Monday, 19 September 2016

Positive You Journal - Part 1

Positive You Journal - Part 1

I originally posted this article on a blog I started called A Journal Junky (which I have swapped for the current blog - Journal Gym).  I got side traced and did not finish Parts 2 and 3.  I promise to do so now).  Hope you enjoy this refresher. 

"Mirror, mirror on the wall 
who is the Fairest of them all"
                                                                                         Queen Grimhilde
Queen Grimhilde, better known as Snow Whites Wicked Stepmother or Evil Queen, obviously had some self-esteem issues.  The Evil Queen could not see her own beauty in the mirror, only the face of the Mage (genie). She constantly required confirmation from an external source (the magic mirror) to confirm her beauty. In addition, asking the mirror also required a comparison with every other person in the Kingdom.  Just imagine how the story might have been if Queen Grimhilde was a self confident, self assured individual.  She would have only looked in the mirror to admire her good grooming and confirm that she was indeed well presented.  She would have known  that comparing yourself to others is a 'slippery slope" and of little benefit in building positive relationships with others (leads to envy, jealousy and negativity) and with yourself. She would have know that beauty is most radient when it shines fro within and she would have rejoiced in Snow Whites maturing into a lovely young woman. But alas, it was notto be.

Note: Admittedly the Evil Queen had a few other serious issues beside low self esteem but bear with me for awhile longer please.I am getting to the point soon. It's just my story teller side getting the better of me here.

So the big QUESTION - Do you have the Queen Grimhilde complex? - Low self-esteem. Are you constantly comparing yourself with the media's air brushed/photo shopped images? 

Embrace, a film which explores the body image issues and it's impact on women.  I would highly recommend it - very thought provoking.
I recently wrote  a post about the importance of a having a positive self -concept to being fulfilled and successful. In that post I did not examine or disuses how to combat negative self-esteem but focused  on what actions an individual might take to "pump up" or boost their self-esteem.  Another path that I'd like to explore today is the idea of promoting a balanced evaluation of yourself.  This means noticing and acknowledging our positive attributes and behaving like a confident self assured individual..

So to get a starting point, I'd like to encourage you to jot down a few of your positive qualities in your journal, and then read on. Some of the ones I have listed are: a good friend, able to see someones alternative view point, prepared to share possessions and a good sense of humour.

How easy was that for you?  Some of you may have really struggled to bring something to mind while others may have already written a full page. If you struggled, then perhaps you have a tendency to only pay attention to negative things that confirm a negative view of yourself or you rarely pay attention to the positive things you say or do or the positive comments you receive from others. While doing this activity did you feel anxiety, shame, uneasiness, sadness, fear? Did you think "What could I possibly write?""I have noting worth writing down". Other people might have less trouble recalling positive things about themselves but felt uncomfortable thinking or writing about them because they consider it as being conceited, arrogant or stuck up to think about such things. Do  any of these sound familiar to you?

A positive self concept and respect are important for a healthy and happy relationship, not only with others but also with yourself.  "If you have low self-esteem, true respect for another is difficult to manage because you are always going to making an inner comparison between yourself an another person - possibly with a twinge of envy. You might even find yourself reacting against the positive qualities your partner shows by belittling them in some way - either openly or just in your own mind", says Mary Jaksch, a relationship counsellor and author of ALL About Love.  She suggests that a  healthy sense of self worth provides you with a clearer perspective of your own and others views and behaviour.

Positive Qualities Journal?
If you struggled with the above activity or just want to improve your self esteem then I suggest keeping a Positive You Journal where you record all your  positive qualities. You can then use this Journal as a safety net and refer to this list when you feel yourself sliding into a negative mindset.

I suggest you purchase a Journal (or make one for yourself - I"ll be posting a blog on this shortly) purely for recording your positive qualities.  The Journal  will be a safe place for you to think about and then list all the positive aspects of yourself - all your good characteristics, strengths, talents and achievements.

This is the first of 3 posts on this topic and I hope you will join me on a journey of discovery - Positively Positive Me.

Write a list of your Positive Qualities.

  1. To help you make a list of your positive qualities I have included the following Journal prompts:

    • What do I like about who I am?
    • What characteristics do I have that are positive?
    • What are some of my achievements - things I am proud of doing?
    • What are some of the challenges I have overcome?
    • What are some of the skills or talents that I  have?
    • What do others say they like abut me?
    • What are some attributes I like  in others that I also have in common with them
    • How might someone who cares about me describe me?
Remember to include everything. Don't judge that it is too small, insignificant, modest or unimportant.

 3.After you have added everything your list might look like mine or completely different. Remember we are all individuals with different positive qualities. I am adding mine just as an example.

considerate       good listener     helpful      reliable      good humured            fun        health conscious         animal lover      resourceful        adventurous               lovable       a good friend      avid reader       politically conscious    charitable    creative    artistic   active    outdoors person  strong willed  friendly                  responsible  determined      organised           appreciative               goal orientated       dedicated parent

4. For each positive quality you have written recall a specific example that illustrates that quality. Try to list as many as possible.  This way you will make each attribute you have written not just meaningless words on a page. Instead each attribute will become real, specific and a detailed memory of something that actually happened.

So for example:

  •   I sent my friend a get well card when she was sick good friend  
  •  When my friend was feeling upset and needed someone to talk to, I made time to take her                              for coffee (even though it was inconvenient for me).
  •  Baby sat my friends child when she needed to go away for work.

