Writing has been an important part of my life ever since I learned to put pen to paper. As enjoyable as it is, it is often difficult. Even writing that is meant to be relaxing, like keeping a journal. But now, I feel I have finally figured out how to make writing as therapy work for me and help improve my life.
I’ve written in a journal on and off for most of my life. Sometimes this meant every day for weeks at a time, other times I didn’t write for months on end. When I made it something I had to do every day, it got kind of boring and became a very bland recap of my day, lacking substance beyond how I felt that day. When I didn’t write for long periods, I would have an upsetting experience that made me NEED to write, just to get whatever had happened on paper, and more importantly, out of my head, to clear out space so I wouldn’t think myself into a crisis state running the series of events over and over again in my head.
I didn’t find either of these approaches to be very helpful or sustainable additions to my life. Basically, my day to day well being was not positively affected. If anything it had a negative effect. I would beat myself up mentally if I didn’t keep up with the schedule. Or would rail against myself when things got so bad inside my head that “the crazies” took over and I had an outburst from not writing and dealing with my feelings in the first place.
I’ve always recognized the benefits of journaling but had never done it consistently enough to create a habit and improve my life. That’s all changed with my new approach. As part of my deepened interest and understanding in the yogic way of life, I began seeing an Ayurvedic practitioner a few months ago. One of the assignments she gave me was to journal about whatever took away my peace in a day. I started doing this every night as a way to bring closure to the day.
Having that simple prompt helped me to focus my thoughts so I didn’t feel the need to detail everything little thing I did. I just write “what took my peace today was…” and continue on about what it was, how it made me feel and any thoughts about why it took my peace. A lot of the complaints were about traffic, dealing with bad drivers who cut in front without signaling or sit there on their phones when the light turns green. Others were about unpleasant interactions, either with strangers or people I’m close to. Others were about my own performance throughout the day, like if I had a really productive day or didn’t get anything done.
All these notes on what upset me have helped me get to the root of what causes my unhappiness. And more often than not, it’s something I did (or didn’t do) that is the root cause. Hence, these unhappy scenarios are something I am willing into my existence. The realization that I am creating this negativity is empowering because if I can create negativity, then I can create positivity too! It’s all a matter of perception! I can curse at drivers who don’t follow the rules or be ecstatically happy with the ones that do. I can be angry at someone for saying something hurtful or recognize that what they say hurts because I agree with them and see my need for growth in that area. I can also realize that if they are really trying to hurt me, not doing it on accident, then perhaps I hurt them and should take more care in how I treat them. That ancient “treat others the way you want to be treated” adage is right!
Identifying what actions (or inactions) cause me to lose my cool (and my peace) has helped me learn more about myself and what I want out of life. With this new knowledge, I recognize my option to select a different course of action when presented with similar situations that have upset me in the past. My ultimate goal is to learn something new and grow every day. By getting to know my bad feelings better and learn about where they originate from, I have the power to make choices that decrease the chances of me feeling bad. And let me tell you, it feels great!
So give it a try. Complete the sentence, “What took my peace today was…” every day for a week. It can be a list or a paragraph, as detailed as you decide. Spend as much or as little time on this as you like, but at the end of the day is the best time.
Use a notebook if you like writing things out by hand (my preference, I find it more therapeutic), or use a word processing app on your mobile device (Evernote is my favorite) to record what makes you feel bad.
If this practice resonates with you, continue. Set a goal to do this for a few weeks, or a few months. And don’t get down on yourself if you fail, just get up and start again.
It’s all a learning experience, and what subject could possibly be more interesting than you?!