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Published on May 6, 2019

How to Stop Living in Fear and Start Stepping out of Your Comfort Zone

How to Stop Living in Fear and Start Stepping out of Your Comfort Zone

I think I may know why we are so obsessed with super heroes – good versus evil.

Good overcoming no matter what — no matter how big, scary or evil the arch enemy.

It’s because it symbolizes how we wish it could be in the real world.

Imagine it…your life is now a movie…

You have music in the background because you are off to work/college/meet friends and your life is pretty normal (all appears well) then on screen, we get a few scenes where your life looks great.

You water your plants (or shrug at your ability to kill anything green), walk the dog, feed the fish, kick back with a good book or hugging a loved one on the sofa with a bucket of popcorn, then all hell breaks loose…

Within 20 minutes, if your life were a film you are feeling, like nothing could ever be the same again and that no one understands what you are going through.

Fear is not the word that springs to mind. It’s more likely to be:

  • Why me?
  • Life will never be good again.
  • I can’t fight this.
  • I don’t know where to start.
  • This is too big.
  • I can’t do this alone.
  • My life is over.
  • We are all doomed!

If your life were a movie, then it’s all fine (you really don’t need to worry) because at this stage in your film life, when life is so all consumingly going in the wrong way with no way out and death is likely imminent, along comes:

  • A scientist who can’t necessarily get you back to “Normal” but can make you a nifty suit and help you become a super hero that everyone loves; after some quirky, funny and lesson learning scenes where you get a few things wrong but learn tons.
  • A rich tycoon who already has a team of super heroes they secretly work with, can see true potential in you (after the “you’re rough around the edges kid” scene) they introduce you to the other superheroes and you learn that it doesn’t matter what you are like; you will find a network of people that will love respect, trust and help you.
  • An evil so big that everything you’ve ever believed in as at risk of the worst case scenario, therefore no matter how petrified you are, you somehow find a way to save the world (and your pot plant, dog and/or loved one).

Okay back to reality.

Alas there are not many super heroes’ around (if you know otherwise – I can keep a secret), however I think we feel more than ever we need to feel that there is a solution.

Life is fun exciting, challenging (in a good way) fast paced, energized and a ton of other awesome things – but it’s also overwhelming, scary and sometimes feels like you are fighting a super villain and you don’t have the super hero kit to get through it.

I’ve never had a client ask me to help them make them a super hero, however I’ve had plenty ask me to help them feel more in control of their life – and I think that is something we all desire to some degree.

Control of our lives can be eradicated when we feel frightened, un-powerful and like we are trapped in our lives. And often the first sign that we actively recognize is a comfort zone or stress.

But if you think back to our super heroes, no matter how trapped they are, they always find a way out. A solution that no one ever thought could work and that’s often what coaching is about – coming to a problem and looking at it in a unique way that enables you to find solutions to fight fear and get out of your comfort zones. And you won’t need a scientist, a rich tycoon or a devastating intergalactically incident to find those solutions.

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I want to share with you some of the winning techniques I’ve used with my clients to help you too.

1. Rethink the Question “Am I Weird?”

I’ve had so many clients ask me this question, I think I should call my next book “Am I weird”!

Everyone thinks that the way they are responding, acting, feeling and thinking is unique; that they are the only person to feel like they can’t face work or their friends or their day because of a fear or a comfort zone.

We all have times like this and it’s important to remember 2 things:

There is no such thing as normal in my book

Everyone is just who they are. It doesn’t need analyzing, or questioning if you like who you are. Or if who you are serves you well, respects those around you. And if giving you the life, career and happiness you want, then no, it’s not weird. And it’s all good.

The issue becomes when you find yourself trying to compare your weirdness (or lack thereof) to everyone else and how that then impacts on you.

Weird is good

Check out the best characters in film, book or TV, and you are likely to see that someone else has tried to insult them with the term “weird”.

Weird is used when you want to suggest that someone or something is different. Different is not bad, the hard bit is finding the confidence to be who you are – to embrace your differences and your weirdness.

A little useful side note – according to the Oxford English Dictionary:[1]

“ Weird – The adjective (late Middle English) originally meant ‘having the power to control destiny’”

And who wouldn’t want that?

Truly, hear me when I say – embrace your weird.

