Sunday, 18 February 2018

Little Things to help your Mental Health - Making a Good Things Jar

I thought I would start a new series of posts on my blog, talking about some of the little things that I’ve found can help with my mental health. Whilst it’s important to seek professional help for mental health problems and access treatments like medication and therapy, sometimes it’s the little day-to-day actions that can get us through the hard times. So I wanted to start by talking to you about something I’ve been doing for quite a few years now, which I find really helps with my depression and anxiety. A Good Things Jar!

I originally got the idea to make one of these from browsing on Pinterest and have been using it ever since. You might see it called a few different things – a Good Things Jar, a Happy Jar or a Jar of Gratitude, but they’re all pretty much the same idea, so you can call it whatever you fancy. All you need to make it is a glass jar (or any kind of tub – whatever suits you best), some paper and a pen. It’s as easy as that! I started off by decorating my jar to make it look a bit more pretty and also so that I could immediately tell what it was whenever I looked at it. I found the ‘Good Things’ label again, on Pinterest and just stuck it onto my jar with a bit of invisible tape. You can find all sorts of printable labels to choose from, or if you’d rather make your own that would work just as well. I also decided to tie a bit of ribbon around the neck of the jar, just because I thought it made it look pretty, but you can decorate your jar in whatever way you fancy.

When you’re struggling with your mental health (or even if you don’t have a mental health condition but are prone to feeling a bit glum) it can often be difficult to see the good things in life. I know when I’m going through a down patch with my mental health, my brain automatically focuses on the negatives – it’s been such a bad day, I haven’t got any friends, I’m such a failure for getting a bad mark on my work… it goes on and on. But actually, even if it has been a bad day, more often than not there will still be something positive to come out of a negative situation. For example, I may have received a bad mark on my essay, but I also received a nice text from my best friend that really made me smile. Or it’s been a really crappy day because I’ve been in hospital having an operation, but actually, that cup of tea I had after surgery was the best cup of tea I’ve had in a while! But it’s these good things that will often go straight over our head, and get forgotten in the space of a few minutes. For some reason, it always seems to be the bad things that we remember and focus on. If I look back at the last week, I can probably tell you everything that went wrong, every time I felt more unwell and everything that I regret doing/not doing. But off the top of my head, I’m struggling to think of anything particularly good that happened. And that’s where your Good Things Jar comes in.

Any time anything good happens, you simply write it down on a piece of paper, fold it up and pop it in your jar. I like to use rainbow coloured paper – a different colour for each month – to make my jar look particularly happy. But you can choose whatever you want. Some people even put other bits and pieces in their jar – cinema tickets, a note from a friend, or a train ticket from your day out. The main thing with this is that it doesn’t have to be big events (although you can put those in there too!) – it’s the little events that you would normally forget that really need to go in your jar. Something as simple as feeling the sun on your face, seeing some beautiful daffodils starting to bloom or enjoying a bubble bath after a stressful day. Then, at the end of the year, you can empty out your jar and remind yourself of all the good things that have happened throughout the year. I’m still trying to decide what to do with all my bits of paper after the year is over, so if you have any ideas please let me know! It’s also a lovely thing to look at during the year whenever you’re feeling down – simply glancing over at my jar helps me to realise that however bad things are in that moment, I know that there is always light in the darkness.

There’s been a lot of scientific research into the power of gratitude and it’s amazing how simply being thankful for the good things can have such a positive impact on our lives. It’s been found to improve our physical health, improve our psychological health, help us to sleep better, improve our self-esteem and increase our overall mental strength. Just by being thankful for what we do have and noticing the good things in our lives! And the great thing is, anyone can do it! I particularly like the idea of a Good Things Jar because I’m quite a visual person and like to be able to have a physical representation of my gratitude. But other people prefer to use a gratitude journal instead, and write three things they are grateful for before going to bed each night. However you decide to notice the good things, the most important thing is that you keep doing it. This quote from Harry Potter is one of my favourites, and I think it really fits with the idea of looking for positives amongst the negatives:

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of places, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
Albus Dumbledore

Do you have a Good Things Jar or Gratitude Journal? Or is it something you might do after reading this post? What other little things help you to manage your mental health that I might be able to blog about?

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