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Why I created the #Checkin Journal

Monday, 09 March 2020 Matt Johnson

Mind ambassador Matt Johnson explains why he created the #Checkin journal to raise money for better mental health.

The term checkin is very important to me. I first became aware of it whilst on a men’s retreat in 2019 called Men Without Masks, which was guided by my now good friend, Craig White. During the retreat myself and 14 other men, all on our own personal mental health journey, often found ourselves sat in a circle discussing ideas, discussing our life’s purpose, honour and what it means to be a man.

Each man would say three words to best describe how they felt

It was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget. One of the exercises that we used to break the ice and to open any discussion was to checkin. Each man would say three words to best describe how they felt in that moment in time, with a brief explanation. Whilst checking in, the other men weren’t allowed to interject, offer advice, or try to fix any apparent problems or issues, as the man checking in was allowed true freedom to express himself, without fear of judgement, in the powerful knowledge that he was being heard and listened to. This exercise blew my mind. The very act of authentically expressing my thoughts and emotions in front of anyone, was not only incredibly liberating, but it would change the course of my life forever. The more I checked in, the more I became aware of my myself, and with that, I found calm and most importantly, inner peace. Which is something I’ve been searching for, for many years.

I found it impossible to communicate how I felt

10 years ago, I nearly took my own life. It all got too much for me. I’m still trying to work out why I found myself so incredibly depressed and emotionally paralysed and the places I found myself mentally, spiritually, emotionally were incredibly bleak. I know that because of the negative stigma attached to poor mental health, I found it impossible to communicate how I felt. The dark cloud of self-loathing, hopelessness and lack of purpose had really taken a hold of me. Since then, I’ve been on a journey to find out why I felt that way. I’ve chanted with monks in Asia, I’ve pretty much tried every single alternative therapy there is. Yet I found that after all this time and expense, the answers were always within me and they were brought to life via the checkin exercise. All I had to do was to tune in to myself and be present.
Since the Men Without Masks retreat I’ve found myself checking in during business meetings, at dinner and even during public speaking. I can’t get enough of the raw authenticity. It’s liberating! Now, I have a burning desire to share it with as many people as possible in the hope that it can be of some use.

I’m aware that this exercise has been used for a long time. I’m aware that it’s used in counselling training sessions, during counselling, during rehab, at other retreats across the world and I’m certainly aware that I am definitely not reinventing the wheel here. However, what I am trying to do is to make this practice accessible to all. I know that not everyone is as fortunate to have had the opportunity to find this technique the way that I have, but if someone had shown me how to checkin 10, 15, or even 30 years ago, maybe I could have avoided the situation I found myself in.

I really hope you enjoy this process of checking in with yourself.

So, I have teamed up with Ben Treanor, founder of Mål Paper, to bring you The Checkin Journal, so that you can privately checkin with yourself every day. Simply checkin with three words and give a brief explanation for each one in the morning, and check out with one word at the end of the day. The one word check out is to bring a close to a more aware, mindful and purposeful day. On the next page, I have given an example of a random day in my life, in the hope that you can use it as a guide.

I really hope you enjoy this process of checking in with yourself. Just take it one day at a time, and hopefully we’ll all have a better understanding of who we are, what we want and where we want to be in our lives.
A final message from me. There are various things you can try to reduce the impact that stress, anxiety and depression has on your life. Some will find the idea of a checkin useful, but remember that different things work for different people at different times. Only try what you feel comfortable with, and attempt not to put too much pressure on yourself. If something isn’t working for you (or doesn’t feel possible at that moment), you can try something else, or come back to it another time.

In Loving memory of my friend and Ben’s cousin: Sophie Gradon

If you would like a #Checkin journal, you can buy one here

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