Not too long ago I read an article about gratitude journaling, the gist of it being that it doesn’t work and is a waste of time.
After having a multitude of unfortunate experiences and falling into depression as a result, the author had tried to incorporate gratitude journaling as a daily practice to improve her mood and lift her spirits. She tried it for a few months, but she didn’t feel any happier, and so she concluded that gratitude journaling is bunk, that it didn’t work and that the reader shouldn’t bother.
As I was reading this story my heart went out to the author. I know how it is to have your life, as you know it, fall apart and the ground you thought was solid turn out to be quicksand. I know the “try to do something that’s supposed to be positive and uplifting because that’s what everyone says except that it’s not working for you, and so are you even doing it right?” feeling. I’ve been there. But what I didn’t do was go and tell other people that they shouldn’t try a practice because it hadn’t worked for me.
Incidentally, the facts and research are stacked in favor of gratitude practices. But that’s beside the point. I’m not writing this to champion gratitude or any other specific wellness practice. My overall point is that everything isn’t for everybody.
The idea of person-activity fit is confirmed by research put forth by Sonja Lyubomurski and Kristin Layous of UCLA, Riverside.
“This notion of the importance of person-activity fit is supported by studies showing that the degree to which participants report enjoying a positive activity predicts how often they complete that activity (Schueller, 2010) and how much happiness they derive from it (Lyubomirsky, 2008).”
Whatever idea of success that you’re going for with an activity, and whatever perceived success you feel you receive from a practice, is going to be rooted in what resonates with you. If you try yoga and you don’t like it, it doesn’t help you or anyone else if you continue doing it. If you try Reiki and you don’t feel you get anything from it, it doesn’t help you or anyone else for you to continue doing it. And this is especially if you’re frustrated by not getting the results you feel you should be getting.
There is no wrong way to approach a practice but there are tools and techniques that may make starting and continuing a practice a little easier while also bringing more benefit. Firstly, start with an open mind and ask yourself some questions like:
- What are your expectations around the practice?
- What are you hoping to gain from it?
- What are you willing to accept as “success” with a practice?
- What are you going to do if that practice doesn’t work for you?
Once you’ve answered those questions, then do some research and learn more about various wellness practices to find out what you might be interested in. For example, if you don’t like writing then gratitude journaling may not be a good fit for you, while if you always wanted to write but don’t then gratitude journaling might be a great fit for you. If you have injuries or concerns around body image, yoga may not be a good fit for you, or maybe because you have injuries yoga can build strength and confidence. See? There are a multitude of options to choose from! If you don’t like needles, then don’t get acupuncture, or do get acupuncture because you don’t like needles and you want to face that fear. The list goes on and on.
We’re all different, comprised of different experiences and carrying different perspectives from different perceptions. As such, there is no one-size-fits-all in anything, let alone practices that are there to help us heal, for our wounds are as idiosyncratic as we are! Each one of us is unique and special, and the spaces within us where joy and pain live are sacred, and any practice or ritual we introduce to those spaces should not be chosen willy-nilly but with care and effort. And if we find it’s not working, we release that practice because if we continue it will end up doing more harm than good.