2. Listen up

Just as the newly discovered super hero struggles to accept their super skills, limitations or fears, so do you have to do the same. And if you strip back any successful story (fictional or real), you will discover it’s not a magic potion or a superior race that enables the hero to achieve success, it starts with who they listen to.

How many times in your life have you heard yourself saying:

Why didn’t I listen to my gut instinct?

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Why didn’t I listen to my Mum/Aunt/Friend/Boss?

Just as being weird in its original meaning meant to be able to control destiny until you can actually do that, you do need to learn who to listen and when to listen.

Here’s how to take action on this:

Listen to yourself (sometimes)

I was working with a client who told me that they could never upset the way things worked in their company. They couldn’t tell their boss they felt there was a better way! This meant that they felt trapped in their career, incapable of achieving more and like they weren’t meeting their true potential.

Enter frustration, anger, stress, work hatred and a sense of being trapped – if only they could get out of their comfort zone and tell their boss what they thought!

Learning to trust what they knew meant that they could rationalize and justify their thoughts and reasoning and work out what to do (if anything.)

We worked together to understand why they wanted to say something:

  • Was there envy at the boss’s job or was this genuine belief that they knew a better way?
  • Could they prove what they felt was possible and the benefits to those involved?
  • Did they have ulterior motives that weren’t positive?
  • What would be the best way to move forward and why would it work best for them?

If you need to learn to listen to yourself, start by asking questions (not looking for solutions) and you will start to ask some really smart questions that help you analyse your feelings, actions, etc without guilt, stress and other negative emotions getting in the way.

This process also allows you to find answers personalized to you. In my experience, so often it’s the silly little ideas that have the most power. Okay so Dumbo is not considered a super hero – but think back to Dumbo and his magic feather that enabled him to fly, was there any magic?

Nope, but there was a belief that the magic existed – this process helps you do that.

This process also enables you to know when your own thoughts are doing their best to keep you trapped. You can become your own Kryptonite telling yourself the most awful things (that are usually not even true!) So be cautious of what you say to yourself and the questioning will help you to become more aware of this.

Choose your network wisely

We’ve all trusted someone and later questioned “How could I have let that person have had an impact on my life, thoughts and actions?”

Back to weird being a good thing, right?

But the fact is the people you choose to spend your time with can in their selves become a powerful tool to getting out of your comfort zone – but could also trap you there!

So look out for the heroes in your life, that say things like:

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  • “What’s your thoughts on that? Do you think it’s a good idea?”
  • “Where did your desire to do this come from?”
  • “Do you really want that or are you hiding something from yourself?
  • “Hang on a minute, you can do this, remember the time you did xxxx”

People that can supply you with evidence of your brilliance and who reinforce the positive and your goals, but also challenge your beliefs, thoughts and actions are like gold dust (or super hero serum.)

They will enable you to be able to take a step back and really understand why your comfort zones are controlling your life. They are there to celebrate your wins, appreciate your frustrations when it doesn’t go to plan and give you the faith and confidence to keep going – don’t think you can do it all on your own.

Everyone, even super heroes get an element of confidence from their network. It’s not all internal!

And look out for the super villains who say:

  • “Are you sure you want to do that?”
  • “That sounds like a lot of work, are you up to that?”
  • “Why would you want to do that, I thought you loved your life/work/partner/house plant.”
  • “You should tell them what you really think.”

People that make comments like these aren’t looking at it from your point of view, or with your ultimate wants and needs at the heart of their responses. They are seeing it from their perspective of life and their own limitations on what they feel can be achieved; and this influences the way they respond.

Yes, there are a few social vampires out there that will try and ruin your belief in anything better but, most super villains are far subtler than that.

3. Go Deeper

In life, we often get an inkling of what needs to change or feel like something is not right. If you dig deeper, you usually find it’s not the first thoughts that were the issue.

When I work with clients, the “Go deeper” exercise always (and I genuinely mean always!) produces the big Eureka moments. It’s almost as if they are hearing their own voice for the first time.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Firstly start with a thought (any thought related to why you feel like there is a comfort zone or a fear) and write it down.
  2. Now write below it the answer to this question: “And that means?”
  3. Now below that ask yourself: “What does that mean?”
  4. Keep going asking further questions like:
    • “So how does that affect me?”
    • “What does that mean to me?”
    • “Is that really what I think?”
    • “If this is the case what does that mean I must believe?
    • Does that serve me well?”
    • What does that mean?”

