To Move Forward, Look Back. Here's How To Chart Your Happiness History

Photo by Stocksy / mbg creative

Manifest the year of your dreams by going inward. Renew You 2017 is a month of mindfulness during which we’ll share content that guides you to create a deeply rooted intention for the new year. We’ll help you navigate inevitable obstacles with the latest science on habits, motivation, ritual, and more and equip you with tried-and-true techniques to outsmart even the toughest inner critic.

Want to go somewhere new in life? Then look back at where you've been. For Day No. 2 of our 7 Days Inward, we want to guide you through a reflection on your life journey. Identifying times of abundance and times of struggle can help us to get in touch with our needs, our drives, and our sensitivities. Looking back helps us recognize patterns and break them. It gives us a chance to change the story we tell about what our lives have been. It's easy to do. Just set aside 30 minutes and grab a sheet of large paper and a few pens.

  1. Draw a line horizontally across the length of the page. That will be your x-axis.
  2. Mark your ages, from toddlerhood to the present, in year increments along the line.
  3. Write in significant life events that happened to you at those ages. Try to fill in not only the large markers like graduations, births, and deaths, but small details, too, like where you lived, how social you were, how active you were, and how your health was.
  4. Draw a line up the page vertically. The bottom of that line represents sadness, the top represents happiness.
  5. Now, using a colored pen or pencil, mark how you felt at each stage of your timeline. Place a mark high above a life event to indicate the happiness it brought you; mark low beneath it to indicate associated sadness.
  6. Connect the marks to see the snaking line of your emotional past.
  7. Now look below the line, at the lows. Ask yourself:
  • What circumstances did these lows share in common?
  • What caused these lows?
  • What are four words to describe how I felt in these times?
  • How did my actions make this situation worse?
  • How did my actions make this situation better?
  • What did I need to change or survive this life event?
  • What did I learn about myself in these times?

8. Now look at your highs and ask yourself:

  • What circumstances did these highs share in common?
  • What caused these highs?
  • What are four words to describe how I felt in these times?
  • How did my actions detract from this situation?
  • How did my actions enable this situation?
  • What could I do to create more of these moments?
  • What did I learn about myself in these times?

9. As you move forward with your day, week, and year, consider how your actions can create more peaks and sustain you through your valleys.

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