How a Simple Gratitude Practice Ignited My Personal Transformation



It all started rather spontaneously, with a gratitude challenge. I decided to give it a try because I was sick and tired of feeling crappy, helpless & depressed. Life was a struggle and I didn’t have the energy to fight anymore. So when New Year’s rolled  around, I set out to write a monthly gratitude blog post. It took me over 6 months to actually do it.

I was resisting, clearly, but in early fall that year I wrote my first gratitude post. That turned out to be the beginning of a change I was so desperately craving.

If you read that first post, I seem to be just another exhausted mother, a rather pessimistic woman tired of her hamster-wheel existence. It is also evident that I judged myself harshly back then, being very critical of my whinny, complaining tendencies and just feeling negative all the time. Back then I thought that if I could only focus on the bright side, I’d snap out of it already.

Oh man, was I naive.

You can’t just snap out of depression; you can’t just erase trauma.

Yet writing these gratitude posts became a habit, slowly morphing into a nightly gratitude journaling. Reflecting on all the good things in the world right before bedtime made me feel good & relaxed. Sleeping better was only the beginning.

How a Simple Gratitude Practice Ignited My Personal TransformationGratitude slowly invaded my daily life. It taught me to slow down, appreciate those simple yet often magic moments we’re too busy or preoccupied to notice. I started to really appreciate how things tasted, smelled, felt. I started to feel more alive, open to the beauty around me. It opened me up to the power of positive thinking and law of attraction (we attract that which we seek, and as I was seeking beauty I now saw it in the smallest things).

Gratitude also exposed me to my faults, specifically my tendency to multitask, perfect and perform. Now that I saw my own contribution to chaos & disconnection in my life, I could change it – by changing specific behavior, approach or attitude.

Empowered, I started making small, meaningful changes that made a huge impact. Instead of multitasking, I started focusing on doing one thing at the time, being fully present to that single experience, whether it was eating breakfast or really listening to my child without any distractions. Instead of perfecting, I started to let go, to stop at good enough, choosing “done” over “perfect”. Instead of performing, I started just being.

It’s not easy & I fall back to my old patterns all the time. But it’s a start and I’m hopeful.

Awareness is a beautiful thing, a necessary precursor to change.

Gratitude taught me to open up to the good in life and made me realize I have more power over my life than I previously imagined. I could stop being a victim of my circumstances and reach out to the joy in living. As it taught me to slow down, listen to my body and have more patience with myself and others, gratitude brought a greater sense of calm, focus, and balance I was lacking before.

It also led me on a path to acceptance & healing. But that’s a story for another time…

Daily Drawing Practice: May Round Up, Part 2


Keeping a daily art journal has been a challenge ever since school ended in May, but I’m doing my best to at least sketch/draw for few minutes every day. I’ve added color, experimented with new styles, and generally tried to challenge myself while having fun with my favorite ink pen so far, Pigma Micron Archival Ink.

Daily Drawing Practice: May Round Up, Part 2

Below are my favorites from the second half of May.

Daily Drawing Practice: May Round Up, Part 2

Daily Drawing Practice: May Round Up, Part 2

Daily Drawing Practice: May Round Up, Part 2

Daily Drawing Practice: May Round Up, Part 2

Do you keep a drawing book, sketchbook or an art journal?

Please share a link to your art – I’m curious about your adventures in art and creativity.

A Quick Lesson In Letting Go


Last weekend we traveled to the beautiful Golden Gate State Park in Colorado, for a quick weekend camping trip. We love those mini escapes into the wild, and have planned many of them throughout the summer months.

The car ride started off as usual, a combination of relaxed conversation and are-we-there-yet whining. Of course, just to challenge the status quo, we made a wrong turn. But we figured it out, and no one even died.

I snapped few pictures (this is when I still remembered I had the camera) – we haven’t been around these parts since last year and I was more than excited for this trip.

“We’re so lucky”, I thought, considering how I love Colorado and even after living here for over 10 years I still can’t get enough of its beauty.

One hour later, and after what I called “a roller coaster road” (shortcuts are fun!), we arrived happily and the kids didn’t even hate the campsite.

It was a good trip.

I was enjoying myself, my all-boy team, the nature.

Few days later, as we were leaving, I finally remembered that I had a camera, and I thought, “what the hell; it’s not or never”. So I had the kiddos climb on top of our already packed up camper, and they posed for me, dirty faces and all.

And that was all the photos I needed.

Turns out I can let go of the need to capture every beautiful moment on camera and simply enjoy experiencing each one of them instead. No countless photos necessary.

Daily Drawing Practice: May Round Up, Part 1


True to my commitment to make art every day, I had lots of fun in May. I’ve been experimenting more with different styles, doing various exercises, adding more color to my usual black and white ink pen drawings, and just enjoying the process more.

My goals in May were:

  • practice and play, instead of obsessing about quality,
  • living a creative life, not a creative finish line,
  • building a creative habit, not a portfolio,
  • experimenting and fun,
  • daily practice (if only for 5 minutes).

Daily Drawing Practice: May Round Up, Part 1

Below are my favorites from the first half of May.

Daily Drawing: May Round Up, Part 1 - Joanna Ciolek Daily Drawing: May Round Up, Part 1 - Joanna Ciolek

Daily Drawing: May Round Up, Part 1 - Joanna Ciolek Daily Drawing: May Round Up, Part 1 - Joanna Ciolek

Daily Drawing: May Round Up, Part 1 - Joanna Ciolek Daily Drawing: May Round Up, Part 1 - Joanna Ciolek

Daily Drawing: May Round Up, Part 1 - Joanna Ciolek Daily Drawing: May Round Up, Part 1 - Joanna Ciolek

Daily Drawing: May Round Up, Part 1 - Joanna Ciolek Daily Drawing: May Round Up, Part 1 - Joanna Ciolek

Daily Drawing: May Round Up, Part 1 - Joanna Ciolek Daily Drawing: May Round Up, Part 1 - Joanna Ciolek

Do you keep a drawing book, sketchbook or an art journal?

Please share a link to your art – I’m curious about your adventures in art and creativity.