For the last six and a half months I have been keeping a kind of diary. A gratitude and positivity journal called The 6-Minute Diary. Stay with me, because if, like me, you’ve tried a gratitude journal before and knew it was worthy but found it slightly tedious and pointless, well, this is different. My inspiration for starting it came one evening while I was at an event held by the lovely ladies of Waffle & Co, with wine, waffles and a talk that made us all think by Allison Kelsey from Inspire Yoga. She asked us to think about how much (or more commonly how little) time we spent caring for ourselves, how much time we spend doing exactly what we want to. As it was mostly mothers at the event, you can imagine that the response was, ‘very little’. Allison urged us to take just five minutes a day for ourselves, to use as we chose. The next week I saw The 6-Minute Diary (so I sneaked an extra minute!) and it has been a really worthwhile investment of my precious time.
Mostly it looks like the picture here but it also has weekly questions and tasks that you can do. Questions like “If you had to spend the rest of your life with three people on a deserted island, who would you choose and why?” make you question and think about your life. The tasks concentrate on positivity, being kind to others and being kind to oneself, and the ‘Habit-Tracker’ has really helped me focus on behaviours that I wanted to change. There is also quite a long introduction explaining why this kind of journal can be so beneficial. The book states that research into Positive Psychology has found that “Gratitude is fundamentally important to a person’s well-being”, and the good news is that “Happiness can be learned”. One of the most interesting things for me to learn is that the “brain evolved to learn quickly from bad experiences but slowly from good ones” so that we could activate the fight or flight response and escape for survival if necessary. It means that negativity makes much more of an impact on us, and is the reason we find it hard to get away from unpleasant things we have experienced. Luckily, The 6-Minute Dairy says, “As a counterweight for your negative emotions, you are able to install a new programme by cultivating positive habits… and it take an average of 66 days of daily performance before it is completed and a habit is internalised.” 66 days isn’t bad for a new outlook on life.
This diary focuses on positivity but also finds space for reflection and ways to improve oneself. I have a tendency to negativity at times and I can honestly say that this diary has helped me focus on the many positives in my life. In case you’re wondering, I’m not selling the book! You could incorporate these ideas into your life without much trouble even without the diary – I just find having it all laid out for me so much easier. And anything that makes my life easier is a good thing and something to be grateful for!
THE FUNCTIONAL FAMILY
Now I’d like to talk about the politics… of family. (Steering well clear of any other kind of politics here!) Families can be tricky to navigate and negotiate and never is this more obvious than at weddings and at Christmas time. Maybe you try to go to four different households of relatives between Christmas Eve and New Year because you don’t want to offend anyone; or do you invite that Uncle/Aunt/Cousin who’s a bit difficult and makes everyone feel awkward?; you grit your teeth and try your very best to be nice to the ex whose turn is to have the children on Christmas day; etc. etc. It seems that almost everyone is doing their best to negotiate a dysfunctional family situation, while at the same time trying to create some kind of perfect, magical Christmas experience. As my own mother said the other day, “Christmas is one of the most exhausting inventions”! If you have a tendency to perfectionism (as I do) you can wind yourself up into a knot of anxiety, trying to keep everything under control and ending up ill and exhausted by Christmas Day.
So, let’s decide here and now: not this year! Let’s embrace imperfection: the wonky Christmas tree, the brussels sprouts that were done 10 minutes before the turkey and are getting soggy, the burnt bits on the mince pies, the presents bought from the service station on Christmas Eve, the singing reindeer (?!). More seriously though, let’s try to celebrate the parts of our families and friends that do work, the parts that are ok, the ones that function as well as can be expected. I know, however, there will be people out there who can’t do this right now. Christmas and families can bring up a lot of grief, hurt, sadness, regret, and anger. We remember relationships that no longer work, closeness we have lost, people we no longer see, things we wish were different, and sometimes we can get stuck with these feelings. If that is the case, homeopathy can really help: help you find your balance, to lift you out of the place you are stuck, and if you feel lost, can help you get back to being you. For all of us, let’s embrace those that are here, cherish them and thank them, and not expect miracles of anyone else. Except Santa of course!
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Happy Holidays! Alice