We all want to live a life filled with love, joy, and meaning. Research shows that our happiness depends on genetics, state of mind, and life circumstances. The majority of us believe that our happiness is dependent on life circumstances; however, to my surprise, research declares that life circumstances account for only approximately 10% of our happiness while genetics account for 50%, and our state of mind accounts for 40%. That’s incredible!
Genetics are out of our control and life circumstances are only partially under our control. Only state of mind is completely under our control. I realized this when I started Mary Ann Life Blog and read various entries in my journal. It’s definitely a story worth reading! But I digress–based on my life, state of mind was the ONLY aspect that I completely controlled.
The million-dollar question is how do you actually change your state of mind? The first step is self-analysis, which means: understand yourself. A good way to self-understanding is through journaling. I started journaling in high school during Morality class at an all-girls Catholic high school in Houston. The Morality teacher was onto something golden. She knew that we could discuss the in’s and out’s of moral dilemmas in our world, but, at the end of the day, to truly develop our moral understanding, we must engage in silent self-reflection.
She handed out notebooks with our names, played Enya in the background (it’s still a one hit wonder), and asked us to spread out in the classroom, whether it be at a desk or on the floor. She turned off the lights, letting the natural light from outside illuminate the room, and gave us 30 minutes to journal. She promised that she would never read our journals, which freed me to completely express my thoughts and feelings. This exercise was the beginning of me understanding myself and controlling my state of mind.
I continued to covet journal time in college and well after: further analyzing myself, sifting through my confusion, insecurity, and self-doubt, and expressing my thoughts and feelings. Journaling was a way for me to process experiences and make sense of my life. Years later, the process continues to be just as important as it was when I was 16 years-old in Morality class.
To attain a life of love, joy, and meaning, one must start from the inside and where you are. Tap into yourself. Be honest and compassionate with yourself about who you are and what’s going on in your life.
This is definitely not an easy task. Sometimes self-doubt and self-criticism show up right after you dig deep within yourself. Without knowing it, our mind may naturally gear into protection mode, engage avoidance, denial, judgment, or distraction. Our mind wants to protect us, but in the end, it places obstacles in our path of self-understanding and self-love.
My hope is that you will stick with the uncomfortable, and write down your thoughts and feelings so that you will understand yourself more deeply, which will lead to inner peace and happiness.
Explore below a series of journal prompts, inspirational quotes, and exercises that will give you the opportunity to shift your state of mind toward self-discovery and self-love. They are designed to guide you on a journey of self-discovery from where you are now, to acknowledge and release your doubts, fear, anxieties, and confusion, to building self-understanding, self-esteem, and self-love which will radiate outward.
1. Start where you are: create a sacred space
Before you dive in, make sure that you have a sacred space where you can sit and respond to these journal questions and practice self-inquiry. Choose a space where you can go for a few minutes every day to focus. Place your favorite items, such as a candle or a picture of a loved one, a soft blanket and pillow, flowers, or an inspirational quote. Don’t be afraid to even change it up a bit by taking that sacred space outside to a coffee shop, art museum, or in a parked car.
Notebooks for Journals range from simple to decorative. Choose what’s best suited for you. When the pen to paper method is not your forte, vouch for journaling on your laptop using Google Docs. Start where you are. Tap in to yourself.
Add background music, or be in silence. I prefer stirring and relaxing music. YouTube has several stations for ambient music.
2. Prompt Questions
As you sit down to write, take a few deep breaths and make a promise to yourself about how you are going to approach self-analysis and self-love. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and just be present. Take a moment to be aware of your thoughts and feelings associated with each prompt question. Take three deep breaths and repeat these phrases slowly and mindfully three to five times:
3. A mantra to let it be
A mantra is a phrase or a sentence that you can repeat to yourself to improve your mood or reinforce a positive thought or feeling. Quotes poetically resonate and hold a powerful reminder to “let it be.”
We have unique ways of experiencing our emotions, from happiness to self-doubt. When you have a feeling, thought, or a belief, it’s easy to think that it defines you as a person. Remember that your thoughts and feelings are a part of you and your life experience, but that they are NOT your identity. The French philosopher Jean Paul Sarte declared that a human being is “nothing else but that which he makes of himself.”
In addition to journaling, here is a 28-Days Towards Self-Love that takes little time in your day. These will direct you towards finding the joys in the little things as you immerse yourself into a self-discovery and self-love journey.