5. Up to now we have spent some time recalling past examples of positive qualities/behaviours/actions.  It is now time to turn to the present and acknowledge and recognise these attributes on a daily basis.  This will be an ongoing activity that will help you build a picture of who you are in the NOW.  For each day, set out to record three examples from your day that illustrate some of your positive qualities. Record exactly what you did and identify the attribute. Here is an example:

Day/Date        Things I Did                   Positive Attribute
Thursday         Played with the kids       Fun to be with
05/10/2016     Coffee with a friend       Good Friend
                       Went for a walk             Active/Outdoor

Start by noticing 1-actions per day, but try to build up form there, increasing it to 4,5 or 6. If you hear your 'gremlin" (that is, your negative self-belief) whispering critical remarks into your ear, flick this destructive creature off your shoulder). Review your list and say to the Gremlin - "so there".

6. Bonus Activity - Note down the moments when your partner's qualities shine through and remember that their character traits and skills are your treasures also.  Keep a record every time you see these qualities working  on your behalf. Congratulate your partner for every display of good quality: Make them aware of your appreciation. After reading "the Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman I have been giving my husband a Love note once a week to thank him for a courtesy he has shown me.  Showing my appreciation has helped me realise how much I have taken him for granted over the years.  If You try this activity I'd love to hear what impact if any it has on you or your relationship. 

I suggest that you set aside a special time to commit to the tasks in this post. Don't do them on the run, or while you are doing other things. Give it the due attention and time it deserves.  Journaling has a way of bring issues previously buried to the forefront of our minds and can be quite challenging to deal with on our own.  If any of the activities bring up issues for you please seek professional help.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Flexing the Creative Muscle

It has long been known that the brain is divided into two hemispheres, with each half specializing in certain functions.  Research suggests that the left hemisphere of the brain is the rational centre where all the heavy duty learning and thinking takes place – you know, mathematical processing and organizational skills etc.  This side of the brain is given a full workout once we hit the school system. As a matter of fact, the education system and society in general, actively rewards and promotes left brain thinkers. Career advancement and monetary exchange for labour favours professions that rely heavily on verbal and mathematical processing skills. Careers, for example, in business, banking, engineering, law and medicine.

The right hemisphere of the brain contains the centre that governs intuitive knowing, visual perception, emotional expressions and non- verbal functions such as holistic thinking, visual imagery, emotional expressiveness and poetic thought. In other words, it is the creative centre of the brain.  Pre-school age children are adept right brain thinkers. They naturally tap into their creativity. They have no hesitation in fully engaging with finger paints, play dough and all manner of art materials.  They are naturally curious about anything and everything. They have not yet been programmed to ignore their intuition or question the validity of their creativity. They don’t complain they have no talent or artistic ability. They don’t judge or compare their completed masterpiece with a critical eye.  They just beam with satisfaction, joy and wonder.  Inventors and explorers.

Which side of the brain do you favour in your day to day life?

Don’t stress that your creative self has been diminished by continuous suppression. While your creative muscle may have atrophied through lack of use there is hope. Your brain is a wondrous thing and capable of change and growth. With the right exercises, just like any other part of the body, it can become healthy and strong again. The wonderful thing about creative journaling is that it accesses both sides of the brain and puts them together to work collaboratively. The right brain intuitive, visual, and emotional process takes the lead in creative journaling and then encourages the left- brain to reflect and analyse through writing activities. So Creative Journaling is a holistic approach to brain training.

What is 'creative Journaling'?
It is:

  • collection of practices intended to enhance the abilities of creativity and awareness in the practitioner.
  •  practices have been drawn from the written, visual and performing arts as well as Zen, scientific and engineering sources
  • It is an approach based on traditional journaling practices but one which has been expanded to encompass all available media.
  • journal entries are diverse and are not simply recordings of details about an event but include reflection on internal responses and reactions to the outside world, perceptions and beliefs etc 
  • Review of past entries provides insights into self and your place in the world. It is also a rich source of material for further creativity – either biographical or fiction pieces 
  • Materials used can range from drawings, maps, cloud diagrams, physical objects, photos and any flotsam or jetsam that serves its purpose, even text – and whatever comes to hand.
As with any new exercise program, it is best if you start slowly and build yourself up gradually.  A routine is important, as is a commitment for the long term. 

Here is a simple exercise you can do anywhere, anytime over the next week to help you flex that right brain muscle. It is a bit like a warm up before you start – not really a stretch (forgive the pun).

Set aside 5 minutes - (could be before work, during morning tea, on the bus/train to or from work or in the bath after you get home.  Put on some headphones if you are in a crowed space and listen to your favourite playlist. This will help you block out the external world for a while. Take our your notebook/ Journal and  pen/pencil and write for 5 -1 0 minutes.  If you need to some help getting started you might like to try the following journal prompts:  

  • Sights and Sounds of today
  • Flavours that tickled my taste buds today
  • Aromas  - challenge yourself to think of a new adjective to describe a familiar smell)
  •  Tactile sensations
  • Emotional responses
  • Physical Activity
If you're just starting out I'd love to hear how you found your first week and if your a seasoned journaler please share some of the prompts you hove found useful over the years.

Thanks for joining me - have a great week.