February 25, 2022
Actively Working on Being Happier
We have now covered each of the fundamental components of this online therapy program. You’re now going to put all the pieces together. The information that you have learned, will be used to keep a journal and an activity plan. To ensure the maximum effectiveness, these two tools will become a natural part of your everyday life, even after finishing this program. They will help you to get the best long-term results in overcoming your problem. It will allow you to live a happier and more enjoyable life, now and in the future.
Keeping a daily journal
You have learned throughout this course that your thoughts have a significant impact on how you feel and what you do. However, we are often not aware of what, specifically, we are saying to ourselves. We are often aware, however, of the feelings these thoughts create. In order to better control your emotions (and not let your emotions control you), it is helpful to focus your thinking on more positive experiences. Rather than letting your negative thoughts spin out of control, you can feel happier by consciously focusing on more positive experiences.
One way to do this, is by journaling.
You will now keep a daily journal. It will only take a few minutes every morning and every evening. This is an excellent, structured way to create daily empowering habits. By starting the day on the right note, you will be more likely to continue your day with a positive attitude.
With the help of your journal, you will start to notice that there are great moments in your life. Keeping this journal is an excellent way to cultivate your gratitude. Gratitude is the opposite of negativity, depression, anxiety and feeling low. By starting to notice glimpses of beautiful moments, you will become happier and more mindful, every day.
Keeping a daily journal is also a great way to review your day. It will give you additional insight into how to make tomorrow, and every day even better. By ending the day on the right note with a positive attitude towards yourself, you will also be more likely to have a good night’s sleep.
Answering the questions might seem tricky at first. However, the more you do it, the more easily it will come to you. We strongly encourage you to take the time to do this every day. Keeping this type of journal is one of the best ways to start noticing the beautiful things in your life, to change negative thinking patterns into positive ones and to feel happier. On the days when you really don’t feel like doing it...do it any way! That’s where the magic happens and where your positive thinking muscle will grow the most.
It’s very important that you understand the value of keeping a daily journal and don’t see it as just another thing that needs to be ticked off from your to-do list. When writing your notes, instead of THINKING the answers, close your eyes, wait a few seconds and see if you can FEEL what you are writing down. Experiencing the positive emotions, will allow you to truly connect with what you are writing. This will have the greatest impact for you. That is the important difference between getting great and long-lasting results and writing things down on auto pilot.
You are the only one with access to your journal. You will not receive feedback/replies from your therapist. You can write a new journal entry and access your old entries, by clicking on the “Journal” shortcut on your dashboard.
We will now go through the questions in the journal and provide the best tips on how to get the most out of your writing!
Answer these questions in the morning:
Three things that I am grateful for...
If you are in a dark place or are used to more negative thinking and feeling patterns, this question will most probably feel tricky at first. However, that is why this question is so important! By answering it every morning, you will train your mind to start noticing the things in your life that you can be grateful for. Even on bad days, there ARE things to be grateful for every single day. They don’t have to be huge. They can even be a cup of coffee in the morning or a smile from a stranger. It could also be just the fact that you are breathing, right here, right now.
You should be specific, when writing down what you are grateful for. The more detailed you get, the easier it will be for you to connect with the emotion. Therefore, instead of just writing “I am grateful for my partner”, think about what it is about your partner that makes you grateful. “I am grateful that my partner always prepares the coffee in the morning” or “I am grateful that my partner always kisses me good night”.
Sometimes answering this question can feel repetitive. However, that’s almost the point. It is by repetition that you train yourself to have more positive thinking patterns. Instead of seeing repetition as boring, you can see it as empowering yourself. You are strengthening your gratitude muscle! If you do feel that you get bored and need some help being fully present in answering your gratitude question, you could choose different categories for different days like Monday: Me, Tuesday: Family, Wednesday: Work, Thursday: My health, Friday: Relationships etc.
How do I want to feel today?
Instead of getting right into your daily schedule and to-do-lists when you wake up, stop, close your eyes and think about how you want to FEEL today. Just writing down positive feelings like “I want to feel calm/happy/content/strong/confident/energetic” etc. will trigger something inside you. It will slowly make you realize that this feeling is possible. You have the power to make it possible. If you don’t do it for the entire day, at least do it for a few moments each day. As a result, these moments will eventually be increasingly consistent in your life.
What will I do today to feel the way that I want to feel?
