By Anne Mitchell
If you thought that writing daily about your thoughts, emotions and experiences, was just for adolescents, think again. Journaling is the new buzzword in the mental health sector, since it has numerous benefits which are just beginning to be discovered. We should, perhaps, begin by differentiating journaling from simply keeping a diary. If the latter mainly comprises jotting down the day’s events, journaling is all about writing down how you react to these events and situations, with a view to understanding yourself better and avoiding pitfalls that affect your mental health.
The many proven benefits of journaling include:
- Helping one deal with stressful or traumatic events: One study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine by Philip Ulrich et al, found that keeping a journal can facilitate positive growth from a difficult event. The benefits are especially strong when the focus of the writer involves trying to make sense of, or find meaning from, a traumatic event. Dr. James Pennebaker, author of the book Writing to Heal, notes: “When we translate an experience into language we essentially make the experience graspable and in doing so, free ourselves from mentally being tangled in traumas.” When you write in your journal, try to avoid simply expressing negative emotion. Focus on greater understanding of what you have been through.
- Evoking a state of mindfulness: Practices such as yoga and mindfulness meditation are relied upon in a variety of settings where stress and anxiety are a factor – these include centers for those in rehabilitation from an addiction to drugs and alcohol, and centers for those in recovery from life-threatening conditions such as breast cancer. Mindfulness, which essentially involves ‘being in the here and now’, has been found to significantly reduce stress hormone levels, thereby bringing greater calm and an enhanced ability to concentrate and make decisions. Indeed, mindfulness based practices such as journaling remind us that it is important not to suppress difficult thoughts and emotions – rather, we should acknowledge they exist and allow ourselves to feel emotions such as sadness or anger, without allowing them to take over and lead us to make wrong or rash decisions. Journaling is an excellent way to stay in the moment; best of all, when we are in a better frame of mind, we can look back at our writing from days past and note the progress we have made since then.
- Identification of destructive patterns: Journaling helps us understand ourselves better. Through our writing, we can identify the patterns we adopt which are not working well for us. We can also note the people or situations that tend to put us in a negative frame of mind and formulate a strategy to keep these triggers for depression or anxiety, at bay.
- Improvement of communication skills: Experts at Stanford University note that writing has critical connections to speaking. Writing down your thoughts can enhance your ability to express them through speech.
How to Journal
If you are inspired to start a journal, all you essentially need is a notebook, a pen, and a little time every evening. It is vital to be consistent to reap the maximum benefits from journaling so make sure to find a space at home in which you feel relaxed, and where noise from others in your home does not bother you (you can listen to music if you find that it gets your creative juices flowing).
Try to dedicate 20 minutes at the very least, to journaling daily. Throughout the day, take down notes about important reactions you have had to the day’s events, since if you fail to do this, you may forget about them by the time you sit down to write. Set aside a specific day every week to read your entries, to obtain vital insight from your journal.
Finally, try to support journaling with other mindfulness-based pursuits. These may include yoga, meditation, and even spending quiet time in a natural setting. Napping for a short time just before journaling can also encourage your thoughts and feelings to emerge. Use your journal to create a strategy of how to deal with difficult people or situations that seem to unsettle your peace of mind. Remember that how you react to them is just as important as the things they actually do, or the words they speak.
About the author:
Anne Mitchell is a freelance writer and mother. After a successful career in healthcare, specifically business management in the healthcare sector Anne decided to pursue her first love of writing. Not only does this now complement her lifestyle and family needs but it also enables her to write pieces that she is passionate about. Anne hopes to inspire others with her writing. In her spare time she enjoys reading, cooking and fresh air – sometimes all at once!
by Dean Fraser
Being happy can seemingly come naturally to some fortunate people. No matter what happens in their life they always have a smile planted firmly on their face and a pleasant demeanour pretty much most of the time. Naturally these individuals rarely lack friends and are usually wonderful to be around. Their happiness being ever just more than a little contagious
SO WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE THE REST OF US?
