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Mental Health and Wellness

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Respite Between the Lines: Journaling as a Tool for Reflection, Rest, and Reconnection

Inspired by this week’s Moms Making Six Figures Podcast featuring Heidi Bartolotta and Jennifer Becker, who believe in the power of journaling and its practice as a foundation for personal happiness and professional success.   Your journal is like the big sister to your childhood diary—more meditation and less mindless meandering, more gratitude and less angst, more reflection than rebellion.


Many of us willingly turned to the pages of a diary or a journal throughout our childhood or teen years, confiding our triumphs and failures and scrawling the minutia of our daily lives between the lines. But somewhere along the way, we lost touch with our now dust covered collection, our faithful friend now a mere acquaintance.  When our lives became busy and our schedules filled, we confided in our significant other and with friends over happy hour; we turned to social media to vent our frustrations and share our celebrations.  And in the midst of the world’s tumult, and an ever growing sense of disconnect, it may be time to pick up our pens and our journaling practice again.


Reflection | Journaling rewires the brain.

Incorporating gratitude into your journaling practice is proven to improve your mood and rewire your brain to look for, and be more mindful of, the positive.  In fact, Consciously practicing gratitude daily actually strengthens our neural pathways for our “feel good emotions” based on the neurotransmission of dopamine and serotonin according to Emily Fletcher, the founder of Ziva, a well-known meditation training site.

Rest | Journaling heals emotional and physical wounds.

The act of writing allows us to organize and process the events and traumas we are subject to, ultimately allowing us to, “organize an event in our mind, and make sense of trauma.  When we do that, our working memory improves, since our brains are freed from the enormously taxing job of processing that experience, and we sleep better”.  And this, according to Dr. Pennebaker, a social psychologist, boosts both our immune systems and our moods.  When we heal our emotional wounds through actively pursuing progress, our physical health follows suit.

Fewer emotional stressors and mental burdens tumbling over throughout our brain on repeat, frees up our energy and capacity for living. In 2013, researchers found that the effects of journaling actually have the ability to heal physical wounds when the practice is both consistent and genuine, occurring for at least 20 minutes a day, three days a week.

Reconnection | Journaling connects us to our past and opens the door to progress

When we empty our brain on the page, topics and insights will begin to emerge; after we process what Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, refers to as “all that angry, petty, whiny stuff”, our interaction with our current world reveals itself.  This track record then becomes a visual reminder of our growth when we reflect back on the previous day, week, month, year, or years.  And, if you’re participating in the practice of journaling regularly and consistently, you’ll begin to take action toward improving your circumstances as well, “It is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to constructive action”.


So where do you begin, in picking up a friendship that has been all too neglected? Is there a right way to re-introduce yourself, to pick up where you left off? The good news is, the experts all agree –authenticity and consistency are the only two keys.  Whether you journal about gratitude, record your child’s latest sayings for posterity, or jot down an inspirational quote from a podcast, the practice itself allows you to rest, reconnect, and reflect while finding respite between the lines.

We suggest starting with a listen to this week’s episode on the various ways Heidi and Jennifer have used journaling both personally and professionally, trying out the ‘Morning Pages’ practice described in Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, or starting with recording three daily gratitude’s. Here are some great ‘conversation starters’ to rekindle that friendship between pen and page.

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Your Emotional Intelligence Quotient is Key to Your Success Equation

Inspired by this week’s episode of the Moms Making Six Figures Podcast with Brenda Lee, Emotional Intelligence Expert, who believes in the power of identifying our perspective and pushing through our conditional gaps to tap into our mind’s subconscious.


Part of the human experience is suffering.  And sadly many of us have experienced that suffering at the hands of another person in our lives, whether it’s the negative comments made by our father-in-law brushed off as ‘just his personality’, a boss who always asks us to stay late making our work-life balance that much harder to attain, or a poorly timed “friendly reminder” from the HOA about the state of our lawn, all of this suffering is imposed by and met with an Emotional Intelligence Quotient (or in the case of suffering’s worst offenders, the lack thereof).  And while we all know the old adage rings uncomfortably true, that we can’t control others, only ourselves, by improving our own EI (Emotional Intelligence) we will change our own perceptions of, and approaches to suffering, and model, for the less emotionally intelligent, the common denominator in the happiness and success equation.


The theory of EI was brought to the forefront of American psychology by Daniel Goleman in the 1990s.  While the concept was widely accepted in the field of psychology, employers were reluctant to embrace EI in the workplace.  Now, however, research has found that emotional intelligence is not only foundational to achieving personal happiness and success, but that it is also the strongest predictor of workplace effectiveness.

Here are the five key components of Emotional Intelligence, how to improve your skill set in each, and how each component, when put into practice, can benefit your personal and professional life.

Self-awareness

Individuals who are self-aware can identify their emotions and the impact of those emotions on their thoughts and behavior; they know their strengths and weaknesses and have self-confidence.

  • Keep a journal— Journals help to improve your self-awareness. Spending just a few minutes each day recording your thoughts can begin to move you toward greater self-awareness.
  • + The pay-off: Your mental health. Uncontrolled and unaddressed emotions and stress can take a toll on your mental health.  Learning to understand, identify and get comfortable with your emotions in order to manage them will help you to improve both your relationship with yourself and others, thereby leaving you feeling less lonely and isolated.

Self-regulation

Individuals who are able to self-regulate can manage their emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments and adapt to changing circumstances; they can control impulsive feelings and behaviors.

  • Hold yourself accountable— Easier said than done, but if you have a tendency to blame shift, it’s time to take some ownership. Make a commitment to, and a habit of, admitting your mistakes, and accepting the consequences.  You will have more respect for yourself, and quickly earn the respect of those around you.
  • + The pay-off: When you understand your emotions and you are capable of controlling them, you’re better able to express how you feel and to understand how others are feeling. This improves your communication and will allow you to establish stronger relationships both at work and at home.

