What narratives or stories are running through your mind right now? How do they make you feel? Are they increasing or decreasing your levels of stress and happiness?
Take a long deep breath in and out.
With one simple breath the narrative can be paused. And from this place, journaling can help you process the emotions and get you to a place of clarity.
Whether you answered the questions above in a notebook or by taking a moment to be still and think about your answers, the result is the same. The tools you use are of less importance than the practice itself – reflection. Taking a moment to process and unpack your emotions and thoughts in order to bring clarity to your mind can rewire how you react and manage your thoughts and emotions in times of high stress, anxiety and uncertainty. By pausing the narrative you are able to think rationally and without the risk of tough emotions guiding your thought process. Reflection also enables your cognitive capacity and creates space to reframe the situation by adding perspective.
Prompts to Help Shift Perspective to Be Happier
- What makes me feel secure, confident and happy?
- Which relationships are giving me comfort and love?
- What am I thankful for right now?
- How can I help others?
When it comes to being healthier and happier, it’s important to understand that not all stress and anxiety is bad. But consistent and high levels of stress or anxiety should not be left unmanaged. Thankfully there are immediate ways to regulate and shift difficult emotions. Over time and with a consistent journaling practice, you can develop the self-awareness to see the early warning signs. Once you learn to see (and feel) the signs, you can then break the cycle and avoid tough emotions from taking over. It’s when we can’t see the signs leading up to “the event” that things can feel scary and we can lose control.
A big part of being happier is having the right skills in your mental toolbox. The three steps below will help build your self-awareness so you can identify emotions early on before they derail you. How am I feeling today? Something as simple as this question each day can keep you tuned into your mind and body well in advance of reaching an alarming level of emotion. It’s also a reminder that we get to choose how we want to feel when we start to actively engage with our thoughts and emotions.
Once the emotion or feeling is identified, you can start to unpack it and understand where it is coming from. Remember that emotions are not bad, you are human and they are present to tell you something or give you insight. But take a moment to notice where in your body you are feeling stressed or anxious. Labelling what you are feeling and where you are feeling it, is the first step to release it. It’s okay to feel it. As Jeff Warren, author of Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics, often says in relation to unwanted emotions showing up, “welcome to the party”. Meaning, instead of fearing these emotions, welcome them, ask them why they are here and politely escort them to the door.
The last part of this process is to shift your mind into a happier state. Leaving your mind in a state of gratitude is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself in any situation. Leadership and development expert, Tony Robbins says “you can’t be upset and grateful at the same time”.
Think of what you are grateful for, the things in your life that are going well or what makes you smile each day. Be specific and do not discount anything. For example, my daily gratitude list includes what you would expect like my health and family but also the warmth of my coffee, the electricity in my house and the chair I’m sitting on. When you go granular, it’s easier to see that there is a lot to be thankful for.
Step 1 – Identify the feeling
- How am I feeling today?
- Where in my body am I feeling this emotion?
- What is causing this feeling?
- What is within my control?
- What is one step I can take to release the feeling?
Step 2 – Shift to gratitude
- What is amazing about my life?
- What makes me smile right now?
- What relationships do I appreciate in my life?
Step 3 – Prime your mind
- How do I want to feel?
- How do I want to show up tomorrow?
- How do I want others to feel around me?
Stress and anxiety have a place in our lives. They can be great predictors of larger issues developing in the background. And as you continue to explore the practice of journaling, you will naturally develop more clarity and self-awareness to take action and shift the narrative as you see the early warning signs. When your mind is clear, and when you can see the path in front of you, a whole new world opens up. A world where your mind is now working for you, not against you. A world that wants you to be safe, calm and happy.