Warming Up to Gratitude: Journaling for Wellness

Expressing gratitude has proven physical and emotional health benefits. With this in mind Noble Horizons hosted Salisbury Visiting Nurse Association (SVNA)’s Journal Writing for Wellness workshop with Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health’s Lara Tupper who focused the session on gratitude.

Tupper is a former Rutgers University creative writing instructor who traded it all in and moved to the Berkshires to ignite her creative life. And today it’s ablaze as a teacher, short-story author, novelist and jazz/ pop musician. Tupper guided the diverse group of participants through several brief writing prompts to warm them up for the highlight: gratitude journaling.

After introducing her students to “short and sweet practices to build a creative process” she invited us to carry that practice back into our everyday lives. She asked us why we journal which elicited responses that included self-expression, perspective, to remember, and to cultivate self-compassion.

After a centering exercise to bring the group into the present, we explored the sensory details of what we were experiencing at that moment. Sharing our observations revealed perspectives unique to each of us. Our next prompt required a promise that we honor her "Swift Ink Guidelines” which involve keeping the pen on the page, giving yourself permission to go off-topic, resisting the urge to cross out, stop or reread what you’ve already written; and if you feel like you haven’t anything to say, just keep writing “I have more to say” until you actually do. We then were asked to summon memories of a childhood bedroom and I was suddenly in my room with my messy sister again reliving our boundary wars; a classmate recalled being in the bedroom of her grandmother’s house.

After a prompt to mimic the author Joe Brainard in his book, I Remember, during which we wrote as many events or things from the past that we could remember, Lara declared us ready for the gratitude journaling. We were encouraged to write five things we’re grateful for each day, and as Lara does, to keep a gratitude notebook and pen on a night table as a bedtime routine. Some days she writes nothing, but most days there’s an entry. She finds writing in her journal at night makes her scout out gratitude during the day. Lara then urged us to unpack and viscerally explore a memory of gratitude. The final exercise was to predict something we would be grateful for a year from now.

Exploring gratitude in my life, listening to the gratitude in the lives of others and doing it in a safe environment with an experienced and knowledgeable teacher was therapeutic and calming. Intentionally focusing on what was, is, and will be right in our lives keeps us focused on abundance and connection--not on scarcity and isolation. I could get used to gratitude shared in community with others. It’s so simple and the benefits are huge.

Here’s something else for which I am grateful- the opportunity to have explored gratitude through the journaling workshop that Tupper, SVNA and Noble Horizons brought to our community.

In the words of Tupper, “Thank you for that.”

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