This process enables you to really explore what’s going on in your brain and can be used in so many elements in your life.

4. Be Your Own Coach

I’ve worked with coaches and mentors for many years and I don’t think I could be without one to challenge me in the ways I’ve share with you.

After years of challenging questions and realities, creating goals and getting great results, I know to a degree I can coach myself. As one coach told me “Mandie, you don’t need anyone to kick your butt – you do it for yourself” That was a good session.

So sometimes, it’s enough to coach yourself. By taking on the role of your own coach, just give yourself a little time once a month where you actually challenge what you think.

Here’s a few ideas to help make that a powerful moment:

Free write

Don’t think about what you write, just let the pen go to the paper and write anything – in the random thinking there is often the right questions and thoughts to follow – if you create the space to do it.

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If you crave order and structure, don’t free flow.

If you love art, then draw. If you hate numbers and lists, steer clear of them. You want to create a new way of thinking that is natural to you, not what you read in a book or heard in the office as “a good idea.”

Learn to explore your natural style. Ask yourself: When set a task, how do I love to work, think, explore, learn and act? This will guide you to the best approach to coaching yourself.

Create your own discipline

Do you need to diary time to be your own coach or is it enough to know that you want to do this and get results? Just like finding your natural style, you need to learn how you will create your own definition of discipline.

Get this wrong and you’re highly unlikely to be taking action in 3 months’ time!

Tell someone

I’ve seen some awesome planners laid out in many colours with lots of tabs and tons of ideas. But as that new client realized, great ideas are little use without action.

The first step to the action is to actually tell someone you are going to do it. Do you need to declare your goal online? Phone a friend or just stick a picture on your kitchen wall?

You will learn what makes you take action, which leads to our last idea…

5. Know When to Start And Stop

Knowing what to do and actually taking action and knowing when to stop and when to go for it are 2 very important skills.

If you take action on what we talked about today, you will not only challenge yourself, but also challenge those that can manipulate and mould you.

You will learn to trust and have faith. Llittle by little (not always – some clients see massive levels of change after just a couple of hours), you will step out of your comfort zone. As I described it to one client years ago:

“Some people like to slowly step out of their comfort zones and others like to leap so far out that they can’t see it any more. Learn to know which you are.”

Neither is wrong, neither is right. Some people like big challenges, big goals and big actions; others like no one to know what they aim to challenge but quietly work through their action plan to achieve it.

The true super hero in any film learns to know what works for them, accept it, love and go for it. And they don’t need a scientist, a tycoon or super villains either.

Featured photo credit: Ludomił via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Oxford English Dictionary: Weird

More by this author

Mandie Holgate

Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

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Last Updated on January 13, 2020

How to Use the 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness

How to Use the 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness

I was 10 and it was a white Lisa Frank journal with a red bubble gum dispenser on the front. It also came with a heart-shaped lock and key which was a must considering I had an older brother living under the same roof who was always looking for new and inventive ways to humiliate me.

That one little journal (okay…I called it a diary back then) unlocked a world of potential to me which quite literally became my saving grace, my happy place, for the rest of my life.

Over the years, the aesthetics of my journal evolved, as did my writing subjects and style thankfully. But the one thing that’s been constant is that, no matter how sad I am or how bad things have seemed before I started writing, somehow the world and my place in it always becomes clearer and less noisy after just 5 minutes of “writing it out.”

In this article, we will take a look at how investing a few minutes a day in the 5 minute journal can lead you to happiness.

The Benefits of the 5 Minute Journal

For most of my life, I never really knew or cared why writing for even 5 minutes made me happier, I just knew it worked.

If I was feeling lost or unhappy, I’d eventually realize I hadn’t written in a while (duh!). So I’d meet myself back at the blank page and word by word, start feeling more like me again.

To be completely honest, I did (and still do) this forgetting-to-journal dance way more often than I’d like to admit. For the life of me, I don’t know why I don’t keep doing the thing I know makes me happy every day instead of waiting until I’m unhappy to do the thing. Can you relate?

