For the vast majority of us, the last few years have seen our mental health take a huge battering. Covid and everything that came with it changed our lives in ways I don’t think any of us could’ve imagined.
I can still remember the sheer panic I felt when the first lockdown was announced. I know a lot of people relished the idea of being at home. Many embarked on a huge clear-out of their homes. Some took up banana bread making. Others took to gardening. I took to panicking. It’s something I became an expert in very quickly.
In March 2020, I’d been back at work for just over five months after a year of adoption leave with our youngest daughter. I had just about got back on my feet at work when our lives were plunged into chaos when we were told we had to stay at home.
I worked as a legal adviser in Magistrates’ courts and at that time, all of my job was in a courtroom. The majority of hearing types were cancelled. But we still had to run courts for people who were being held in custody. That meant I still had to go in to work once a week.
I felt like I was part of the film “The Next 28 Days” every time I went in. I was terrified of touching anything. Or being near anyone. The wave of panic that engulfed me every time I went to work meant I felt like I had no idea how to do my job.
Write it down
Fast forward a few years and my mental health is definitely still affected by that time. I find it difficult to look at photos I took during the first few weeks of lockdown. They bring back a feeling of complete panic and helplessness.
Life for me is still very complicated and overwhelming. I knew I needed something to help me feel like I was in control again that didn’t take up much time. I love to write and definitely find writing how I feel helps to get my worries out of my head. When life feels challenging, it can be easy to get engulfed by all of the negatives and forget about the good things.
I was interested in finding out whether regularly writing down things like my feelings, goals, self-care, and things I’m grateful for would help lift my mood. So, I jumped at the chance to try out Happybyme‘s 12-week happiness planner to see if it would fit the bill for me.
The planner lifted my mood as soon as I opened the parcel as its cover is a beautiful bright yellow. It felt like a little ray of sunshine on a grey and rainy day. The planner is designed to help you focus on the things that make you happy by writing them down daily. It’s created by positive psychologists using research and science to help you improve your well-being in fun, easy ways.
How journalling can improve your mental health
The first few pages of the planner guide you through looking at what makes you happy and satisfied in your life. This involves completing a life wheel and looking at your core values which help you to identify what you’re working towards.
The rest of the planner is broken down into weeks. Each week starts with you identifying your values, what is most important that week, what is non-negotiable, and the things you want to do for yourself.
Taking a few minutes at the start of each week to do this really does help to identify what’s important to me. It’s very easy to start the week with the best of intentions, but then forget about things as life gets in the way. Writing them down is a great reminder of the little things I can do that makes me feel better. Like going for a walk, taking a bath, or just finding 10 minutes in my day to read a couple of pages of my book or magazine.
The end of each week has a page to reflect. Again, taking a few minutes to fill this in has helped me build on what’s gone well, and reflect on the little things that bring me joy. My daughter said to me over the weekend that hugging me always makes her feel better. Hugging her (and her sister) is one of my greatest joys in life. Even on the worst days, I will always be grateful for that. Recording how hugs make me feel and being able to read them when things feel tough, is a great mood booster.
I’ve been using the planner for a few weeks now, and I can feel the difference. Finding little pockets of time to do things on my own, or with my family, feels much more achievable. Having everything written down reminds me of what makes me feel good and why.
The ethos of Happybyme resonates with me a lot. This time last year I walked away from a successful 20+ year career and the financial security it brought because it wasn’t making me happy. Whilst Covid brought a lot of negative things into my life, it also gave me the gift of reflection.
I realised that continuing on my expected career path was never going to bring me joy and fulfilment. Walking away from my career is the scariest and most difficult thing I’ve ever done, not least because of the lack of financial stability. But it’s given me the chance to re-evaluate what happiness and success mean to me.
It’s the simple things like taking my kids to school and finding out about their day on the way home. Having the time to listen to them read. And spending time with my mum. Or taking her to medical appointments without having to ask someone if it’s ok for me to take leave. Those are the things that make me happy. Using the happiness planner has helped me realise that too.
To find out more Happybyme, head over to their website. I was kindly gifted a copy of the planner so I could try it out and write this review.
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