Gratitude Journaling through the years

Dear Fellow Journalers,

Mary Beth shares her Gratitude path  with us…

~Sallie

I’ve been keeping a Gratitude Journal for years. My first one was a composition book covered in wallpaper samples. I was in High School and I remember that my comments were mainly centered on friends, grades, hobbies. Later in college, my habit of writing in the journal waned due to the excitement of new relationships, college courses, experiences. My notes were few and scattered among the many notes on my calendar. I didn’t pick up writing again until I was married and expecting our first child.

My pregnancy journal reminded me of my “Things I am grateful for” journal so I started a new attempt. Over the next few years in between raising our young family, moving, New careers etc. I wrote. Most of my journal notes were written on pocket calendar pages. When I noticed a pattern of my repeating myself “I am grateful for the good weather, TJ’s grades etc.”  I realized that I had to make a change. You see, I wanted to be true to myself and I felt that my writing was forced and oftentimes written just for the sakes of being written.

I began to surround myself with pictures and inspirational music. Solitude was hard to find but the times I did find peace and quiet were the times I was most grateful. Now, repeating phrases (mindfulness practice) , looking at  picturesque landscapes etc. helps me remember who and what I am grateful for. Next time I will share some prompts that worked for me.

Mary Beth

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Self-Care Strategies

Dear Fellow Journalers,

Self-Care journaling is the ultimate self-care activity. It’s something you do for yourself. We’ve been on this journey of self-discovery for a while now (see post on mindfulness) so for those of you who have been journaling and reading this blog, some of what I am about to say will sound familiar.

When we write we tell our stories. We translate experiences to words, feelings to language, senses to thoughts. We have to be honest for this to work. Remember, we can still destroy our journals – wait! Did I just write that?? Our first great step is to breathe. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Create a sanctuary and focus.

 

Be your own best friend. Sometimes we get really down on ourselves. We reach the end of our rope and hang on waiting for someone to notice, pick us up. We cry for help and then realize that help is coming from us. When we’re writing “stream of consciousness” we need to remember to let our thoughts and feelings drift. Don’t second guess yourself. Don’t correct your grammar. Don’t forget to have fun! If your journaling becomes annoying or confusing be good to yourself. Put your pen down and do something to bring joy to your life.

Thinking of you,

~Sallie

Living in the present moment

Dear Fellow Journalers,

What does living in the present moment really mean? Remember when you were in school and the teacher was calling the roll and you had to answer “I’m here?” Is that the same as being ‘in the moment’? Nope, not really.

Everyday and in every way we are present in our life but maybe our minds aren’t really with us. For example, it’s Sunday and you’re in Church and your pastor is speaking and you try to listen but that grocery list of things to do/buy/go  is rattling around in your head and you drift off. Are you present in Church?

Our minds have been programmed to think we always have to have something to do or somewhere to go even if we had planned to relax. We always have to be in control. Some of us, feel that we have to control others too. Have you ever just stopped and let go? You have to give up the unwillingness to let go of control and everything else that you’re hanging on to be in the present moment.

WOW! If you’re like most of us, giving up the idea of control is scary. You think to yourself ‘if I lose control of the situation what will happen?’ Maybe the outcome will be better than what you’ve been working on for so long. In any case, giving up of the actual control and the illusion of control can be life-affirming. Once you start experiencing freedom the world begins to change in front of you. Everyday is a new canvas. Everyday is a new journey.

There are thousands of relaxing techniques. I discussed some of them in my Mindfulness posts.  Here is a quick guided meditation to help you practice living in the present moment:

Sit in a chair that supports your back.

Put both feet on the floor.

Relax you face and neck.

Let your arms rest comfortably in your lap.

Feel your breath going in and out of your body.

Focus on the silence.

Do this for 5 minutes. ( I use a silent timer to do this.)

Now whatever comes into your mind, brush it aside to deal with it later.

Do this for 5 minutes.

Bring your mind back to stillness and open your eyes.

 

Give yourself some time and then, if you wish, write about your experience of your moment in your journal.

‘Til next time,

~Sallie

 

The mystery of mindfulness

Dear Fellow Journalers,

Mindfulness has been described as paying attention, non-judgmentally, moment to moment. We observe our perceptions rather than react to them. Sounds radical, doesn’t it? Sir Francis Bacon said:

“We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in one hand, and melting like a snowflake.”

The practice of mindfulness has been around for a long time. Western thought focus on mindfulness came into being in the 19th century. Then along came Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970’s and when he founded the Center for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Massachusetts, people began to realize that the “theory” wasn’t as far-fetched as “they” thought. Mindfulness is now being taught in corporations, hospitals, schools, organizations and churches.

Can all this actually be done? Yes! It sounds radical (oops, said that already!) but stop and think for a moment – what if you could “see” your experiences with clarity that is untouched by judgement? If you could do that you’d be better able to make decisions based on what actually is, rather than what your fantasy might be.

I just came in from clearing out my car in preparation for its annual weatherization maintenance  at our local repair shop. While picking up stray napkins and directions for restaurants’/shops I had a fleeting thought that I should put directions in an envelope for my glove compartment. But before I started to stress out about what color envelope it should be (to stand out in the compartment), I stopped myself. I could only do one thing at a time. Getting an envelope was step 3 or 4 not now. THAT action, my fellow Journalers, is practicing mindfulness. I was actually in the car not at my desk searching for a colored envelope!

Last week I wrote about stress and all the things we react to in our lives that rob us of our joy. We are multi-tasking ourselves to death. We react to events and emotions. We react to fear and regret. I am sure your parents/teachers/mentors all told you that you couldn’t change your past and you had limited abilities to change your future. Why stress about it?

“Listen to your longing, you are your heart.”  Jon Kabat Zinn

The basic elements of mindfulness are our bodies, our breaths and our minds. In mindfulness they work together to keep us from living life on “auto pilot” to living in the moment. Next time you start stressing about something,  notice if your jaw is tensing, your hands are clenching or if your heart is racing.

Your breath, which we never think about, is essential to life itself. If we become aware of it we will realize that the breath is a bridge to our thoughts and emotions.

People think that mediation (a form of mindfulness) means clearing our minds of thought. But if we practice mindfulness we notice our thoughts and emotions – we don’t get caught up in them. (An action, that always leads to stress!)

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll share my experiences of mindfulness meditation, the various types of meditation, how to enhance your journal and some resources.

“Til next time,

~Sallie

Mindfulness journaling

Dear Fellow Journalers,

In the past, I have tried to write posts a month or so in advance so that if needed  to I could edit and share. This month, due to the nature of the topic, I am writing “in real time”. I went on my annual retreat this past weekend, and our theme this year is focusing on simplicity.

It really hits home with a lot of people. We are all stressed. Stressed about the political arena, things going on in our state’s, our communities, our homes. More and more people have forgotten how to communicate face to face. The internet has taken over our lives. While the search abilities are wonderful, we get stressed when we can’t e-mail or Facebook chat because we are driving! Or working! Or walking!  We have to schedule our computer time, and that makes us stressed! More and more people complain about how they have lost their focus. They want their lives to be happier, less stressful, more impactful. But even thinking about this is stressful.

The answer, I have come to believe, is to become more attuned to our bodies and our minds. Mindfulness is the current “fad”, although it is a practice of living that has been around for a long time. This month, we will delve into what mindfulness is and isn’t, what the different types of mindfulness are, how to incorporate our journals, what books are of value and if you want, your comments about trying to live a less stressful life – your hints etc.

So, put on your seat belt! We are off on an adventure!

~Sallie

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