Saturday, March 20, 2021

Journaling to Help Focus on Abilities rather than Disabilities

It's been close to two weeks since I first met with my new therapist. The last blog I wrote was about her insight that I had become too enmeshed with my various disorders/conditions/issues. 

I've been pondering this idea a lot this week. One of the big changes I've made was to revise what I record each day in my journal. 

Over the past year or so I've been producing my own guided journal. At first, I made up a word document and printed it out for the month, writing in it both morning and evening. Some examples of points I recorded each day were:

  • Thoughts about a Daily Meditation...
  • Focus for Today...
  • Today I Feel...
  • One Thing I Really Want to Get Done Today...
  • Excited about Anything? 
  • The Hardest Part of Today...
  • Plans for Tomorrow...

Each month I would decide what worked and what didn't. I would add things I decided I wanted to focus on (like one topic became: One Time I Laughed Out Loud about Anything because I was trying to focus on noticing good things that happened). I would also take out points whose answers never changed day-to-day (e.g. "Excited about Anything?" because I was very depressed at the time and always answered "no").

I also recorded my moods, as I was still learning about how having Bipolar Type 2 affected my life as well as noting whether I had stuck to my food plan (I'm addicted to food) and whether or not I had practiced ASL (a goal of mine is to become a sign language interpreter). 

The problem with that system was that I have very limited storage space, and writing a page each day was quickly adding up. It also took a lot of time to design and print each month's entry pages, hole punch them, and add them to the binder I used. 

I also have a difficult time writing by hand. My handwriting is atrocious and I don't have a good writing surface within my current living situation.

So, I went digital. I did the same kind of idea, except that I do it all on the computer. It's much easier to revise as needed and it only takes a tiny bit of digital memory to keep the days I've already journaled.

At first, my digital journal was the same as the one I produced myself, just not printed out. But I found that because it was easier to make changes, I made many of them. 

I decided to incorporate a to-do list in it and have it be something I fill-out every day when I first sit down at my desk, so it's a combination journal and to-do list. 

But I digress... The point wasn't to describe the journey my journal has taken the past year or so. The point was how my thinking is changing what I focus on each day in my journal - and vice versa.

The latest major change has been to take out if kept my food plan the day before. Even though most of the time the answer was "yes," I'm finding that, for me, a long string of days of adhering to the food plan isn't the point. It's that, if I do mess up, I can start again the next day. 

Taking that bullet point out is a small aspect of this change of focus, but it's important. I can't go back and hyperfocus on the days I did it "right" (which becomes more of a focus on the days I messed up). 

I added in something that I had in my original journal but took it out somewhere along the way - "One Thing I am Grateful for Today." Even if it's something as small as the yummy breakfast I ate or that I got an article finished and submitted to my editor, I write it down. 

Not only do I write it down, but I also copy and paste it to an ongoing list I have at the bottom of the document. The idea is to occasionally look back and see all of the things that I (not someone else) have noted as good things going on in my life. 

I also added "One Good Trait about Myself." As someone who doesn't like or even hates myself, some days those traits are hard to find. But every day that I concentrate on whatever I can find about myself that is good, I think it helps me realize that I'm more than my problems.

This is just one of the steps I'm taking to try to change the focus from my disabilities to my abilities.

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