By James Willoughby, The New Daily
If you thought the days of people keeping a journal were over, you’d be wrong.
A specially designed journal – which helps users practice gratitude, mindfulness and empathy – is currently all the rage in the sporting world.
Just two of the many athletes using it are newly crowned AFL Brownlow Medallist Dustin Martin and Australian cricket captain Steve Smith, who both hailed the product’s impact on their outstanding form.
Martin – who won the AFL’s highest individual honour on Monday evening, polling a record 36 votes – told The New Daily that in 2017, he feels calmer than ever.
“The Resilience Project journal has helped me be calm and in the moment this season,” Martin said.
“It’s also helped me to feel grateful for all I’ve got … for the opportunity to play footy for a club like Richmond.”
Martin has been using the journal since July last year and will be filling it out on Friday evening – just hours before he runs out onto the MCG for this year’s AFL Grand Final.
Like Martin, Smith said the daily ritual of focusing on his mental health had had a big impact on him.
“I’m feeling a lot calmer in a lot of situations,” Smith told The New Daily.
The 28-year-old cited an example during this year’s Indian Premier League in which his newfound mindset helped him.
“I hit the two sixes to win [in the last over of an IPL match],” he said.
“Everyone asked the next morning how I slept – surely there was lots of adrenaline still running?
“And I was like, ‘No, I had a cracker of a sleep because I was just chilled out’. This stuff really works.”
So, what is in the journal?
The Resilience Project program – which started with a 2011 talk to students at Kew High School – is not just for athletes.
Founder Hugh Van Cuylenburg, who has spoken to more than 250,000 school students, teachers and parents and a host of NRL, AFL, cricket and netball sides across the country, said while mental health issues in sport are “frightening”, that they affect all sections of society.
“The aim of the journal is to help people appreciate what they have, be present and think of others,” he told The New Daily.
“To practice gratitude, it’s about paying attention to things you do have, not the things you don’t, which can be a trap for elite sportspeople.
“Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment and the app Buddhify has proved extremely popular among athletes, who also practice empathy by doing kind things for people.
“There’s so many proven benefits that come from this, and many of the athletes I work with will do things like buy a coffee for someone else in a queue, work with the homeless, send thoughtful emails to those close to them or make an effort with friends who might be struggling.”
Van Cuylenburg said he did not want to take credit for their form but hopes the journal has given Martin and Smith a sense of gratitude and the ability to be present and in the moment.
The independent view
Dr Clive Jones – an expert in sports psychology from Bond University – said The Resilience Project journal gave much-needed “perspective and life balance” to athletes.
“It is uncommon [to fill out a journal in this day and age],” he told The New Daily.
“It’s something people wouldn’t normally do. But having something concrete and in place to get people thinking is a good thing.
“It’s about building a positive mindset. Athletes ride an emotional rollercoaster and those who are too engrossed or obsessed … it can inhibit their performance.
“It’s definitely important for athletes to stop and think … they can get in a manic fluster at times.
“By practicing empathy, it helps team dynamics, and the other stuff [gratitude and mindfulness] can optimise personal performance.”
James Willoughby, The New Daily