Well, you know, we have to deal with everyday life don’t we? Like that sneaky individual at work who wants to get our job, those inconsiderate neighbours with their dog barking away all night. Always having to pay those bills, they never seem to grow smaller. Without even mentioning those hectic trips to the busy grocery store we have to endure every week or any of the other thousand and one hurdles that come along in life…
Can we be happy and still deal with all those curve balls life has to throw at us?
We most definitely can…
Living happy is possible for anyone to achieve as a conscious decision to take. There is a clear path to getting there and any of us can choose to walk it.
No matter what comes along we’ll be able to deal with it in a positive way. Eventually getting to the point where problems are instead viewed as challenges which are there to be happily overcome, rather than these horrendously unfair happenings to loose sleep and worry over.
Look at yourself in a mirror and pull a face that is comically glum. Next smile at your reflection…it’s like an instant face lift!
Here is the start of an exciting new approach to life and one which is going to be seriously good fun. Every morning while you are looking in the mirror, getting ready to go out and experience your new day look yourself in the eyes and smile. Keep smiling for at least a minute and wish yourself a happy day.
If being serious and grumpy can unfortunately often become habit- forming for many, equally so can smiling and being happy. How about making smiling your new hobby?
When you first waken up in the morning, when you first open your eyes…smile.
During the day, if you feel stress starting to make itself known and tension builds up. Step away. Take a few moments out and go to the washroom. In privacy smile and keep it up for at least a minute, tell yourself out loud or if you prefer in your mind that you are happy and will easily cope.
If your job involves talking to people on the phone and you are having one of those challenging kind of conversations we all experience occasionally STAND UP and (even if it’s through gritted teeth!) smile. Standing up is empowering and smiling does alter the way your voice sounds. I suggest using this in context – it’s going to sound a little disrespectful for you to be sounding all “happy chirpy” on the other end of the phone if someone is seriously upset or distressed!
Every time you practice active smiling not only are you re-programming yourself to have a different outlook, you are also happily creating happy endorphins in your brain and these act on your nervous system…making you feel even more happy.
Although at first you may well be acting as if you’re happy, I can promise you this though – eventually and surely it is going to arrive at the point where your conscious and subconscious start to believe the messages of happiness they are being constantly subjected to and you can become your own self-fulfilling prophecy.
Here are some other ways to stay happy:
1. Perhaps there is a song or genre of music that inspires and lifts your moods? Play it often
2. Are there certain colors you find uplifting? Wear them and surround yourself with them
3. Walking lifts our moods
4. Conversation and interaction with fellow humans can be incredibly uplifting
5. As is being in love and feeling loved
6. Enjoy reading? Read inspiring stories, expanding your knowledge about something you are interested in has to make you feel better
7. Crosswords or mind puzzles such as Sudoku are not only calming, they have the added benefit of brain-training as well!
This incredibly simple change, the conscious decision to be a happy person, can change lives. Not only yours…the lives of those around you.
About the author:
Jealousy is a human emotion that will probably affect all of us at sometime. It can be part of our human evolution as we tap into our wise, kind and compassionate nature, that is our true essence. The problem occurs when we disown our jealously, labelling it as a bad feeling. When in actual fact the way to transform this feeling is to accept it exactly as it is.
There is nothing wrong with any of our human emotions, they are, even our anger, guilt, greed, embarrassment, shame, disappointment and jealousy. It is not the emotion itself that is the problem. The problem lies within how we handle our emotions. Do we have the ability to observe our emotions and let them go? Or do we act out on our emotions, potentially creating chaos and hurting those around us?
If you are in the second category where you tend to act out on your emotions, do not be too hard on yourself. We have all been there. You would never consciously hurt someone. This type of behaviour is created unconsciously, that is, where you have the feeling, act out on in, and then it’s too late—the damage is done. This type of behaviour can make you feel out of control and is confusing for everyone, particularly yourself!
