Not Your Mother’s Gratitude Journal: Using Instagram to Boost Your Happiness
Promly’s own Katerina Rettino offers some advice on how to use social media and journaling to increase your happiness and remain grateful in the face of challenges. Check out her article, originally posted on her wellness blog in December 2020 below. Additionally, check out some more of her posts on her blog linked here!
Two pieces of advice that I’ve always heard regarding happiness are to delete social media (and all the comparison and insecurity that comes with it) and to write down what I’m grateful for. Well, although I can admit to deleting Instagram and Snapchat whenever I get a little more FOMO than usual, I’ve recently found out how to use social media in a way that actually makes me more content AND incorporates many principles of happiness.
I think everyone has, at some point in their life, attempted and failed at journaling. Whether writing in a daily diary or going for something a little more organized, there’s always that initial wave of motivation and creativity that is quickly forgotten as soon as you miss a day, and then a week, and then give up altogether. I’ve personally attempted everything from colorful bullet journals to classic diary entries to, yes, gratitude journals. None of them stuck. But, one day, when I was looking at some of my other Instagram accounts that I’d forgotten about, I came across my old “100 Happy Days” challenge and became inspired to try something more modern.
If you’re unfamiliar, the “100 Happy Days” challenge is when you post a picture from your day every day for 100 days and state one thing that made you happy that day. I guess we were ahead of our time back in middle school, because the challenge is remarkably similar to a gratitude journal. That’s when I created a new account, to use solely for my mental health – essentially an online journal. I didn’t follow anyone, I set my profile picture as a cute baby cow, and my bio was just a string of emojis that make me smile. Then, I created my first post, which would be a template for all the posts to come.
Each post includes any photos I took that day that made me smile – these are generally pictures of my friends, my morning oatmeal, something pretty I saw outside, or my post-workout look (AKA: not usually Instagram material). Then, my caption includes a long list of things that I was grateful for (can be as small as “drinking water” or something bigger like “had my grad party with everyone I love”), followed by a brief summary of how I’m feeling (and some emojis to get the point across and make it a little more fun). My stories are typically any time that, in the present moment, I’m overwhelmed with happiness, or I’m proud of myself, or even when I’m not doing so good. These essentially serve as diary entries and let me get my feelings out.
Now that you know exactly how I’ve set up my digital gratitude journal, let me tell you a couple of reasons why I love it and have been able to stick to it for over a month:
1. It’s an easy, convenient, and fun way to write down & show what I’m grateful for
Having it on my phone makes it so much easier to stick to since I always have it with me. And I’m reminded about it every time I open Instagram, which is pretty much 24/7.
2. I get to include photos and videos
Of course, you can always print out pictures to stick in a physical notebook, but it’s much more convenient to just post pictures and videos that are already on your phone. These also enhance the experience by reminding me what I did each day so I know what to write down and, when I go back to look at the posts, I’m really able to get back into the exact moment I took the picture and was feeling great. This corresponds to the practice of savoring, which is another way to boost your personal happiness levels. These pictures and videos also help to serve as a daily diary, so your future self can remember what life was like a year (or ten) ago but you don’t actually have to go through the effort of writing down all the details of your day.
3. Gratitude reminds you of all the great things you have going for you, even when you feel like you’re at a low point
Gratitude is a proven way to gain & maintain a positive mindset. Reminding you what you already have in your life also prevents you from going after things that you don’t actually need/want. Whether that be spending your money on a material item that you won’t use in a month or trying to fit in with a new group, you’ll soon realize that you have everything you really need (or at least be able to focus on things that actually align with your goals and values).
4. You live more presently and purposefully
Having to write down and take pictures of all of the things that brought you joy throughout the day makes you notice that you’re grateful for them in the moment. This is also a way to practice savoring and living in the present. Another thing I’ve noticed is that I want to do more fun things every day and make choices that will make me happier, simply so that I’ll be able to write about it in my post later that night. Whether it’s being productive, going for a run, making plans with friends, or reading a book instead of going on my phone, I’m more inclined to fill my day with good things because of my gratitude journal.
It’s been over a month since I’ve started this little self-care project, but even in a short amount of time I’ve already noticed a difference in the way I feel and how I live. I look on the bright side more and I pay attention to what I do have instead of what I don’t. Another great aspect of doing it at night is that, if I’ve had a bit of a rough day or even if I’m just in a bad mood, being forced to think about all the things that I enjoy helps lift my spirits before I go to bed. While I can’t be sure, I think this has probably saved me a couple of nights of wallowing in self-pity or thinking about hypotheticals for an hour before I go to bed. I even gave my friends gratitude journals as grad gifts (along with a note about why I’m grateful for them) because I truly think that it is one of the best things you can do for yourself. So, whether you’re going through something right now or you’re living the good life, I highly encourage you to try it out.
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With immense gratitude, the Promly Team.