So lets gets to it: I have an anxiety disorder and a history of clinical depression. Over the past two years I’ve been weaning off medications and also been working with my naturopath, therapist and reiki practitioner for three plus years to make healthier lifestyle choices (read: diet, supplements, meditation) to be able to make the eventual transition to being medication free.
At the same time to be completely transparent with you, I hate unexpected change and stress triggers can sometimes make this new state of calm I’ve held onto for the past few years sometimes go amuck. This past December due to some things happening in my personal life, one of them being the ongoing factor of learning to deal with my father’s health issues (more on that in a future post) and then also myself feeling a bit uninspired, I really started hitting a low point where I was always thinking very negatively and fearing the worst. I had issues getting up out of bed in the morning and found my anxiety spiking from often really mundane events, which can sometimes happen in the winter months to be honest due to the lack of light. I hadn’t a low like this in some time, so it was a wake up call for me to do something before this mood low reached a more troubling depression low.
Disclaimer: I didn’t have a relapse, but due to years of dealing with my anxiety and depression, I know when I am approaching a potential breaking point that could landslide into something further. As the end of the holidays approached and the new year came around, for once in my life I actually made a new year’s resolution which was to make a committment to changing my thought patterns to become positive again by committing to a daily reflective journal practice called The Five Minute Journal.
I had seen The Five Minute Journal at a summer PR event the year earlier and although I thought it was cool, I didn’t feel a need to committ to it at that time. Given the recent bout of sadness, uncertainty and lack of enthusiasm I was feeling about my life the journal came back to me. First off its important to note, I did not request the journal from PR, I bought it online on Indigo and it arrived at my house a couple of days later. In order for this journaling to be the real deal for me I needed to invest into the copy of the journal.
Journaling doesn’t come easy to most people. Being a writer and communicator, I enjoy journaling as its always been a great way for me to mind dump and vent out thoughts. But lets be honest: I work a lot, so I don’t have time time to write free form about my thoughts for a half hour each morning any more. But that’s why I love this journal, it literally takes a few minutes each morning and then at night to complete.
The Morning Ritual of The Five Minute Journal
Here’s what the journal looks like on the inside:
Each day you wake in the morning and start with an inspirational and thought provoking quote. After filling in the date, you’re asked to fill in three different things you are grateful for in your life. The key to this activity is to be honest. Don’t just say you are thankful for your family because you feel you have to, write the truth. On tougher days sometimes that means you could be grateful for something pretty basic, for example, your warm blanket or your coffee maker. (Lets be honest, without that cup of joe in the morning, I wouldn’t be a very pleasant human to deal with, so I’m pretty thankful for my morning coffee on the regular). By even noticing small things that enhance our daily existence, it programs the mind to look at our world differently. I find myself being much more thankful for the home my husband and I live in now, than I was last year and I think a lot of that has to do with my change in perspective.
Next, I fill out three answers to the question: What would make today great? For this section, its important to only fill in things you can actually control. So although it would be nice to get flown to Italy on a surprise trip, the likelihood of that is close to nil. This isn’t an activity in forming fantasies. Things I’ve listed in the past have included:
“Being focused and productive at work.”
“Going to my yoga class in the evening.”
“Treating myself to an afternoon latte.”
This allows me to set the tone of my day and also remind me that I ultimately can control how I feel about my days if I go in with a positive mindset.
Finally the journal challenges you to make an affirmation, a statement that embodies either something you want, believe about yourself or strive to be. I usually recite this out loud because its nice to compliment yourself! This was one of the most challenging things for me to do when I first started, because you feel a bit goofy at first saying, “I am intelligent, a digital superstar and a successful woman,” especially because I was raised to be a humnble person. But with practice this becomes a really joyful and therapeutic ritual that I look forward to each morning. It’s like being your own personal cheer squad.
Filling out The Five Minute Journal Before Bedtime
In order to frame your day with a happy beginning and ending, the second part of this journal includes a simple reflection to complete each day before bed, as pictured here. This second part of the journal is even more therapeutic for me as it calms my mind and allows to me to head to bed feeling happy and constructive. Night time is often when my anxious thought patterns strike when I’m feeling stressed. Think about it, how many times do you find yourself awake in bed despite being exhausted because you’re distracted by your morning to do list. But this journal has helped me sleep better.
I start by filling in three things that occurred in my day that were amazing. I tend to celebrate professional accomplishments often such as knocking a deadline off my list or nailing a meeting at work since I’m a career driven person. Other kinds of things that I celebrate: Having an amazing evening hanging with my husband (You’ll get to know him soon on this Mindful Glam journey), or trying out a new kind of workout class and feeling stronger both mentally and physically because of it. For example, I tried spinning for the first time just a few months back.
Finally, the last section of this portion asks you to reflect on how you could have made the day better. Maybe that means telling your partner you love them, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or not letting that snide remark by a negative person get under your skin so much. The point of this section is to remind you that you can improve your life starting with some of the smallest actions if you just believe that you have the power to do so.
I’ve been writing in my journal for seven months now and I definitely know that my view of my daily environment along with how I see the world has evolved. I’ve been able to achieve some big goals that I’ve wanted (News on that later, okay?) and also just feel much more satisfied with my life as I’ve learned to appreciate what I have. This change in thinking has made me a happier, more productive and a better person inside out.