Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Journal Exercises to Boost Your Spirits!!
By Claudia Ricci
This year's Happiness class doesn't start until January 18th, but ideas for the class are starting to roll around in my head like sparkling marbles, in part because students interested in the class keep coming to my office to ask me what it's all about. So here is a preview of some of the journal assignments that I will present to the students. In my mind, doing journal exercises like this is kind of like doing Pilates for the Soul. How often do we specifically attend to the spirit? And yet, our spiritual selves are part and parcel of our physical selves.
I can't decide yet which ones will be mandatory. However, one of them -- the Gratitude List certainly will be.
1) Start a GRATITUDE LIST being very specific about the things in life for which you are grateful: "I am grateful that I have eyes to see the sky. I am grateful that I have teeth to chew my food. I am grateful that I have food." See how long you can make this list. Can you make it a regular practice to write down three or four or five things for which you are grateful?
2) Identity the "small" moments in which you become keenly aware of something that makes you joyful. Be specific: e.g., “I saw a tree this morning covered in ice and the sun hitting it was so pretty, I just stood there in awe.” Turn these into Haiku? Longer poems?
3) Describe specific SENSATIONS associated when you are really paying attention to what you are doing: "I enjoyed the smell of my morning coffee. I enjoyed the way the warm cup felt in my hand. I enjoyed the smell of the night air when I stepped outdoors."
4) The next time you find yourself feeling calm, take a moment and "draw" the feeling associated with it. Find a color for it. A visual. Collect images that make you feel calm.
5) Identify one small thing you can do to help another person.
6) Stop what you are doing and close your eyes. Take one or two cleansing breaths. Then start to breathe naturally and label your breathing in the following way: Take a breath in, then let it go and label it SKY. Take a second breath in, let it go and think WATER. Breathe in a third time, breathe out and label it MOUNTAIN. Label the fourth breath SUN. Then repeat this cycle a few times. Can you work up to ten cycles? Write about what it feels like to label your breathing in this way. Can you find a few minutes to do this every day?
7) Make a list of ways in which you can show others what it means to be happy.
8) Have a conversation about mindfulness with someone, in which you try to explain what it means. Then write about that conversation and what it taught you.
8) Forgive someone for something small. Write about that. Forgive someone for something "bigger." Write about the idea that we should "Forgive everyone, for everything.”
9) The next time you get angry at someone, write about it. Write about why you are angry and how exactly it feels in your body. Be specific. Put the writing away and later come back and write these words at the top of the page: "What will this matter in 100 years?" See if you can “enlighten” yourself as to why that anger is/was there and why being angry doesn't really get you anywhere, except for more angry.
10) Do something nice for yourself and write about how that feels. Then, do something nice for someone else and write about how that feels.
11) Write about whether or not you are impatient. What does it feel like to be impatient? What prompts you to feel impatient?
12) Find a living object (flower? Tree? A baby? ☺) and see if you can stare at it for five whole minutes without stopping. Then write about what that felt like.
13) See if the next time you eat, you can wait one whole minute before you dig in. Later, write about what went on in your head during that minute. What did you notice? Did you feel more gratitude for the food? Did you think about any of the people (farmer, factory worker, trucker, grocery store shelver, grocery store check out person, cook) who had to devote their time to making it possible to have this food?
14) Write a couple of paragraphs about the sky. Then wait a few hours and write about the sky again. Has it changed? How? Write about how you feel about a blue sky. A white sky. Clouds. A sunset. A rainbow. Write about the prettiest sky you've ever seen.
15) TRY LAUGHING. (If you can't find anything to laugh about, watch this video of a baby laughing as his father rips up a rejection letter.) SEE IF YOU CAN LAUGH FOR ONE MINUTE 44 SECONDS, just like this baby did! Then write about laughing and why you think research shows that laughter can help you be physically healthier.