Many years ago I drew a “Whenever You Need a Smile” postcard for a friend to give her some happy things to think about if she started to feel down. We had lived through a few years of our early twenties together, and that card reflected our humor at the time. If I remember correctly, there were several references to our summer as English teachers in Russia.
I began drawing these cards here and there as a way to remind myself of the happy things in life, mundane or not, and they’ve since become one of the practices I do to continue growing in thankfulness. I haven’t “arrived” by any means (and am not sure we ever “arrive” this side of heaven) but I will say that either writing out things I’m thankful for or illustrating them, even if they’re stick figures, has a way of encouraging my heart. Sometimes I’ll write things that are deeply meaningful, but in the case of the illustrations above, I simply drew things that made me smile.
I also drew things that evoked wonderful memories and hopes for the future. I love that in one of the illustrations I drew that I wanted to take “more trips to Paris and Portland”. I know, they’re practically the same place, right? Now, all of these years later, I live in Portland and maybe one of these days, we’ll get that trip to Paris in. (My husband visited years ago at Christmastime—wouldn’t that be amazing?)
Make Your Own List of Happy Things
To illustrate your own list of happy things, you don’t have to think in grandiose terms. What is your favorite meal? Do you like taking hot showers? Are you someone who breathes in deep when it begins to rain? Perfect! You’re on your way to drawing things that you’re thankful for and that make you happy. (Don’t laugh about the hot water part; I spent that summer in Russia taking headache-inducing ice water showers since there was no hot water where we stayed. It gave me a great thankfulness for the warm water we enjoy each day.)
Take an index card and draw simple illustrations that will evoke a grateful and/or happy memory for you. Alternately, you can write out a phrase, circle it, and use a colored pencil to add a pop of color to the circles. (Am I the only one who still uses circle maps to brainstorm and think through ideas? Love them.)
If you’d like to make this a regular practice, purchase a blank sketch book, and draw a bit before you go to bed at night. Recalling the beauty of the day you just lived is a great way to slow down and to relax. It also helps to put a break in between the go-go-go of the day and what should be a more restful time at night.
In my Creative Retreat workbook, there’s a whole page of cloud illustrations that you can fill out with things that bring you joy. It makes me happy to think of women all over the world who have purchased the workbook filling up that page.