Winter is cold, wet, and makes every morning a new struggle.
Between peeling back the warm sheets, kissing my wife as I get out of bed, stepping on to the cold hardwood floor, and silently staring at the 76th rainy day in a row, Portland means business when it comes to winters that confines you to one space for more time than you probably bargained for.
I've adjusted well in my last 2 and half years residing in the northwest, but about 3 weeks ago, I hit a roadblock. I couldn't wake up before 8 am.
I had no passion or motivation for anything in the morning upon waking.
I couldn't go outside, because it was wet. Sad and wet.
It's a very, very easy way to start counting the negative things in your life faster than you can count the fingers on your hands.
3 weeks ago, I decided that enough was enough. My apparent lack of productivity was seeping in to every fiber of my creative being, quickly washing me down the mega-slide of sadness, seasonal depression, and a lack of drive for anything worthwhile.
So I spent an intentional morning (when the sun was giving it's shine for just a moment) and decided to make an escape-plan for my less-than-appealing state of being.
It started with a central focus point. I picked up a subscription to www.headspace.com, and began mindfulness meditation. I can't list all the benefits in this post because we're short on time, but here's a few ways this practice has benefited me beyond my imagination:
- I'm more calm.
- I'm more creative.
- I have less anxiety.
- I am more focused.
- I am more motivated.
And that's just after 3 weeks of meditating daily. Incredible, and well-deserved for it's own blog post in a few weeks time.
After I started and finished my first 10-minute meditation session, I looked for another opportunity to center myself around my family, my talents, and my goals.
Enter the five-minute journal.
I found this little tool through a favorite author of mine - Tim Ferris. He actually created his own version of the tool, which you can find on Amazon here. I just use my own journal with the same questions.
The five-minute journal is the exact tool I needed as a creative to organize my thoughts, ideas, goals, and values every morning before starting my day, and using this tool has increased the happiness and centricity of my life tenfold or more in the little time I've been using it.
As creatives - photographers, directors, cinematographers, line artists, painters, graphic designers - we all need structure. Our primary mode of being is uninhibited creativity, so the creativity goes wild and doesn't have a place to be focused.
I REPEAT: As creatives, our primary mode of being as a creative is uninhibited creativity.
The problem is that we let life get in the way of our creativity WAY too often than we should. It happens for two reasons:
1: we don't organize or journal our creative goals well, and
2: we focus at default on more negativity than we do positivity, and it gets in the way of our creativity.
Here's what I mean: when we put gratitude over everything else in our lives, it helps us unlock a part of our brain that would otherwise inhibit our creativity. I can't tell you the hundreds of times I've woken up in the morning only to be worried about e-mails, a project, money, taxes, a relationship, a car problem - anything. It was like, default-mode for me to wake up worried.
This practice - the 5 minute journal - and especially, placing gratitude over everything else - was what reversed that cycle.
Research has shown that gratitude can lower stress, reversing aging, and eradicate ill health. (1)
The idea is simple - by showing and expressing gratitude through thought or writing every day before the stress of your day trickles in and eventually creates a waterfall, we can counteract the stress hormone and instead replace it with one that completely decimates it on a biological level.
If we're regularly expressing gratitude every morning, it's actually biologically harder for our bodies to FEEL stress.
I get it - "yeah, that sounds great, but I have work, school, etc bla bla bla."
"I'm tired when I wake up."
"I would rather write on my laptop."
Those exact reasons are why I started the five-minute journal. Here's how it works for me (and yes, it takes 5 minutes or less every day!)
The 5-Minute Journal Explained:
For my daily five-minute journal, I write out 5 different categories.
In the morning, I write 3 things I'm truly grateful for that day, 3 things that I think would make my day great, and 3 affirmations of what I believe I am. Here's what my journal looks like:
I am grateful for:
What would make today great?
Daily Affirmations: I am...
In the evening, I reflect on the day from a positive gratitude-perspective. I write down 3 amazing things that happened during my day, and I write down 2 things that could have made today even better.
3 amazing things that happened today:
How could I have made today even better?
Here's a pic of my very first time doing it a few weeks ago. Yes, my handwriting is that bad:
So has it worked for me?
The short and obvious answer is that this process of reminding myself to be grateful for what I have and what has happened in my life on a daily basis has had profound effects on the way I live, act, and run my business. I started to see things that I wanted to have happen come true, and in many cases, I was simply given the boldness through gratitude to act on achieving many of the goals that I have written in the pages of my journal.
I've seen projects come to life, crazy deadlines be met, my intentionality with my wife leveled-up, and much, more more. The process is different for everyone, but it works the same.
If you decide to follow this process and place gratitude over everything, share with me your experience in the comments below.
Until next time,
I'm on a mission to show that the light will always pierce through the darkness.