Friday, February 19, 2010


I've spent the last four days sleeping, reading John Sandford novels, and watching HGTV. While I appreciated the rest, I'm delighted to be up and eating and ready to talk words! 

A few of you have asked for more details about the write2transform project. First, why Lent? I spent the first part of my working life as a parish minister. Though my primary work is outside of the church, the rhythms of the church year have stuck with me. Lent is a good time to take on a practice that has the power to transform our lives. But worry not: you can do the write2transform challenge anytime you want. AND, you can write about anything you want. Do your own thing or follow along with the blog. I'll be suggesting journaling exercises based on studies from positive psychology. I'll also be recommending books and other tools.

Second, what kind of a journal? Use what you like to write on. I mostly use a Moleskine journal (link below). When I want to do collage or art journaling, I dig out my 8 1/2 x 11" sketchbook. Use what works for you.

Finally, when I decided to do the write2transform project, I set some rules for myself. They might be helpful for you, too.
*I'm planning to journal only 10-20 minutes a day. I want to see if a doable amount of journaling will improve my health and mood!
*I have a set time each day to journal. You've heard me say it before: we get more done when we know the when and where of a task. If you decide to do the journaling challenge, figure out when and where you will write.
*I hope to try a new intervention every four days or so. I will be blogging about the practice when I begin, so that I can give you some tips and tools for your own journaling. Four days later, I'll blog about how it went and introduce a new tool.

The first intervention I am trying is writing2thank or gratitude journaling. I've been reading the book, Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Robert A. Emmons. Professor Emmons and his colleague Professor Mike McCullough have conducted many gratitude studies. The first looked at the effects of gratitude journaling. All of the participants kept a journal and were asked to write a sentence a week for ten weeks. The first group described five things they were grateful for. The second group described five hassles. The neutral group simply listed five things that had affected them in the past week. After ten weeks, the gratitude group was 25% happier than the other participants. In addition, the gratitude group:
*felt better about their lives
*were more optimistic about the future
*reported fewer health complaints
*spent more time exercising (1.5 hours more per week)
(Emmons, p. 30)


So how does this gratitude journaling work? Every day, list three to five things you are grateful for. Emmons advises readers to keep it fresh. Don't list the same things every single day. Consider how you are thankful for the difficult experiences in your life, either those you face right now or the ones you have overcome. Use your senses to expand your list of the things you are grateful for—what do you touch, taste, smell, hear, or see that fills you with gratitude? Mentally walk through your day and thank all the people who supported you, from the bus driver who got you safely to work to the sandwich shop worker who prepared your lunch.

After you have done the basic step, challenge yourself to consider why of each blessing. We spend a good deal of time complaining about the difficult things in our lives. We ask, "Why me?" about so much of our lives: why did I get sick, why didn't I get the promotion, why did he break up with me, or why did that car cut me off? But we rarely ask why about the good things. Take a few moments at the end of your journaling session to write about why each of the blessings on your list came your way today.

So that's it. I'll be back in a couple of days with another assignment. In the meantime, write, write, write!


  1. I love the idea of asking yourself "why" for the good things that happen in life. Such a simple concept, but I can see the power of it.

    I'll be following along with the journaling exercises. Thanks for leading the way!

  2. Glad you are going to be journaling, too! :-)