This question takes the “How do I want to feel today?” question, one crucial step further. It re-trains your mind and helps you realize that you do have the power - and the responsibility - to affect your life and your state of mind. When answering this question, you should focus on the small, achievable things that you can accomplish today. An example could be: “I want to feel calm, so I will go to a yoga class tonight at 6 p.m. right after work”. It could also be something simple like giving someone a hug, making a phone call to a loved one or buying beautiful flowers. The most important thing is to keep these actions tiny, so that you can complete them during the day.
If you get stuck, you can think of how you can brighten someone else’s day. This will automatically make your day better. A smile goes a long way... Doing seemingly tiny actions - like smiling to a stranger - will bring moments of gratitude and happiness into your day, even for a brief moment in the beginning.
Today’s affirmation, I am...
Who do I want to show up as today? What person do I want to be? This is a time for bold statements that you might not believe today, but you want to believe and you soon will...
You could take the repetitive approach: write the same affirmation over and over again, until you have embodied it. You must really feel it in your body. Repetition is how you make new positive thinking patterns possible. Even if you don’t believe your affirmation at first, you will in the future. Choose positive, empowering affirmations like “I am a caring parent, partner and friend and I am worth being loved”, “I am grateful for my strong body and everything it lets me do” or “I am a person who prioritizes my well-being and I am an inspiration to others”.
The other approach is to just write down an affirmation that reflects how you would like to feel today. If you have an important meeting at work today you can say: “I am confident, calm and will have a great presentation today at work”.
Answer these questions in the evening:
Three great things that happened today...
This is a perfect question which makes you review your day and notice the good things that happened. When you move through each day, you will want to keep an eye on these moments and mentally save them. The more you train yourself to find these positive experiences, the more of these experiences will find you.
This exercise can eventually help you to reframe the way you think of your life. We tend to focus on the bad things that are happening around the world. You need to rewire your brain, so that you look at the world with a more positive mindset. This will not only help you to feel happier. You will also be better able to deal with any stressors that may arise. With time, it will be easier and easier for you to notice all the wonderful things that happen every day.
These positive things can be big or small. Examples could include having a delicious meal or a deep conversation with a stranger. A positive moment could also be that you were able to avoid a problem or conflict, that you wouldn’t have been able to avoid in the past.
Some days you might feel that nothing great happened today. Your job is to not believe that inner voice, because it isn’t true. If you start digging a little deeper, you will notice that great things did happen today. You are alive and breathing. That is at least one great thing! Being able to find positive moments during a not so good day, is how you really strengthen your positivity muscle.
What could I have done to make today even better?
This question is meant to make you learn, grow and evolve with a positive attitude. It’s not meant to be a question that puts you down or causes you to focus on the things you did not accomplish during the day. If you didn’t do the things you set out to do in the morning, be kind to yourself. Think about how you can reframe this habit/action with specific actions to make it more achievable the next day. Make sure that your goals are realistic and attainable, so you can set yourself up for success.
If you end up repeatedly writing the same thing like “I could have gone to bed at 10 p.m., not 12 p.m.”, you will come to the insight that this habit is negatively affecting your everyday life and is something you really need to change. Bringing things to awareness, is the first step in changing them.
Were there certain situations or people that triggered negative feelings and thoughts? What can I learn from this situation? Are there alternative and more positive ways of thinking, feeling and behaving?
This question is a perfect opportunity to take what you have learned during the online therapy program and turn it into action. By looking more closely at negative experiences, you can turn them into ways to learn how to react in the future. It is a sure way to make progress towards a happier, more positive life. It will enable you to change unhelpful habits into ones that serve you.
Why is the journal important to me?
Before filling out your first journal entry, it is important to understand how you are going to use the journal. Getting clear on your “WHY,” will make an important difference. It is the fuel which helps you to maintain the journal habit during times that you don’t feel like doing it. Don’t just write “Because I want to be happier”. Be as specific as possible, like: “Writing a journal entry each morning and evening is important to me, because I want to be happier. Journaling allows me to notice things in my day-to-day life that I can be grateful for. It allows me to review my day, be more present, more loving and more accepting towards myself”.
Worksheet: Why my journal is important to me
A few last tips before getting started with your journal...
Whether or not you are actively working with the online therapy program and its worksheets daily, we recommend that you keep a journal every single day. Here are a few great tips to make sure that you write twice every day:
- Save the link to your journal on your desktop to keep it nearby at all times.
