We all know that staying positive is helpful in promoting good mental health. Well, this is getting harder and harder for some folks. Staying positive has become increasingly difficult when our world is plagued by personal problems, psychiatric symptoms or environmental issues. One great and simple tool for re-framing a negative thought process into a more positive (taking a good thing that happened and understand it as a positive) is called taking inventory. Imagine your history as a store, with different goods stocked on mental shelving. As the owner of your “store”, you are the expert on how to best conceptualize the best use of your products. These are your memories. The meaning you assign to these mental products will determine how satisfied you are with your choices and progress in life.
Through engaging in periodic life review, moment by-moment re-assessments of your situation, and other skills, I will examine how taking inventory in your “store” is such an easy and effective tool to seeing the world through more positive terms and keeping more upbeat and optimistic. How is this done? Taking inventory begins by developing a greater appreciation of your personal accomplishments, milestones, growth, maturation, obstacles overcome and all the great feats you accomplished during your life.
This is the inventory you are taking inventory of and building an arsenal of positives to draw from when things seem bleak. So, how is this done?
Taking an inventory not only serves to re-frame negative thought processes in the moment, it can also paint an entirely new narrative of negative experiences over the course of a lifetime.
You can establish a new narrative in your mind by identifying positives (this is what I mean by taking inventory) throughout your journey can be critical in overcoming periodic bouts of depression or depressive symptoms.
These depressive symptoms, or dark moments riddled with sadness and grief over your present status can be altered!
I do not recommend combating extreme states or extreme depression with suicidal thoughts with this skill. In these cases, you may want to consider a level of care that can address your increased risk of self-harm to yourself or others.
However, for less extreme states, this skill is extremely easy to self-implement or learn with the help of a trained therapist. Recalling key moments in your life you feel upset about, re-framing them, and then taking inventory of the newly newly re-configured positive means a great deal in terms of self-regulating your emotions.
Periodic life review exercises your mind’s capacity to see the bigger picture. Understanding the importance of taking yourself out of the moment, and evaluating your behaviors, feelings and the experiences which shaped them both over time, you can get a better handle on how you are doing over time. You can go ahead and do this across different intersections of your life, making your self-assessment more meaningful, and complete. For example, you can periodically evaluate a medical problem, such as diabetes. How did you handle adherence to treatment 10 years ago? Five years? How did you feel when you were more adherent, less? How did the management of this illness and your ability to overcome it or manage it effectively impact your life? I recommend engaging in periodic reviews because you don’t want to get stuck in the past. Staying present focused, even future oriented, is only furthered by sporadic instances of life review, or when you feel it is timely given your life circumstances.
Initially, either with the help of a psychotherapist, or through self-CBT, reconfiguring how you attach an emotion to a thought is more easily done over the course of time when learning how to take inventory over entire periods of your life. This is done easily by identifying patterns of behaviors, and taking inventory of your capacity to regulate over the long-haul, and maintain healthy behaviors in the long term. In doing so, you can gain an appreciation of how consistent healthy behaviors is important in reaching your goals over time.
A trained psychotherapist might be helpful in teaching you this skill initially, and with practice, you will find you can do it on your own. This is a big step in seeing the world in more positive terms, and staying positive over longer periods of time. Clinicians evaluate the frequency and intensity of symptoms. Basically, they interpret your reporting and chart how intense or severe disturbances in your life are and how often.
Sometimes the unknown troubles us. Not knowing what’s ahead or how we will perform in those circumstances. It’s the future that’s important, and the road ahead, so while you shouldn’t get stuck from the past you can learn from it. Applying this new knowledge to unfamiliar situations will only reduce the risk of poor outcomes in your life. Planning for the future means knowing what went wrong, and why, but also how to ensure you don’t follow the same patterns again which lead you to go awry. Not only disorders, psychiatric or medical, allow us to have the insight needed to make this skill work.
A huge step towards greater self-regulation, or at the very least, understanding how you regulate over time, allows you to not only report to your therapist more accurately concerning your thoughts and feelings but generally get your own sense of how you are doing over time. This can greatly improve your gains in therapy, and speed up your rate of recovery.
Certain symptoms rooted in psychosis, for example, can limit or restrict insight, judgement, and other faculties needed to carry out enough decision making skills to make the right choice. Other symptoms can interfere with your ability to recall, and understand past experiences in terms of your behavior, and their impact on your life. In these cases, I again recommending working closely with a trained therapist who can build and cultivate enough awareness to make this skill work and for you to ibe successful in implementing it on your own.
Either way, with a therapist, or on your own, you can feel more positive knowing the future is more manageable when you learn how to take inventory!