The good news is that by accepting and owning any jealous feelings you have, you can transform them to ones of genuine happiness of others doing well. When you feel jealous, tell yourself, that it is OK. This is not you true self, but a learned response that you have been taught (known as conditioning) by others while growing up. Young children can be happy, sad the next minute, then angry and happy again, all in the space of ten minutes! Young children generally let their feelings pass through their energetic system freely. As many adult do, they do not hold onto resentments and other unexpressed feelings and brood on them. This is a learned response, which means the good news is, we can unlearn it!
If the jealous feeling is very strong, you may need to get away from the situation that triggered it and give yourself some space to process the feeling. Going for a walk in nature or meditating upon it can be helpful in this process. The key is not to focus on the outward situation but turn your attention inward and develop awareness of your thoughts and feelings.
Be kind to yourself as jealousy is just a feeling and feelings come and go like clouds in the sky. Your true nature is not the clouds, it is the sky, strong, stable, and vast. Learn to observe the jealous feeling, acknowledge it and let it pass. Focussing on your breath helps to calm the mind and let you go deeper within. During this process you may have relevant flashbacks from the past, or be aware of limiting beliefs or thoughts that are fuelling the jealous feelings.
Awareness of relevant past events, or thought patterns that are driving the jealous feeling is empowering. You will feel some space from the feeling and rather being driven by it, you are in control of observing it. Being aware of your feeling will allow you to engage the frontal reasoning centres of your brain and choose thoughts and behaviours that you would prefer, rather than consciously acting out on your behaviours. New awareness of your inner world allows you to live your life consciously rather than unconsciously.
What happens when someone is jealous towards you? If you are not triggered or upset by their behaviour, that means that you have made peace with your jealous feelings within. If you are upset when someone behaves jealously towards you, it is a wonderful opportunity to go on an inner journey to explore how it makes you feel. The key is to accept your feelings as they are, in the process described above. Generally we can’t control others behaviour, however we can master our inner world, so that rather than reacting to external events, we can instead respond. Creating an inner world that it is peaceful rather than reactive, is empowering, as we can then respond to situations with stability and wisdom.
Jealousy also rises from a “lack” mentality that there is not enough resources for us all to have everything we want in life. If we reach down inside ourselves we will find our own rich pool of talents and resources to draw upon. If we focus on cultivating our gifts, doing the things we love, we will feel joyous for not only for our success, but equally delight in others success. This creates a sustainable win/win scenario. When people are successful at the expense of others, it is a hollow victory. This creates a win/lose situation which is imbalanced and therefore not sustainable in the long term.
There is a beautiful Buddhist concept called mudita that sees joy not as finite, but limitless. Life is bountiful and abundant, however sometimes we need to retrain our mindset so that abundance our natural way of being. Our inner world created our outer world, so if we feel abundant and limitless inside that is what we will manifest in our external world. It is a matter of transcending a scarcity or lack mentality and retraining your mindset for abundance. Nature can be a wonderful teacher. When we observe nature, it has a natural sense of abundance with countless leaves on the trees, blades of grass and the big blue sky. Life is abundant when we learn to think that way—there is enough goodness and joy for everyone. It is a matter of shifting our collective consciousness from greed, lack and competition to equanimity, abundance and rejoicing in others good fortune.
As for suffering I do not wish even the slightest;
as for happiness I am never satisfied.
In this, there is no difference between others and me.
Bless me so I may take joy in others’ happiness
~ First Panchen Tibetan Lama
When we feel in our natural loving state, there is a sense of pervading oneness. If others are distressed we feel compassion and empathy for them. When they have good fortune, in our natural loving state, we feel the joy of witnessing their joy. As we develop a more connected and loving relationship with ourself, we realise that its OK to have a jealous feeling. The key is to be able to make a choice not to act out on it, in ways we would later regret. Instead we are able to tap into the greater good and authentically feel that others good fortune enhances our life. In fact there is plenty of abundance for all if we make the choice to see life in that way.
About the author:
Deborah is committed to the ongoing improvement of the world we live in and as such; founded Blisspot.com. Blisspot.com transforms everyday lives through encouragement, sharing, education, inspiration and connection.