- Set up a notification every morning and evening, to make sure you don’t forget to write.
- Don’t make it complicated! It only takes a few minutes every morning and evening. Don’t put pressure on yourself to write long answers. It’s much better to keep your response short, by writing just a few lines, compared to skipping it completely.
Let’s get started!
Write a New Journal Entry
Filling out your activity plan
In addition to keeping a journal on a daily basis, you will fill out an activity plan. This is where you schedule certain activities, like exercise, meeting friends for dinner etc. Getting active and social is a vital step in getting a more balanced life.
In the activity plan, we also recommend that you schedule when you will expose yourself to certain triggers. It will help you to confront the daily tasks that you have been avoiding. It will also allow you to challenge your problems and to achieve the goals that you set at the beginning of this program.
Studies show that the simple achievement of planning your day and allocating specific times to specific activities greatly increases the likelihood of carrying them out. An activity plan serves as a reference to follow your progress and a great written agreement with yourself.
These are our guidelines for keeping an activity plan:
- Plan ahead, so that you can think ahead. Looking forward one day, is better than not looking forward at all. However, scheduling ahead one week at a time is even more helpful.
- The purpose of an activity plan is not to help you avoid things. It can be used to add in things you have been hiding from, such as chores, visiting family, going to work, etc. Remember, that the hardest part is the first step.
- An activity plan isn’t meant to be bad. You can reward yourself with things that you enjoy, so you always have something to look forward to.
- Start off small and build up slowly. Don’t overload yourself at the beginning. The aim is to build things up gradually.
- Coming soon: An excellent tip for sticking to what you have planned, is to enable the notifications function on the form. We will send you an email and remind you that your event is coming up!
- Finally, connect your journal with your activity plan! Add the actions that you wrote below the question “What will I do today to feel the way I want to feel?” in your activity plan each day. This will increase your chances of converting your words into actions.
Remember to look at your goals and previous worksheets to examine your negative behavior and avoidance tendencies. This is your opportunity to make positive and sustainable changes in your life.
New feature! Yoga and meditation videos
We want to make it easier for you to add things to your activity plan and to do things that make you happy and create balance in your life. That is why we have added yoga and meditation videos to your online therapy experience! Petra, our in-house yoga teacher, has created a simple yoga tutorial and videos for beginners. These videos are perfect for helping you to cope with your depression, anxiety or stress. They are also great when you’re feeling low and need an instant boost of gratitude and happiness.
These are some of the benefits of daily yoga and meditation:
Physical benefits of doing yoga:
- Strengthens and stretches your whole body
- Improves your posture
- Increases your blood flow and circulation
- Lowers your blood pressure
- Strengthens and calms down your heart
- Stimulates the lymphatic system
- Improves your lung function capacity
- Boosts your immune system
- Helps your digestion
Mental benefits of doing yoga - and why it’s such a great complement to therapy:
- Great tool for improving stress, anxiety and depression
- Helps you to find more balance in your life and to make better decisions
- Improves your focus, so you are less distracted by (negative) thought loops
- Calms everything down, including your mind and your breathing
- Increases your self-esteem and makes you feel stronger inside and out
- Helps you realize your value. Stresses the importance of taking care of yourself, so you can be there to help others
- Helps you cope with life’s difficulties, by practicing acceptance and gratitude
Check out the introduction video below!
Please visit the yoga section to explore the content we have created for you and to see if yoga could help you!
A Ta-Da List instead of a To-do List!
Humans have a negativity bias. It makes us focus on the negative, such as the things that we did not accomplish. Therefore, instead of using a typical To-Do list, we have created a Ta-Da List for you. As in “Ta-da, look what I have done!” This is a summary of all of the things that you actually accomplished during the week, with a focus on the positive. It is the evidence that you do accomplish things that matter to you and others. Being aware of the steps you are taking and the progress you are constantly making, is one of the best motivators to keep you moving forward.
To add events or actions to your Ta-da list, just tick the checkbox “Yeah, I’ve done this!” in the specific event below “My activities”.
Let’s start exploring your activity plan!
My Activity Plan
In this section...
- You’ve been given powerful tools - your journal, your activity plan and yoga and meditation videos. These are some of the most important tools in becoming happier and having a more balanced life in the long run.
- Remember that CBT is an active form of therapy. We guarantee that the more you use the tools, the more progress you will make.