Shifting the Narrative- A Challenge
I’ve been exploring the idea of using journaling as a means of shifting the narrative. I first read about this concept in an article titled Writing Your Way to Happiness in the New York Times. The gist of the article is that we all have a personal narrative about who we are, why we do what we do, and where we’ve been. Interestingly, we often don’t quite get that narrative right.
I certainly know this to be true from my own experience. My monkey mind is constantly chattering away telling me all kinds of wildly interesting stories, completely lacking any foundation in reality.
As many of you know, I spent the last year living away from home. It was a year long exercise in learning to be being present and mindful- focusing on the present was the only way to avoid feeling depressed about my situation.
One way I actively practiced this was on my half-mile walk to and from work. I found that I was looking at my phone during the walk and often stewing in self-pity. I decided to start taking the walk without looking at my phone the whole time. I also decided to take a slightly longer route to and from work to explore the area. I focused on noticing the sights, sounds, and smells. One morning on my walk I happened across a grove of crab apple trees at the tail end of their blooming season. The trees were full of soft pink blossoms. All around, blossoms were slowly floating to the ground, it almost looked like snow and the moment felt transcendent. That day, I noticed a shift. I was falling in love with walking. I changed my narrative. I now tell myself, “I love walking! I can’t wait to treat myself with a walk today.” Even on my busiest days, I treat myself to a walk.
The NYT article brought this experience to mind. One worn-out story I used to tell myself went something like this, “It is so hard to get to 10,000 steps, especially in the winter. I am just too busy.” I’d take off my fitbit for months at a time because I know that my failure to reach 10,000 steps made me feel bad about myself. No, I didn’t use writing specifically to shift the narrative BUT as an avid journaler, I often wrote about the experiences on my walk.
My invitation? Take a month to focus on one story you tell yourself and try to find a way to shift the narrative. If the story feels a bit worn out, a bit tired, take out the pen and write it in a new way.
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