I’m pretty certain it’s not just a me thing: it’s a human thing. We know we’ll be happier if we eat better, exercise, disconnect from technology, get more sleep, etc. but often times, it takes us feeling unhappy in order to put in the effort to be more happy.

A couple of months ago, I found myself in that place:

I’d hit a wall of resistance around my business and a downturn in my health that caused me to doubt what I was capable of accomplishing. I was completely confused and indecisive about the direction of my business and where I should be focusing my limited energy, so I hired a coach to help me sort through my noisy brain.

As I laid out all of my decisions and endless to-do lists in front of her, she asked me an important question:

What’s one thing you can start doing everyday that will have a positive impact on all of these things?

In other words: What if instead of having to worry about ALL THE THINGS to be happier, you could just do ONE thing and everything else would get better too?

I could start every day with a few minutes in my journal.

It’s both hilarious and embarrassing that as a coach and a writer (and a coach who works with writers), that I hadn’t thought of this myself. Alas, as the saying goes, doctors are the worst patients.

Of course, the answer was writing in my journal! Isn’t the answer almost always the most obvious thing?

But sometimes, the answer is so obvious, so simple, so free and convenient that we convince ourselves that it can’t possibly do that much to improve our situation. Somehow in the busy-ness of life, I’d convinced myself I just couldn’t spare that time to do something so…(cringe) arbitrary.

Yet, as I thought about my coach’s question and the ONE THING that could positively affect all the things, I realized that journaling for me has always been so much more than a random outlet for exploring my feelings.

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Sure, nothing actually happened but me sitting on my bed in my pajamas writing. Over the years, from breakups to big moves, my most life-changing moments–like my decision to pursue writing as a career, to uproot my entire life and move cross country, and my finally feeling ready to become a mother–happened in the quiet moments between me and the pages of my journals.

How to Be Happy with the 5 Minute Journal

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about writing this article. I asked her how often she journals and if she thought it made her happier.

In general, she said, yes, journaling does seem to help her get things off her chest but she doesn’t always feel better afterward. And, in fact, sometimes if she’s already in a negative place, she can spiral even worse while journaling and go to an even darker place.

She told me that usually with time and perspective, she can see that just the act of writing and getting out of her head is therapeutic but, suggested that for people like her, prompts to help her not spiral into the negative abyss would be super helpful.

And so, in order to make sure you get the most out of your 5 minute journal, I’ve broken up each writing prompt based on how you’re feeling so you can let your emotions guide the best prompt for you that day to increase your happiness meter.

1. When you’re burnt out, talk to your inner hero (a.k.a the “real” you).

What’s the one thing everyone tells you about maintaining happy, healthy relationships?

You’ve gotta have great communication!

But what about your relationship with yourself? How do you connect with you? How do you continue being the hero in your story?

The same way that you have to make the time to connect with the people in your life who mean the most to you, you also have to make the time for you to hear your voice:

To remember what YOU sound like amidst all of the noise in the world. To listen to your inner hero.

For me, the only way I know how to do this, the only way I’ve ever known how to do this, is through journaling.

Our brains can go down negative spirals, especially when we’re tired and stressed.

In my last Lifehack article about finding motivation, I walk you through some questions you can ask yourself about whether you’re playing the role of victim or hero of your story. Definitely check it out if you’re really on the brink, or in the midst, of some serious burn out.

Essentially, if you’re burnt out, you’ve somehow let your circumstances take control of your life. In other words, you’ve started to act like the victim instead of the hero.

Luckily, just 5 minutes in your journal can help you find your inner hero (your true voice) and reclaim your right to live your happiest life.

Write down these questions in your journal and answer them one at a time–permission to be 100% honest granted:

  • What do I believe is the #1 reason I’m feeling burnt out?
  • Who or what did I blame in my last answer?
  • Taking 100% responsibility for my own life and decisions, and casting blame on no one (including myself), how can I improve this situation?
  • What decisions am I currently making to stay in these circumstances (how am I choosing them)?
  • What new decisions can I start making to get closer to where I want to be?
  • What do I need to let go of in order to get my energy back? What do I need to say “no” to?

When you start to own your role of hero, you start to realize how your current choices and limiting beliefs may be holding you back from living the happiest version of your life.

