For the A&CB Book Club this month, we are encouraging you to stick to your resolutions. Don’t let go of that “New Year, New You” attitude just yet! Our recommendation was 52 Small Changes for the Mind by Brett Blumenthal.
To get you started we have an extract from the book for you:
SMALL CHANGES WORK. I know they do, because I’ve seen the results among many of my readers and other individuals who’ve abandoned the
“change everything at once” approach for one that is geared toward making small changes over time. It makes sense: small changes are less overwhelming and more realistic, and they give us a sense of accomplishment more quickly. Regardless of the change a person wants to make, three things remain true: any major change actually requires many smaller changes; taking an all-or-nothing or extreme approach doesn’t work; and small changes that we can manage and master feed our desire to succeed.
In my first small changes book—52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You—I prescribe a small change each week for 52 weeks, so that by the end of the year readers are happier and healthier. The approach is holistic and addresses four dimensions of well-being: diet and nutrition, fitness and prevention, mental well-being, and green living. As I conducted research for 52 Small Changes it became all too clear that I could have easily prescribed countless small changes within each of these categories.
When thinking through which topic of change I wanted to address next, I personally found the category of mental well-being (a.k.a. mental wellness or mental health) to be especially compelling. For many, maintaining good mental health is a bit elusive compared to maintaining good physical health. Understanding diet and nutrition or maintaining an exercise regimen is much more straightforward: you are either eating
healthy or you aren’t; you are either exercising or you’re not. Moreover, when we are physically unhealthy, the symptoms are undeniable: we gain
weight, we lose energy, we struggle with everyday tasks, and we feel lousy.
Mental well-being, on the other hand, has more gray area. For starters, most of us don’t look at the whole picture when it comes to our mental
well-being. We tend to focus on only one aspect: our happiness. While having good mental health most definitely means feeling happy and
fulfilled, it also means that we can manage stress; we have a positive outlook on life; we can focus and concentrate when needed, so we are
productive; and we can remember things easily. Some might even argue that a happy, healthy mind is the most important aspect of our
52 Small Changes for the Mind uses the approach of making small changes over the course of a year and applies it specifically to improving mental well-being. As with my first book, the changes prescribed are comprehensive, addressing multiple areas instrumental in achieving optimal mental health: stress management, concentration and productivity, memory and anti-aging, and of course, overall happiness and fulfillment.
Over the course of the next 52 weeks, I hope you’ll find the changes to be fun and relatively easy to implement, and that you’ll enjoy the process.
The goal? By the end of the year, you should be able to manage stress, be more productive, remember more, and ward off disease and aging, and
feel happier and more fulfilled.
ONE OF THE first and easiest changes to make is to start a personal journal. Journaling allows you to freely and openly express your deepest feelings without censorship or the interference or judgment of others. Journaling gives you an opportunity to be with your innermost thoughts, so you can think through situations and life, and explore them at a deeper, more meaningful level.
When we are confronted with difficult situations, journaling helps us sort through the issues so we are better equipped to see things more clearly, process and reflect on our reactions and thoughts, and problem-solve. When misunderstandings or disagreements arise with others, journaling helps us reflect on other people’s perspectives and be more open to how they may be feeling or thinking. We become more intentional in our interpretations and better equipped to organize our thoughts so we can approach problems calmly and rationally. Journaling also encourages a free flow of thinking, which can tap into the more creative, intuitive right side of our brain to potentially reveal more innovative solutions. Maintaining a journal encourages greater self-awareness and promotes a deeper connection with our emotions, even those that are difficult or painful. The more connected we are to our emotions and thoughts, the more prepared we are to experience growth and personal development. We are better equipped to identify our dreams, passions, and fears, and the things that need change. We also become more comfortable with who we are, which increases self-confidence and enables a clearer understanding of relationships, situations, and needs so they can be better met. Further, written disclosure of emotions helps us learn lessons from our experiences, while staying in a positive and constructive frame of mind.
Finally, journaling facilitates healthy stress management and increases happiness. The act of writing down feelings releases them out into the world so they don’t stay bottled up; this leaves us calmer, happier, and more capable of moving past negativity. And when there is good in our life, journaling helps us to stop and take time to appreciate and savor the positive vibes we feel, as well.
PUTTING PEN TO paper (or fingers to keyboard) is a therapeutic way of getting to the heart and soul of your innermost thoughts, feelings, and views on life and your experiences. Reap the benefits that journaling provides with some of these tips:
start with a goal Although it may feel forced in the beginning, journaling should be an activity that feels natural and easy. If you are new to the practice, set a goal for a certain length of time—say, ten minutes per day or every other day—so that you get into the habit of writing consistently. As you start writing on a regular basis, you should start to feel your emotions, feelings, and thoughts flow more freely, and you may very well surpass your initial goal.
let it flow There is no wrong way of journaling. This is completely about you, your world, and your own emotions, experiences, and thoughts. Try to let the words flow, and don’t overthink what you are writing. There are no rules you need to follow. Don’t get hung up on spelling, grammar, or even the length of your entry.
choose a topic If you feel stuck or don’t know what to write about, start with how you are feeling in that very moment. If it helps, you might consider choosing a theme for the day or week. Think about your relationships, your work, your dreams, and your fears. Engage your inner child in conversation, as children tend to speak their minds and thoughts more freely. Ask yourself questions about situations you’re confronted with or experiences you’ve gone through.
keep it private If you kept a diary as a child or teenager, only to have it read by a parent, sibling, friend, or someone else, you may be a bit hesitant to make this change. As scarring as this past experience may have been, try to be open to reintroducing the habit into your life. There
are many ways to ensure your privacy and as an adult, you have access to protections you didn’t as a child. If you prefer journaling digitally, keep
your journal as a file on your computer and have it password-protected. If you prefer to write in a paper journal, consider keeping it in a safe or
under lock and key in a desk drawer.
journal in multimedia If you are creative or artistic, you might consider putting your journal into a multimedia format. You can create videos or voice recordings, sketch, paint, or use any other art medium you prefer.
journal your changes Because you will be going through many changes with 52 Small Changes for the Mind, consider keeping a separate journal or creating a special section specifically dedicated to tracking and recording your progress, your struggles, and your thoughts and
feelings regarding the changes you’re making. Transfer the activities from Part III: Tools and Resources, into your journal so everything can be
found in one place.
Let us know how you are getting on with your January reading challenge with #ACBookClub!
52 Small Changes for the Mind by Brett Blumenthal | Chronicle Books | £10.99
Copyright © 2015 by Brett Blumenthal.