Today’s blog is going to be somewhat of a ‘winging it’ situation, as I am unexpectedly bedridden. Nothing too dramatic, just your run of the mill stomach ache, but it means that I’m working from bed and therefore not able to write the somewhat-physically-demanding post that I had intended for today. So bear with me.
Weeks and months and years ago (okay, so not quite years), I wrote a post about one of the most important things I’ve ever done in my life; starting my Positive Thoughts Book.
Just a quick recap, this is something I started a few years ago while I was studying at Inchicore CFE, my favourite of all my college courses to date. Despite my very positive school experience, I was suffering from quite the spell of panic attacks. But because it was only a one-year course, I really felt as though I didn’t have any extra time to spare on feeling miserable. It just wasn’t practical (but when is misery practical, am I right!?). I wanted to cut my anxiety off at the source. Or rather, find some preventative measure.
That’s what my PTB was for me. A panic-preventing measure. It was a well of positivity that I dipped into whenever I felt the warning signs of a panic attack coming on.
To put it simply, it was a journal in which I recorded all of my happiest moments so that when I felt an upset arising, I could quickly divert these feelings by reminding myself of all the good times and all the supportive people I have in my life. It’s really worked quite a charm, if I do say so myself.
A week after that blog went live, I intended to follow-up with another blog which would dole out tips for anyone who was interested in starting their own Positive Thoughts Book or any other form of positivity receptacle/’cheer up’ apparatus.
Unfortunately though, I never got around to writing that post, because -quite fittingly- anxiety got the best of me. So -again, fittingly- I wrote about that instead.
My blogging style was quite different back then (after all, it’s now a year and two BloggerConfs later) but nevertheless I’ve decided to pick up where that second post left off.
Today, for all of my anxiety-suffering brethren out there, five tips on how to start your own Positive Thoughts Book.
Keep it pocket-sized
When choosing the journal or notebook in which you want to begin collecting happy memories, I highly recommend you find one that will be easy for you to carry around on your person at all times. The reason for this is twofold.
Firstly, you never know when panic could strike. It’s best to have your emotional weaponry nearby in case of any unpleasant surprises. But, secondly, you also never know when inspiration will strike!
If everyday circumstances shift even slightly, any given moment could be instantly transformed into a lifelong and happy memory that you’ll want to preserve and reflect upon later. Your future self will be glad you kept your book on you, believe me. I’ve even collected autographs in mine!
No happy thought is too small
If you’re someone who is really struggling with anxiety or depression or any other internal struggles, it may seem overwhelming and difficult to try and come up with exclusively positive content. I get that. Believe me, I do.
But on those days, even if you can’t generate something positive out of thin air, try to think back. A joke you heard once. A screenshot of a funny auto-correct. A great line from your favourite film. Anything that ever made you smile, even once a long time ago.
Start small. Very small. Step by step, it will get easier to recognise and appreciate the things that put you in a good mood and combat any internal negativity. Or if you really don’t know what to include, you could always…
Get friends and family involved
My PTB started when one of my friends took my book and wrote me a message about how important my friendship was to him; reading that note was what got me started. It was such an overwhelmingly positive message that I knew the book had to continue similarly.
Before I could properly envision what was to become of my polka-dot Emma Bridgewater notebook, all of my friends and family (and even just random acquaintances) were writing lovely messages to me about how much I meant to them or about a fun time that we had shared.
So if you have nothing uplifting to say off the top of your head, turn to your loved ones. They’ll have an endless supply of fond memories and affectionate notes to fill your pages with.
And if you can practice some serious self-restraint, you could even save those letters and messages for when you’re really feeling down and need something to pick you back up again. Reading those messages will always make you feel good, even years later, but nothing quite matches your first reading of them. And on that note…
Be proud of what you’re doing
It’s easy to be shy about asking people to contribute to your PTB; it’s a scary thing, I know that. But it gets easier the more you do it, and the more open you are about it, the more likely they are to put pen to paper. And it’s not always about asking people to write messages either; have them draw a picture or play a game of tic-tac-toe. It doesn’t have to be some intense message about lifelong friendship and blood oaths! Keep it light.
QED: During my year at Inchicore I used to occasionally go a club night called WAR with some of my friends. Not really my style now, but I was a different person back then. Anyway, one night I met this guy and danced with him for a while (not in any kind of flirty way; WAR is an LGBT club night. We were both entirely platonic, if even that).
He was, notably, shirtless and I remember thinking that he looked extremely like Taylor Lautner, which of course meant that many of the gay men there would have given a lot to be in my position. He pulled me up onto the stage and we danced and hung out for a while, but, as is generally the case with nightclubs, we got separated and never saw each other again.
Except that we did see each other again! A few weeks later, not at WAR, but this time at a bar called The Living Room. He was significantly more sober on this occasion and I, of course, had my PTB with me. So, what the heck? I just grabbed my book and took a seat at his table.
I introduced myself and was perfectly upfront: “I know this is a bit of an unusual question, but were you at WAR a few weeks ago? I think we danced together on stage. I remember thinking that you looked exactly like Taylor Lautner, except that you were shirtless. Although, Taylor Lautner is often shirtless too, isn’t he? At least in the Twilight movies anyway.”
It was him! He confirmed it! The Taylor Lautner lookalike!
His name was Jordan and I had a lovely chat with him and his friend and I explained about my little collection of positivity and they were both happy to make their marks in my book.
I was thrilled! It was such a nice memory to have been able to record, and now when I look at it, it reminds me that people can be so nice for no reason at all and sometimes when you meet someone, it can feel like you’ve known each other for years.
But it never would have happened if I had been too scared to go over and just ask them. So be brave. The worst that can happen is that they say no, and in that case, you don’t want them in your book anyway.
Remember that there are no rules
Go absolutely WILD with your PTB (or whatever method of happy-memory-storage that you so choose). The content can be absolutely anything, anything at all. One time I was at a bar and none of us knew what to write so instead we poured candle wax onto the page and made a makeshift Rorschach test and psychoanalysed each other (with great accuracy, I’m sure).
Your book is a game! The only goal is to have fun and keep the positivity coming.
Be colourful. Be creative. Be brave. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Sometimes, that’s one of the greatest challenges a person can face.
Use your PTB as a testament to all the wonderful things you’ve done so far, all the connections that you’ve made, and know that there is more of this to come in the future.
Take care of yourselves, guys. And kick anxiety’s ass!