You may or may not know this about me: I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and occasional bouts with extreme levels of anxiety and depression. The first diagnosis of depression I received occurred not long after becoming a husband and father. Yeah, I'm not going to touch that either. I know better!
But I digress! In the spring of 1996, I met with a physician who prescribed Ritalin, an offer that was not too good for me to decline. So, I summarily rejected the recommendation by the physician and instead began a search for a less addictive solution. You see, I didn't want to start taking drugs that might potentially worsen my condition or lead to the formation of a drug habit.
Thus, my search to come to grips with my diagnosis began shortly after that. I confess that this lifelong pursuit continues to gain a better understanding of my bouts with depression and anxiety and a quest to find potential homeopathic methods to contend with my newfound reality.
Surprisingly, even in 1996, I discovered I had lots of options other than pharmaceuticals. The drug-free alternatives included exercise, dietary changes, breathing techniques, absorbing natural light (lots of sunshine), vitamin C, light bulbs that mimicked organic sunlight, herbal supplements, and the like. I tried them all, mutually inclusively, exclusively, and in various combinations.
One of those many non-pharmaceutical options I uncovered was journaling. Full disclosure and journaling did not go so well at first.
Too often, in the beginning days of journaling, I often found myself writing about things that merely made me more anxious and depressed. Nearly every initial journal entry included writing about a person, place, or something that increased my anxiety and depression. Yep, that featured a "work and life" imbalance?
Fortunately, the habit of writing journal entries that increased my anxiety and depression ended in 2018. I had an epiphany as I prepared to speak at a conference regarding an academic success strategy designed to help Naeem during his first year in college. During my speech prep, I remembered how well things worked for Naeem after he started envisioning what he wanted out of his life and writing about it daily.
I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but I will, nonetheless. Despite all the exceptional academic and extracurricular accomplishments Naeem experienced using this process, I never realized that I should be doing the same thing. I know, dumb me, right?
You are correct. What an idiot I was. I'll say more about the lunacy of parenting at another time. One lesson for today is clear: if it's suitable for the child, it should be good for the parent.
So, I began journaling as I encouraged my son to do. Instead of recalling and reliving a moment I disdained on paper or electronic documents, I imagined my best life and wrote about that experience. I wrote about my best life, my imagined desired life, first thing in the morning before I did anything else. I envisioned moments in the future when bad experiences would only be a memory of how far I've come professionally or how far I've grown personally.
Over the years, I've also learned that neuroscience and psychiatry support my exercise of what I now call 'journaling forward.' At any rate, the cliff notes non-neuroscientist and psychiatrist version is that the brain does not distinguish between prior memories and future ruminations. Thus, journaling forward is self-programming my mind for enjoyable time travel.
Thanks to years of journaling forward, I've found myself less depressed and anxious. And there have been surprising additional bonuses from "journaling forward," too. A number of the things I wrote about manifested themselves in my life.
From authoring six books, giving a TED Talk, being invited to keynote public and private engagements across the country, and being featured in national publications and media outlets throughout the nation, journaling forward has been a fantastic way to keep me focused on contributing to the greater good in the present. 'Forward Journaling' has, without question, helped me keep my sanity. Yes, my sanity, which I know for many of you, might still be debatable.
Notwithstanding any debates about my sanity, I am committed to sharing my process to 'Journey Forward' with as many people as possible today. Contained in our forthcoming book, "Journey Forward: How to Use Journaling to Envision and Manifest the Life You Always Wanted," is the exact journaling forward strategy I use.
I must thank the persistent nudge of a lifelong friend, Dr. Robin E. Henderson-Wilson.
Thanks to being "voluntold" to share what helps me deal with depression, restrain overwhelming despair caused by events like the Pandemic, and manage the daily trials and tribulations of life, "Journey Forward" is a book today.
Dr. Henderson-Wilson selected 52 of her favorite journal entries to appear in the book's first issue. She invites readers to start the journey to their best life each week. She encourages the reader to read the week's journal entry and respond to the reflective questions and action steps included throughout the week.
Thanks to Dr. Henderson-Wilson, I'm not only okay with publicly admitting that I experience anxiety and depression, but I'm comfortable with sharing some of the steps I use to journey forward. And now, I'm also happy to announce and extend the following offer to anyone interested in reviewing the book.
The first ten people to reply to this offer and agree to write an Amazon review will receive a complimentary copy of the book autographed by Dr. Henderson-Wilson and me. Of course, I know my autograph will undoubtedly lessen the book's value, so if you prefer that I not sign the book, I'm happy not to do so.
All jokes aside, I hope that you will take us up on this offer. More importantly, I ask that you share "Journey Forward: How to Use Journaling to Envision and Manifest the Life You Always Wanted" with anyone you know. I invite you to share it, especially with those enduring similar struggles with anxiety and depression. Moreover, I hope you will consider reading and sharing the book with all those you know who are interested in living life just as they always imagined living.