How a Friend’s Death Inspired a New Style of Journaling
Dreading human interaction is a pretty horrible way to start the day. Unfortunately, for many of us, it’s a default value.
Perhaps you lie in bed in the morning thinking about how your boss comes over to your desk with a request — and then 40 minutes and 7 “oh, and one other thing”s later, they still haven’t left.
Maybe you brush your teeth wondering if “that guy” with no concept of personal space will get on the bus or subway at the same time as you.
As you sip your morning coffee, perhaps your thoughts to the drugstore errand you have to run on your lunch break and wonder if the rude cashier will work today.
Today I will share a morning routine I discovered recently. Although I found it through a terrible event, it’s a routine that can produce a shift to positive energy and a sense of joy, abundance, and appreciation for those in your life.
Early this month, I was on a roll with my writing career. I had set a goal to write 92 articles in the 92 days between the Sunday after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and March 1. Six articles and six days in, I was beginning to feel unstoppable.
Then I got the call.
On Thanksgiving, my friend and neighbor Jack had texted me. He told me that he was too weak and dizzy to leave his apartment, and asked if I’d mind running to the store for him. I did, and after leaving the groceries outside his door and getting back in the elevator, I texted him back. “The groceries are outside,” I said. “Just pay me back when you’re feeling better. We better not exchange money right now, just in case you have COVID.”
“Thanks,” he replied.
I wish I’d texted him a day or two later to see how he was doing, but I was too caught up in my own life.
The next week, Jack’s boss, the owner of the local bar down the street, texted me. “Have you seen him around the building?” she asked. “He hasn’t responded about this weekend’s schedule. That’s very unlike him.”
I sent Jack a “You feeling better? Can I get you anything?” text. Five hours later, he hadn’t responded, and I informed his boss. She contacted the apartment’s management, and they asked the police to come over and do a welfare check.
We feared the worst, and sadly, our fears turned out to be the reality.
Jack was not only a friend and a neighbor, but I was a regular at his bar. On top of that, I had invited him to be on my competition barbecue team two years ago. He became a valuable asset, someone who put out volumes of outstanding product while avoiding the drama that often consumes a cooking team. He was not even 40 and his passing was completely unexpected.
His death sent me into a deep writer’s drought. I managed to complete 2 article ideas I already had in the queue, but after that my creativity was as barren as the Sahara Desert. A week passed with no seedlings of ideas.
You just have to write your way out of your grief
Writing in my personal journal is part of my morning routine. The morning of the 8th day, I decided, I may not have anything to write professionally, but I can write in my journal about Jack.
I wrote that he was just a solid dude. My neighborhood group of friends — who are truly family in every sense but blood — was stronger because of him. The bar where he worked was a more comforting place because of his presence. Our barbecue team was stronger, and the other cooks’ load was lightened, because of his contribution.
In other words, I wrote a paragraph about how I appreciated Jack being who he was. It wasn’t much. It only took a couple of minutes.
Then I realized I was on to something.
What if I started every morning picking a person in my life and writing for a couple of minutes about the things I appreciated about them?
The birth of the appreciation journal
Well, technically, I don’t use a separate notebook just for these appreciation entries. I make them part of my regular journal. You certainly could dedicate a notebook to them if you wanted, though. It might be a way to honor those in your life to do so.
I keep the format real simple: Within 30 minutes of getting out of bed, I pick a person in my life (can be living or dead, but generally living) and jot down what I appreciate about them. I try to keep it to a maximum of one paragraph and 3 minutes, because I never want it to become a chore to do these entries. I want it to become a joy.
I’ve been doing this for about a week now, and I’ve noticed a couple of benefits.
I don’t dread the day anymore
My life is probably about 95% awesome and 5% drudgery. Why in the world would I start my day ruminating on the 5%? Focusing on people I appreciate resets my frame of mind and gives me energy to go out and tackle the day.
The process unblocked my writing
Appreciation journaling has ended my writer’s drought, having already produced one article idea (which you’re reading). More than that, though, I get a powerful sense from my intuition that this practice is going to become a regular source of writing ideas. I see it as one more ingredient in my recipe to putting out content people want to read every day.
An appreciation journal is a specialized gratitude journal
The purpose of a gratitude journal is to remind yourself of all the wonderful people, events, and situations you have already drawn to you. It establishes you as a receiver for those wonderful blessings, raising your frequency and drawing them into your life even more. It establishes abundance.
An appreciation journal is a gratitude journal that focuses specifically on people. It’s a reminder that every person we encounter in our life was sent to us at exactly the right time.
I’ve met people from all walks of life, and when asked, “Who’s your support system?” I’m amazed that some of them don’t have much of an answer. You can use your appreciation journal to remind yourself that you are rich in terms of friends, family, and connections.
Give it a try
You don’t have to endure the loss of a friend the way I did to give appreciation journaling a shot. You may find that it moves your morning focus away from interactions you dread to people you value, giving you energy to carry forward. You may also find that it creates an abundance mentality of awesome people in your life — which will draw even more awesomeness to you.
I’m only a week into this style of journaling myself, so I don’t claim to have perfected it — and I’m pretty sure others have used appreciation journaling before I did. I would love to hear your experiences in the comments.
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