Motivation

Individuals who are self-motivated work consistently toward their goals and have extremely high standards for the quality of their work.

Empathy

Individuals who have a strong capacity for empathy understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of others; they pick up on emotional cues.

  • Pay attention to your body language— An often underrated, but hugely important facet of how others perceive us, perceiving them, is our body language. Learn to control your own body language to prove you are someone who is truly empathetic and open, and learn to read others’ body language to get an accurate read of how someone truly feels.
  • + The pay-off: By investing time and effort to really pay attention to others, you’ll actually gain insight into your own emotional state as well as your values and beliefs. When we pay attention to others, their needs, and their overall well-being, we foster safety and establish trust in our relationship.

Social Skills

Individuals who possess strong social skills can maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team and manage conflict; they recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.

  • Learn conflict resolution— No one likes conflict, but it is inevitable. Knowing how to manage conflict and to successfully resolve it is essential to honing your social skills and finding success in both your personal and professional endeavors.
  • + The pay-off: When you are in tune with your emotions you are better able to connect to other people and the world around you. Your emotional intelligence directly correlates to your social intelligence; the greater your social intelligence the more your stress will be reduced and the more balanced your nervous system will be through social communication leaving you feeling loved and happy.

While suffering is a part of the human experience, it doesn’t have to define it.  When we take the time to invest in our own emotional intelligence, we benefit not only our own happiness and success, but we also become a multiplier in the lives of those around us.  By taking ownership over our own progress at home and in the workplace, we can reduce our own suffering and the suffering experienced and imposed by others.  The work is worth putting in for the reward, as psychologist Travis Bradberry notes, when M.B.A. students received emotional intelligence training (not a usual part of the M.B.A. program), “even after graduating from the program [they] had raised their [emotional intelligence] scores 40 percent.  They had trained their brains.  Practice doesn’t make perfect, but practice make things habitual.”

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Manage Your Mind

Inspired by this week’s episode of the Moms Making Six Figures Podcast with Brooke Paulin who believes in the practice of managing your mind and the small daily habits that lead to great success over time.


 In a world where we are inundated with more information and more access to it than ever before, we are faced with new challenges like ‘consumer fatigue’, information overwhelm and digital burnout.  The media and social media industries are designed to be addictive in nature, releasing dopamine or cortisol dependent on the nature of the content, that keeps us coming back for more and ultimately conditions our behavior.  Information, and the way in which we access it is not the enemy, instead it is our passive consumption of that content that can wreak havoc, particularly when we are bombarded with negativity, click-bait headlines, and divisive rhetoric.  Just as we fuel our bodies and health with nutrition and exercise, we must manage our mind and the information we choose to fill it with.

With nearly 69% of adults and 81% of teens in the US using social media, it is time for us to become active participants in managing our minds, our mental states, and our mental health.  Here are a few small changes you can make to be better prepared and intentional with the information and inputs you choose.


Reality Check

We would never let our children sit for hours on end, absent-mindedly in front of screens and we shouldn’t allow it for ourselves either.  While it may not seem like you’re spending that much time on devices outside of necessity, your Weekly Activity Report likely shows something different.

Start by taking an inventory of the current time you spend consuming content intentionally vs. out of habit or boredom.  Once you have begun to inventory your passive or active consumption tendencies, track for a day (or longer) every piece of information you digest with a “+” if it is beneficial to your personal life, work life, or overall well being, a ”–“ if it negatively impacted or took away from your personal life, work life, or overall well being, and an “=” for no impact other than time lost.

Seeing our habits in black and white allows us to see where our own struggles actually exist.  It takes five positive interactions to offset each negative interaction; is it any wonder we are more anxious, depressed, and lonely than ever before?

Schedule (and plan) Your Screen time

Self-monitoring and scheduling your consumption habits can change not only your perception of the information you digest, but also, your behaviors.  In 2018 the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study that observed the behaviors of 143 undergraduates.  One group was asked to limit all social media activity to only 10 minutes per platform, per day, while the second was allowed to use their social media as usual for three weeks.   The group that limited their scrolling “showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression during those three weeks over the group that continued using social media.”

As Brooke pointed out in this week’s podcast, “I don’t think that some of the top CEO’s, and, you know, multi-million dollar female business owners … I don’t think that they’re scrolling through social media that’s not feeding their mind. There’s no room for that.”  What would you be able to accomplish in a week of limiting your scrolling habits?

Empty the Junk Folder

Once you’ve taken inventory of the information and input you’re allowing in, and you’ve refined your mindless scrolling by replacing it with intentionally scheduled time for content consumption, get rid of anything that isn’t serving you, your mental health, your professional life, or your personal life.

Once you’ve emptied the Junk Folder, take note from some of the most successful people and follow suit by replacing what wasn’t serving you with content that does.  According to research, what makes highly successful people less stressed, happier, and more productive is scheduling their personal priorities before tending to other people’s priorities.  That goes for what you’re consuming too.  Instead of starting your day by checking email, dedicate an hour of your morning hour to be your Power Hour where you replenish your motivation with podcasts, books and curated content that supports your goals, challenges you, and leaves you feeling ready to tackle the day.  Ask your mentors what they listen to, what they read, and who they follow on social media to begin refining your palate.


In order to be successful in managing our mind, our mental state and our mental health, we must be intentional about what we consume and prepare our daily activity and schedules with discernment.  Just as nutrition is fundamental to achieving our health and wellness goals, so is the information we consume.  We avoid pitfalls of hunger by meal planning and preparation, and we can avoid the pitfalls of media and social media by planning and being thoughtful consumers.

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” –Alexander Graham Bell