“We get caught up in life’s flow, whether good, bad, or neutral. Wherever the current takes us we go. It’s as if we’re on autopilot, but depression happens when our autopilot gets stuck in a negative descent.” ~Turning Your Down Into Up: A Realistic Plan For Healing From Depression
Now and then, it’s a good idea to check in with yourself about how you’re really feeling about the way you’re spending your time, especially if you’re feeling drained or dissatisfied. It’s important to identify these draining activities, to be honest with yourself about why you’re engaging in them, and to take intentional action to make a change.
1) Make a list of all the types of activities in your life.
This is a pretty universal list, so you can probably start with something like family, friendships, home, work, recreation, religion, and community. But feel free, of course, to edit these areas, or add to them, as feels most appropriate to you and what you do.
2) Write each type of activity at the top of its own separate page.
Taking inventory of your life can feel like an enormous undertaking. The more you can do to break it into manageable sections, the more helpful and enjoyable this activity will be.
3) For each type of activity, make a list of the individual activities that fall into that category.
Write down anything and everything that comes to mind. There are no right or wrong answers. Watching television is just as valid an activity as balancing the checkbook, for example.
And don’t worry about shooting for any arbitrary number, or feeling pressured to think of everything at once. That’s the beauty of lists like these. You can make them all in one sitting, if you feel so inspired. Or you can go about your day, adding to the list with every new activity you find yourself engaged in.
4) Write each activity at the top of its own separate page and answer the following questions:
- Why did you start this activity in the first place?
- Why are you doing this activity now?
- What does this activity say about you?
- Is this activity one you really want to do, or do you feel pressured to do it?
- Is this activity filling or draining?
5) For each of your filling activities, answer the following questions:
- What about this activity makes it feel filling?
- Would you like to do more of this activity?
- What action(s) can you take to move in that direction?
6) For each of your draining activities, answer the following questions:
- What about this activity makes it feel draining?
- Is this an activity you can let go?
- If yes, what action(s) can you take to move in that direction?
- If no, why not, and how can this inform a means of at least modifying it?
While it may seem to you now there is nothing in your life you are currently doing that you can possibly let go, no matter how much it drains you — keep the following in mind.
You are intended to live a life of purpose that brings you fulfillment and joy. Anything that is not serving you in this regard is something to be carefully considered with a plan — as short- or long-term as it may be — for modifying it, or letting it go. All that this journaling activity requires of you is taking the first step in that direction.