clear. He feels fairly reasonable today and so I’ve sent him up to his mother’s for a few days. It may sound cold, but he needs a break from here – he doesn’t sleep well because I move around a lot during the night and the neighbours are causing him anxiety and stress. His family are wonderful and so I know that he’ll be able to truly relax without having to listen to the chaos next door and be able to get a decent night’s sleep. I also know that he won’t be as stubborn with his mum as he is with me – if he had his own way he would be back in work today. Continue reading