The great news is once you realize your past choices have brought you to your current circumstances, you also realize that you can make different choices to bring you to a happier place.

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2. When you’re doubting yourself, write off the gremlins.

Whenever I’m feeling down on myself, it usually has less to do with what’s happening on the outside, and more to do of what’s happening between my ears. In other words, how “I’m” talking to myself.

We all have little shame gremlins (I call mine “Mean Girls”) who live inside of our heads and tell us we’re dumb and ugly and worthless. The only way to combat those noisy buggers is to expose them for the liars they are.

Writing down these lies makes them powerless. Once they’re out of your head and on paper, you realize how ridiculous they truly are (even though they were completely owning you just moments before).

I like to write out all the nasties and put them in their place (which is on the page and out of my head, pronto). Then I can go back to living my happy truth.

Here are some powerful questions to ask your inner gremlins (perhaps better known as you being a real jerk to yourself). Write down each question and answer them in your journal.

Ask your gremlins:

  • What are you saying about me? (Don’t hold back. Really write down all of the terrible thoughts you’re having about yourself)

Then ask:

  • Is anything true about each of the things I just wrote?
  • Repeat this same exercise for each of the nasty things your gremlins are saying about you and expose them in their lies once and for all.

When you’re done, answer these powerful questions:

  • Knowing what I know now, what’s one thing I can do to improve each of these areas of my life?
  • Knowing that the voices of the gremlins are strong, what are 3 new beliefs or positive affirmations I can say daily about myself to drown out their negativity?

For example, let’s use a fictional character of a guy named Sam. Sam’s gremlins are telling him “you’re a lousy parent, a terrible spouse, and mediocre at work.”

If Sam asks himself, “Am I really a lousy parent?” Maybe his answer is “No, I love my kids and I’m doing the best I can. I just wish I could be more attentive when I’m with them instead of so distracted by work.”

So maybe Sam decides to not bring his work computer home with him anymore and really unplug once he leaves the office so he can give his kids his full attention.

Sam decides that his new daily affirmation is: “I’m a loving father and am fully present for my kids. I save the best of me for my family.”

Imagine how much better you’ll feel when you start to take back control over your self talk and program in the messages that empower you and get you closer to the person you strive to be.

3. When you’re indecisive or afraid, talk to your fear.

Those same shame gremlins or mean girls inside of our heads feed off of fear. It’s like a good piece of gossip they can’t help but spread and exaggerate.

Luckily, when we write out how we’re feeling and what negative thoughts are spiraling, we can generally recognize when it’s actually just our fears talking.

You’re probably wondering how to tell if it’s fear talking or your intuition, right? This is where exploring your feelings comes into play.

Are you feeling powerless? Are you feeling anxious or sad? Everyone’s response to fear is different but it’s never a positive feeling.

If you’re at peace and calm but feel nudged that something isn’t right, that’s most-likely your intuition talking. But if you’re in a glass cage of negative emotions, you can bet fear is the culprit.

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Don’t hate on fear too much though. Our fears are just trying to protect us from something–the rub is they also usually keep us from something even better in the process.

I like to use journaling as a way to have a little talk with my fear, understand where it’s coming from and then decide if it’s worth listening to.

Here’s your journaling prompt for hashing it out with your fear:

Again, write down these questions in your journal one at a time and answer each one:

Ask your fear:

  • What are you trying to protect me from?

Once you answer that, ask:

  • What are you preventing me from having if I listen to you?

If the thing you really want is on the other side of your fear, then you know what you have to do next (luckily journals are a great place to make to-do lists as well)!

My last and favorite questions to ask fear is:

  • What’s the absolute worst-case scenario?

For example, let’s say you’re terrified of breaking ties with a client who is making your professional life miserable. You may answer this question with something like “My client blacklists me and smears ugly rumors about me all around town and not only do I lose one client but my entire business goes down.”

Eeesh. That does sound scary. Now ask yourself:

  • What are some steps I can take to ensure the worst case scenario doesn’t happen?

And then:

  • How likely is it that the worst-case scenario will actually happen (especially if I use the plan above)?

Maybe, when you think about it, the client is actually preventing you from bringing in new business because they’re taking up so much of your time.

