Structured journaling for the doomed, crazed, and hopeful
For many people, open-ended journaling is difficult and can become a repetitive chore. The daily pages provide a structured, but flexible, approach to journaling that can be integrated with other parts of any self-development process. Each section is based on evidence-based practices that research has shown support human development and mental wellbeing.
Each Daily Page includes nine sections along with writing prompts designed to support structured journaling.
Remember, you don’t have to complete each section and there are no right or wrong ways to write about your life and experiences. The pages can be completed in as little as five or ten minutes, but there are no rules about how much time to spend writing.
The pages are intentionally designed to offer a limited amount of space to write so you can spend as much or as little time journaling as you prefer. The space constraints make this and ideal process for people who find open-ended journaling too abstract or don’t have a lot of time to spend putting their thoughts down on paper.
Research shows that regularly expressing gratitude has many benefits, including the reduction of depression and anxiety. You can write down many things you are grateful for, but I’ve found it helpful to focus on simple, basic moments or realities that are present in your life.
I regularly express gratitude for things like indoor plumbing, clean water, and the technology that allows me to work remote while pursuing my creative projects. It’s also ok to repeat yourself and have the same things listed every day.
Articulating our intent, especially first thing in the morning, helps us avoid being blown about by circumstances or difficulties. I am prone to overestimating what I can do in a day and underestimating what I can do in a year.
The Self-Help Industrial Complex has done a great job of turning a useful practice into a cheesy exercise in self-deception. Because I struggle with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, my brain is constantly trying to trick me into believing the worst about myself and my life. Affirmations, when used wisely, help me remember the truth about who I am and what I’m capable of.
Avoid the pseudo-psychology offered by The Law of Attraction or any self-help system that claims we can create whatever reality we desire by using some kind of psychokinetic magic. That’s just bullshit. Doctor Strange can do that sort of thing, but even he needs Infinity Stones to do it, so we mere mortals must settle for hard work.
As someone with mental illness, it is easy to become self-absorbed and limit my perspective to the walls of my own mind. Serving others forces me out of my brain and is an effective way to disrupt some of the cognitive distortions that come with mental illness. Research on co-occurring mental illness and addiction supports the idea that serving others not only helps the community but provides us a way to shift our perspective by focusing our attention on the outside world.
One of the best models I’ve found for service is Clifford the Big Red Dog. I watch this show when my disgust with our species has convinced me there is no good left in the world.
SPIRITUAL/STOIC VIRTUE FOCUS
Spirituality, regardless of religious affiliation or theological tradition, has proven to have a positive impact on human development and can be especially effective in the treatment of mental illness and addictions.
Stoic Philosophy provides an extensive framework for viewing the world, our circumstances, and our capacities as human beings. 90% of the self-help/personal improvement literature written in the last 150 years is just repackaged Stoicism ripped-off from people like Seneca and Marcus Aurelius.
Quotes or inspiring words that you can relate to can often supply the courage, strength, or perspective that allows you to start your day in the right frame of mind. There are a bajillion apps you can use to find inspiration.
MUST ACCEPT/CAN CHANGE
The Energy Focus model provides a framework for ensuring we don’t preoccupy ourselves with things outside our circles of control or influence. This practice is a must-have in terms of treating anxiety and depression, especially for victims of childhood trauma who grew up under the constant threat of physical and/or psychological violence. The Stoics were the first to observe that we can’t do shit about most of what is happening externally, and by naming these things we cut out a lot of the mental static that can build up when we’re under stress.
Learning, curiosity, and a desire to discover have become essential parts of my life and healing. Sometimes this is called a ‘growth mindset,’ and the daily practice of identifying something I learned from the previous day I gain valuable intelligence about where I want to or need to grow.
Our hypercompetitive society favors competition, wealth, and uninformed critique at the expense of almost everything else. The natural outcome of this is a culture almost entirely lacking in encouragement, validation, or empathy. The world is normally set on catching us doing things wrong, so we must catch ourselves doing things right.
I learned at an early age that I must identify victories for myself, even the seemingly insignificant, and by doing so I am able to quiet the voices that are constantly trying to convince me I am deficient or lacking in some way. Identifying wins for myself has also helped me identify them for others, who like me, are fighting a constant battle with perfectionism and hyper-responsibility.
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