After my article about "6 Ways to Use Your Journal," I received an email with a great question about what to do with what you've written. I'm sure lots of other people are wondering the same thing, so I decided to make this article as Part 2 of the other.
My question is this, what do I do after achieving the awareness of patterns, negative people and situations. I know we should put it into action, change, be better people, but I feel like I fall short in that and get discouraged when I lack progress or have setbacks.
Noticing your personal patterns is like figuring out what you don't want; it's a good start, but it's not a solution in and of itself.
The magic happens when you figure out how you DO want to feel.
There are a couple things you could try depending on what it is that you're working through:
1. Journal about what if would look like if you didn't have that problem or challenge anymore.
Example: Your work-life balance is out of balance. What would your perfect day look like? Literally, get a fresh page and write "Perfect Day" at the top. Even though we both know this isn't possible, later when you read it over you'll be able to figure out ways to get pieces of that perfect vision into your reality.
So... what time will you wake up? How will you feel? What will you do? Will there be music playing? What will you wear? What will you eat? Who would you be with? And so on.
Make it really clear, really detailed and address all five of your senses. When you're finished, spend a few minutes imagining it, let it play out like a movie in your mind and allow yourself to really feel the feelings of it. And then the next time a negative work-life situation comes up, DO NOT compare reality to your perfect vision. Instead, focus on how you want to FEEL and what you can do for yourself to get those feelings RIGHT NOW.
Do you want to feel comfortable? Take off your shoes and put on some great music. Connected? Take a break from work and go talk to a co-worker about something that's not work.
2. Also, one of the first steps to overcoming negative feelings and patterns is naming them.
Feelings don't like having names and that's often enough to make them go away or at least decrease their intensity.
Once you've identified the negatives (I have a tendency to do this thing over and over again even when it doesn't make sense, that person bothers me, etc) keep digging and asking yourself, "What's underneath that?" and then "What's underneath that?" again and again. If you're like me and most other human beings, at the very root of it all is some really nasty message you've been told and have been telling yourself about not being enough (not doing enough, not trying hard enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not strong enough, not whatever enough.)
Once you're down to that core negative belief, then you can reality check it. Ask yourself, "Is this true?" (i.e. Is your interpretation or judgement of the person/situation true? Or is it just an assumption? Can you ever really know if it's absolutely true?) I guarantee you the answer will always be, "No! It's not true." This is a practice and it's takes lots of mental gymnastics to keep it up, but it's so worth it.
For extra bonus points, once you've identified that the negative belief is not true, think of evidence in your life that supports the opposite belief.
Example: Negative situation -- I wish people at work would stop gossiping about me. I do my best every day and it's none of their business anyway. They make me feel so inadequate and slow and stupid.
Name it -- Ooooh. There's that "not enough" thinking again. It's little bit of I'm not good enough + I'm not confident enough + I'm not smart enough.
Reality check it -- Okay, is that true? Are they making me feel that way? Am I really not good enough? Am I not confident?
Answer -- No way! That's not true at all. And, no one can make me feel anything, my feelings are a choice and I can change them.
Evidence of the opposite -- What is true? Well... I'm intelligent and educated, I've used my communication and problem solving skills every day for years at school and at work. I'm confident, I'm smart and I'm capable. In fact, I'm pretty amazing.
3. When you notice icky feelings/patterns/people/triggers coming up, don't shame or distract yourself or try to minimize them (example: I shouldn't feel this way, if I just keep busy doing this thing over here I'll feel important, it's really not that bad, etc.) Feel your feelings and practice self-compassion through self care, grounding exercises, breathing exercises and positive self-talk.
It's impossible to feel judged and undeserving at the same time you're feeling love and gratitude.
And once you're used to feeling that self-love the other stuff will matter less and you'll notice it less. Now it's your turn. Give it a try and let me know how these ideas work out for you!
Christine Marion-Jolicoeur helps busy parents find the joy in everyday moments so they can raise healthy, connected kids. She's an Amazon #1 bestselling author, published in Huffington Post and elephant journal and creator of the Joyful Parenting ecourse. Download fee gifts for parents at ChristineMJ.com/freegift