And maybe that client doesn’t even have the best reputation so the chances of them being able to bring you down are pretty small.

What if you spent one hour a week for the next 3 weeks working on bringing in new business to replace the the income you make from that client, and figure out a way to end the contract in a very respectful, classy way to hopefully make the odds of them making a stink minimal?

Now you have a plan! But there’s one more question to ask yourself:

  • If the worst case scenario happened, what would you do?

Maybe you realize that if you really needed to, you could always go back to your previous job; they loved you and beg you to all the time. Or you could get by for a couple of months until you were able to bring in some more clients, especially if you cut back on expenses.

Once you stare your fear in the face, it magically loses its power. Left inside of your head, it can destroy you; but taking a few minutes to look at it and use it as a friend who’s showing you where you may need to implement a plan in order to protect yourself, you can take back the reins of your happiness and realize that fear really isn’t all that scary at all.

At this point, it needs to be said that journaling isn’t only good for getting out the nasty feelings, it’s also super useful for recording the good stuff of life which leads me to the fourth writing prompt.

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4. When you’re in a funk, focus on gratitude.

Just about any happiness book or article you read will tell you that being in a state of gratitude dramatically increases your happiness. For me, having a place to get down to the truth of my life and what’s actually going really well and what I’m grateful for helps put everything into perspective, especially when I’ve got a case of the blues.

Here are some of my favorite gratitude prompts to help get me out of a funk and focusing on the sunnier side of life.

Write down these questions in your journal one at a time and answer each one:

  • What is something good that happened today?
  • What made me laugh or smile today?
  • Who am I grateful for today?
  • What am I grateful for today?
  • With my “gratitude glasses” on, how do my problems or the funk I’m in look in relation to all of the good things I have in my life?

Take a look at this article too to learn more about keeping a gratitude journal: How a Gratitude Journal and Positive Affirmations Can Change Your Life

Shifting out of a funk and into gratitude shifts your energy out of “woe is me” and into “yay for me” which means, based on the Law of Attraction, you’ll begin to attract more of the things you want and less of what you don’t. Seriously, yay for you!

5. When you’re uninspired or bored with the status quo, let it flow.

One of the best and easiest ways to tap into your inspiration and feel a little bit of creative magic in your life is through stream of consciousness writing.

I dare you to put your pen on a blank page for 5 minutes and do nothing but make sure the pen doesn’t stop moving.

No thinking. No judgements. The only thing you’re not allowed to do is overthink or judge your writing. It’s all good. Everything that comes out is good (even if it’s total crap).

When I was in grad school, I took this awesome class on creativity and in it read a book called From Where you Dream by Robert Olen Butler. The book is mostly about fiction writing but essentially, he says that the best time to tap into your subconscious (where your “flow” lives) is when you first wake up in the morning. Since you’re fresh from dreaming, your brain is still tuned to that frequency, so to speak, and not clouded by “reality” from your day-to-day life.

So my last and final 5-minute journal prompt for you, uninspired one, is to wake up and let yourself keep dreaming on paper.

Here are your instructions:

  1. Set the timer for 5 minutes.
  2. Open your journal.
  3. Pick up your pen.
  4. Keep your pen moving until your timer stops.

What I love about this is it requires releasing all expectations and giving yourself creative freedom to let whatever needs to come out come out.

Become Happier in 5 Minutes (or Even Less)

Giving yourself a safe space to not expect anything other than to just show up and be honest is incredibly liberating.

In a world where there are endless things we are supposed to be doing, and ways in which we’re supposed to be doing them, I love showing up to a blank page with no requirements other than to just let my hand move.

It’s free and requires nothing from me other than just showing up wherever I am–talk about an endless source of grace!

Plus it gets my myriad thoughts out of my head and allows me to release them from my body, which research at top universities has shown can dramatically reduce stress.[1]

You don’t need to change EVERYTHING in your life all at once (it doesn’t work anyway, trust me, I’ve tried).

Start with giving yourself the gift of reflection in your journal every day and see how your life starts to change. I guarantee you’ll feel more connected with yourself in the process and over time everything in your life will start to be a better reflection of you and what you value.

And that, my friends, is the key to lasting happiness.

More Journaling Ideas

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: Writing about emotions may ease stress and trauma

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