Deborah has written Bliss Every Day, Love Now and Glow while you Grow books and eCourses. She is a qualified kinesiologist, with a background in counselling, psychology. Deborah is an enthusiastic and award winning entrepreneur. Founder and CEO of Brave Design Group and Eatsmart Food, she won the ACT Business Women of the Year and the ACT Chief Minister’s Award for Innovation.
Deborah enjoys success as an industry spokesperson and author. She is an avid speaker, blogger and radio show guest in Australia and The United States. Devoted to her family; Deborah is passionate about creating relationships and raising children in a positive and conscious way.
by Polly Wirum
I am blessed with a very rewarding and busy life. This includes being a parent, wife, and business owner. My intuitive work and channeling have given me the experience of connecting to other realities. My world has changed because of this. Sometimes it feels like I can reach out and touch another place that is filled with so much love and compassion it makes me cry. In fact, I can reach there in my mind. So how do these two worlds merge?
Is it possible to move from a place with so much uncertainty to a place of absolute compassion and awareness using only your consciousness of self? Is it possible to be aware of the endless peace of one world and exist in another world of conflict? Can I dance between these worlds?
Compassion, love, and awareness are our birthright. These are what we as individuals come here to understand. Can we each learn of love, compassion, and awareness while living such vastly different lives? I know we can. I believe we are here to gain insight from all our potential experiences. Fear is the only thing that can derail us from our purpose of love and creativity.
We have mistakenly placed confidence in a world outside of our own thoughts and our personal connection to the Universe. We have created a world that believes there is something greater than the power of our mind and the universe. You see, everything really does start and end in its complete form in this thought, right now. We each have infinite possibilities or thoughts to choose from. They are all available in this very instant. This mystical journey begins with each of us realizing that we design our lives with our mind and thoughts.
The thought process is built with your mind serving as a switchboard, or receiver of possibilities. You are connected to the Universe and Eternity by your thoughts. But there is more to the thought process then people realize – it holds your greatest gifts for connection to creative energy and potential for love. Imagine that each thought we allow ourselves to dive into has the imprint of our individual soul. Our thoughts carry the eternal messages of love from our soul. This is part of our creative intelligence. This is our message of love.
It is possible to be aware of the power of our mind and thrive in this earthbound world – yes! Your mind can take you to amazing places of endless love and compassion. Your thoughts can open a line of communication with others that will change your perspective of this world.
How do you want to view and experience the world? If you could paint all the details of the world and your life experiences what would the picture look like? If you had the power to take away or add to your life what would it look like? The trick here is keep an open mind. Don’t allow yourself to think about why it won’t work. Instead, design your unique life with an open heart and mind. What are you truly longing for? It could be simply the connection to eternal love and compassion.
We are learning to share what is the most important feature of all – love. Love has always been the guiding force and always will be. The strongest currents of love are found where compassion and creativity are shared, where minds come together and share the vision of peace and unity. Expansion takes place here. This expansion is not just in our mind. It allows your soul to expand and shift and share the complete awareness and connection to all. It allows the beauty of all life forms, all energetic exchanges to take place at once. It allows the breath to settle into each cell of the physical body and allows transformation to take place. A complete awareness of self and how you fit so perfectly into this world that was created by you.
Our souls are working together to create the perfect blend of energies that will capture our awareness and bring us into the new paradigm shift. Rest assured that all souls are taking part in this shift. You need do nothing more than be aware of the kindness and compassion that is a part of your very being. Allow your genuine strength and compassion to flow into all your thoughts and actions. Imagine your unique thought patterns joining all the other beautiful examples of creative compassion. Imagine this new discovery guiding you toward your perfect world where you are supported by love and compassion always. Enjoy this moment of living in a time of two worlds merging.
About the author:
Polly Wirum lives in Alaska with husband and children. She works as an intuitive and Inspired Life Coach. To learn more about her visit Gateways2peace.com