tool box

Image courtesy of Gualberto107/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve done gratitude lists and God Boxes to support my recovery, but now I’ve been introduced to a new concept that I think will be most helpful. The new tool is a “Happiness Jar”—-an idea originated by Elizabeth Gilbert ( accessed 1/2/14 at: http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/lets-talk-about-those-happiness-jars). This wonderful yet simple idea basically consists of writing a simple description on a scrap of paper of your happiest moment for the current day along with the day’s date. Then you drop the paper into a container (jar, basket, bucket—-whatever one wants to use). The idea is when you’re feeling down you can pull a slip out at random and re-live a happy memory. The therapeutic value, however, goes further than that. It introduces one to how rewarding it can be to realize each of our days has a moment of happiness in it—–and it starts ingraining an “attitude of gratitude” into our minds and souls.

I like things simple, and I like concrete reminders of where I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing. I started a “happiness record” table  in document form yesterday, but it didn’t have the “magic” hand’s on feel I was looking for. So, I went out today and bought the biggest, cheapest yet moderately attractive jar I could find. Putting the slips of paper for yesterday and today into that jar actually felt like palpable magic. I thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert, wherever you are for introducing me to this tool to keep and use in my “recovery toolbox.”

Then, on the way to my 6th &  7th Step Meeting last night, NPR had a news clip on about how one can write about any issue that is bothering you, past or present, for 15 minutes a day for four days —–just writing and not worrying about logic, grammar, or spelling. The point is to to get what is bothering you out of your mind and on to paper. A bit of magic happens with this, too. Thanks to information NPR shared, I found more specific information  on a University of Texas web page (accessed 1/1/14 at: epage.psy.utexas.edu/HomePage/Faculty/Pennebaker/Home2000/WritingandHealth.html).

James Pennebaker (Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas) has developed this model of journaling and done extensive research about its outcomes.  He says to write for 20 minutes a day for four days. According to yesterday’s NPR  All Things Considered program (Editing Your Life’s Stories Can Create Happier Endings by Lulu Miller, accessed 1/2/14 at: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/01/01/258674011/editing-your-lifes-stories-can-create-happier-endings),  writing about personal issues this way  has the following result “As you write about the troubling, confusing event again and again, eventually you begin to make sense of it. You can put those consuming thoughts to rest.”

And that, my friends, is probably why I blog. However, this suggested writing technique is a private affair lasting a matter of days, and you will not be subjected to it in my blogs. I think I may try it with the issues I discovered last night during that step meeting I mentioned. Our discussion led me to ask myself what is it that is bugging me to the point that I am flirting with depression again?  My Higher Power sent me the answers. As always, my emotional upheaval has to do with not being able to control something and needing to accept life on life’s terms. Specifically, I realized I am afraid of my father’s deteriorating mental status and my own pending full retirement/loss of professional identity  in a few months.  Now I know what I need to write about for myself.

I hope the “happy jar” idea is a helpful one for you.  For those of you who use journaling as a tool of recovery, I hope the writing method discussed on NPR last night is a helpful one too. God bless and keep you.

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