Monday, February 22, 2010


I woke up this morning with that all-too-familiar Monday morning angst. I'm not worried about my week, but my gut was in a panic. Before I even got out of bed, I was making to-do lists in my head: editing, writing, speaking, blogging, AHHH! Then my brain attacked me with a long list of should-have-dones and if onlys: I should have started on the editing this weekend, I should have written my presentation, if only I didn't have jury duty next week. Finally, the worry hit: would I be able to do it all? Out with the gratitude and in with the bad attitude.

Day six of the great write2transform journaling challenge, and I am anxious? This isn't how it's supposed to be! I'm supposed to be feeling happy and well. And the thing is: I do. Well, mostly I do—except for that little bout of Monday morning angst.

Maybe my angst came from anticipating the next journaling exercise: write2overcome. Much of the research on journaling has examined how journaling about difficult past events can make us healthier. I spent some time this weekend reviewing the studies and jotting down ideas for journaling about the past. But the idea of starting out Monday morning by revisiting the icky parts of my life? Well, no thanks.

So we'll get to the past later. This morning I saw a report that positive emotions protect against heart disease. We know that positive emotions can also increase our resilience, helping us to rebound from difficult experiences. In her book, Positivity, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson suggests we aim for a 3-to-1 ratio—three positive emotions for every one negative emotion. 

Let's try that with journaling. For today and the next few days, the assignment is simple: write2deight. I envision a few different ways to do this exercise in your journal. As you think of others, please make a note of them in the comments section below. We can learn from each other's experiences. 

1. Collecting Joy. Throughout the day, collect images and encounters that bring you joy. When it's time to journal, write them down in as much detail as possible! None of these encounters have to be Hollywood moments. They can be tiny moments that delight you—seeing a robin, waving at a baby, or talking to a good friend. 

2. Recalling Delight. What delights you? What activities do you really enjoy doing? Dr. Robin Smith suggests creating a 'What I Enjoy' List. She says, 
"This list should include everything that brings you pleasure and passion in life. If you aren't sure what brings you joy right now, think back to what used to bring you joy. This may require some exploration, but what did you do when you were a little kid that brought a smile on your face? Did you used to go horseback riding? Walk outside in a garden? Whatever it may be, write it down. This list doesn't mean that you have to do them every day. It's just to make you aware that there are things in the world that do make you feel alive. If you are able to do something you enjoy at least once a week, do it and help yourself feel alive in that moment."

3. Picturing Happiness. When you cannot find one thing in your day that brings a smile, dig out a magazine. Page through it until you see a photo that makes you smile. Cut it out, paste it in your journal, and write a few sentences about why it brings you joy. 

Wow. I feel happier already, just imagining doing these exercises. Go forth, brave friends, and write2delight. Then stop back and let me know how it goes!

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