January is the time for resolutions, and I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that I think the best way to keep them is through writing! In fact, a university in Dallas even did a formal research study on the topic. They found that every area of life from relationships to health and finances improved as a result of daily journaling on the subject.
When I saw the results of the study, my teacher’s instinct kicked in, and I saw the opportunity to fine-tune the experience. The following exercises are the result and have brought many students (and me) some surprising benefits.
Be sure to pick only one specific area to work on; having a better life is too broad a topic choice, for example, as is improving health in general. However, some good options are having less back pain, lowering cholesterol, increasing investments, or becoming more positive – most typical New Year’s resolutions would work.
Exercise #1: Describe the situation and give its history. #2: Write out questions you have about the situation. #3: List the people, resources, reference places that might answer the questions in #2. #4: How awful is this situation? Get very dramatic; it’s a great tension reliever. #5: Decide what the worst case outcome of this situation is and write about it. (You'll be surprised at how comforting it is to realize you’re only at a “five” on a scale of one to ten, ranging from no problem to worst result.) #6: Write about what you would change if you could wave a magic wand over this situation. Get very detailed and don't forget to include related things that would change. #7: Now write about the BEST realistic outcome you can imagine. Again, go into as much detail as possible, including all the related areas affected by this best possible outcome. #8: If your best friend or your child had this problem, what advice would you give to them? Focus on your love for and belief in this person. #9: Describe what you think will happen if you do nothing about the situation or your attitude towards it. #10: Write about what you have learned from this problem or condition. (You have learned some things even if you haven't wanted to.) #11: Commit to two changes pertaining to this situation. Be sure these are doable, small steps. Write this exercise as a letter to yourself congratulating yourself on having accomplished these two small steps. Seal, address, and stamp the letter. Have a friend send the letter to you after three months.
I’d love to hear which resolutions you’ve chosen to work on, but please don’t send me your responses to all these exercises. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ariele Huff is a lifelong Washingtonian who began writing at five years old, and has barely stopped to take a nap since.
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