Remember this? Its Saturday morning and you are watching cartoons. Your favorite character is faced with big decision. Magically two miniature images of the protaganist appear on each shoulder: one with features of an angel; the other with features of a devil. They both battle for the intentions of your hero, competing to provide the most convincing narrative to influence his choice. The losing shoulder resident promptly gets flicked off so as not contaminate the star’s thoughts any longer. Sound familiar?
As I am working to create my own optimal health vision, I realized that I needed to work on the negative narratives I battle with on a regular basis. And while I am able to maintain some level of positivity, these thoughts dilute a vivid outlook to a pale hot mess.
I’m not good enough.
I’m too fat.
I’m not smart enough.
I’m never going to win.
Do you have a little devil that feeds you these toxic thoughts too?
My goal is to exorcise this dream stealer from my life. This weekend, I received some brilliant coaching that helped to lay the groundwork to do just that. I am excited because it seems completely plausible AND the process has already generated an A-HA moment for me to take to heart. Here is my action plan:
Keep a gratitude journal
This is the engine that encourages me to focus on the blessings in my life during that week. There is actually a lot of evidence that supports the benefits of documenting things for which you are grateful. In fact, there is also evidence that doing so improves physical health, manages pain and raises energy levels. Also check out the writings of Robert Emmons, the “world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude” at Berkeley.
Now I have never been too great at consistently journalling. However, during a subsequent coaching session I realized that I enjoyed writing more when I had good paper and a beautiful pen and colorful ink. I have learned that pleasure is a key, albeit small, component to building happiness. Being a pen geek was something that I had forgotten about myself when I started focusing on other aspects of my life. At the time, it didn’t seem to add much value. Now it does! So in addition to getting a Moleskine, I am going to find one of my fountain pens to add a bit more joy to writing.
I like to think of the gratitude journal as the “engine of positivity”. The hard part is monitoring progress over time for something so nebulous. My coach suggested what I thought was a brilliant solution: build my own mood tracker.
Visually record my daily outlook
I know there are many different mood tracking apps for smartphones. However, since I am a more visual person, I wanted something that I could glance at and assess my progress over time. So I opted to get a wall calendar that displays each of the days of the year and some colored stickers. At the end of each day, for the next 6 months or so, I will assess how positive I feel about the future on a three point scale (ie. red, yellow and green). Over time, I should see more days when I am boosted by knowing where I am going than days when my outlook is dampened by negative self talk.
There is actually evidence to posit that this type of exercise works. Check out this summary of interventions relating to ways to improve your mood.
“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi