Becoming Mr (or Mrs) Write

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The last few years have seen my life transformed dramatically. I was wallowing in the bottom of a rut that had been getting deeper and deeper over the last decade. I couldn’t see a way out – every direction I turned I was blocked by excuses, reasons to stay where I was, reasons I couldn’t improve my situation.

The truth is, my identity had become defined by this rut, I felt like the guy “most likely to still be in the same place in twenty years time”. But, perversely, I was comfortable there. I thought all efforts to sort my life out were pointless, that I had no say over the direction my life was going. I felt pathetic, and a failure. It gave me a reason not to make an effort to improve, because there was no way things could get better for me. The good life was what happened to other people. Better, clever people than me.

My head was full of negative thoughts, and a negative image of myself. I was filled with self-loathing. I didn’t deserve anything better, I thought.

And then someone said I should try to change my perspective, and write down three different things that I’m grateful for each day. I knew that it wouldn’t work, but it’s not like I could have got any more miserable, so what the hell. I bought myself a notebook, and started to write down three things I was grateful for each day. The only rule was that I had to be positive in both what I wrote, and the way I wrote it. I had to use positivity language to write about the positive things. It had to be an exercise in positivity.

At first it was easy finding things that I liked, but despite that I remained miserable.

Coffee, sausages, sunny days; My wife, my favourite sweater, a new pair of socks; Blue skies, that tune I like on the radio, driving my car.

It was easy to rattle off three things each day. But after a couple of weeks I started to run out of the things that quickly sprung to mind. I actually hard to start thinking about it. Looking for things that I enjoyed. I was required to engage with the task – I couldn’t just do it on autopilot anymore.

Each day I would have to make a conscious effort to find things that I liked, so that later on I could write them in my book. And in doing so I began to tune in to the positive aspects of life. From the smallest things, like the smell of fresh bread when I walked past the bakery, to noises, textures, music, people, reading, conversations, things that were satisfying, things that I liked about myself, about the way I looked, about the way I acted. The more I tuned in, the more positive my world became. The more I was able to see the beauty and joy in the world around me. And the better I began to feel about myself and my situation.

That was about two and a half years ago. That original notebook, filled with positive feelings and observations, is dog-eared and battered, but it takes pride of place on my bookshelf. It is, in and of itself, a totem of positivity. If I’m feeling blue, all I need to do is pick it up and, like a comfort blanket, it starts to make me feel better.

It’s a simple act. And it’s simple to sneer at it. But I’ve barely missed a day of journaling in over two years. Now I do it morning and night, and I’ve never felt better.

You should do it too.