Through her eyes: A millennial girl takes on Central Florida
By Alisha Ashford
When I was in high school, the idea that happiness is a choice finally clicked for me.
Before that, I never realized how much the way that I spoke about myself and my circumstances was genuinely affecting my perception of the world around me. I used to complain about the most trivial things, and speak down on myself, not realizing that my negative self-talk was not only taking a toll on my self-esteem but also stripping away the joy I could find in the mundane. I wanted to become a more positive person, but I didn’t know where to begin.
I came across something online called The Five-Minute Journal. This journal was created by Mimi and Alex Ikonn, the co-founders of Luxy Hair and Intelligent Change. Their business, Intelligent Change, was started when they needed to develop a way to be productive as entrepreneurs. Their solution was to create products that will help not only themselves stay positive and focused, but others as well. They describe their Five-Minute Journal as a journal that “condenses hundreds of positive psychology articles, books, and research into a structured process of 5 daily questions that focus your attention on gratitude, setting the direction for making your day great, and reflecting on good things that happen throughout your day.”
The journal is set up in a straightforward yet impactful way that with consistency, taught me how to practice gratitude within a matter of weeks. It consists of three morning routine questions and two nightly routine questions. The questions it asks in the morning are:
- I am grateful for…
- What would make today great?
- Daily affirmations. I am…
These three questions provide a way to give myself a moment each morning to count my blessings, remind myself to engage in activities that make me happy and to affirm my positive attributes instead of pointing out the negative.
The nightly routine questions are a fantastic way to recap the day and appreciate the small victories that could otherwise be taken for granted. These two questions are:
- Three amazing things that happened today…
- How could I have made today even better?
The remarkable thing about this journal that allowed it to have such an impact in my life is the way it pushes the intentionality to focus on the positive and create a mindset that is geared towards personal growth. So often, we simply say that we’d ‘like’ to be more positive, or that we ‘ought’ to grow each day. But, if the intentionality isn’t there, we will more likely keep that thought on the back burner without actually putting it into action.
Answering these questions gives me an outlet to prioritize being grateful. When asking myself those important things became the first thing I do when I wake up and the last thing I do before I go to sleep, my brain became accustomed to think about those things throughout my day. I found myself appreciating things that would otherwise be quite trivial: meeting a kind person in a grocery store, going for a walk, enjoying a pretty sunset.
We live in a culture that demands instant gratification and is never satisfied. When you learn to find joy in the simple blessings, you will no longer require grand experiences to feel excited about life. Believe it or not, when I started using the journal, I found myself getting excited to wake up at 5:00 in the morning for school each day. At that time, I lived with my parents—so the mornings were my most quiet and peaceful part of the day when I could sip my coffee, listen to music, read my Bible, and be still for a moment before the hectic day would begin. It’s interesting to me that I took mornings for granted before I taught myself to recognize that it was such a special part of my day.
Practicing gratitude with intentionality and consistency can honestly be life-changing for anyone. The best part about it is that it takes very little time. It’s a lot less about the amount of time you choose to do this every day, and more about making it a habit. This concept of growth by creating habits can be true in any facet of life. Aristotle sums up this concept by stating that “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.”
In the digital age, the majority of people can say that the first thing they do right when they open their eyes in the morning is to check Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Doing this every day causes us to create a very negative habit of centering our morning on things like attaining social approval and ensuring we haven’t “missed out” on anything. Sometimes, when I catch myself doing this, I feel like a social robot completely distracted from the beauty in just letting my mind be still.
It’s time to trade that daily habit with one that would enrich our lives with gratitude and help us grow into the person we want to be.
Alisha Ashford is a graduate of Lake Mary High School that spent a year in Spain through a student exchange program. She is currently a journalism major at Seminole State College.