Activities Which Promote a Sense of Mastery, Achievement and Joy πŸ‘

In therapy on Friday I was fiddling with a metal hand puzzle to help manage my anxiety throughout the session. Because I struggle with Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours, swapping these automatic motions to instead playing with fiddly toys can be really effective for me. With these metal puzzles, you have to try and separate the two parts of a unit. The metal puzzles look like this, to give you more of an idea:

After about 20 minutes, I finally managed to work out how to separate the last and most challenging unit. Regardless of what we were speaking about in my session, I felt a real sense of accomplishment having worked it out, to the extent that I exclaimed a rather out-of-context “YESSSSSS!”, and smiled – much to my therapist’s delight.

Having seen the contrast between my demeanor prior to this “achievement” compared to after it, my therapist observed a marked difference which she deemed to be significant and worth replicating. She therefore asked me to compile a list of similar activities which evoke the same “I did it!” experience; the aim being for me to implement these into my life in an attempt to find enjoyment and meaning, whilst building mastery and a sense of accomplishment, on a daily basis. (Click here to learn more about the relevant ABC skill of DBT.)

Here is my list:

  • Completing puzzles: crosswords, sudoku, other brain games, jigsaw puzzles.
  • Playing/ winning Scrabble, Boggle, Snatch, etc.
  • Reading lots of books within a short time.
  • Writing a blog post I am proud of.
  • Swimming further and further distances underwater.
  • Swimming against the clock and beating old times.
  • Reaching the top of a rock climbing wall.
  • Flips/ other moves on the trampoline (and landing correctly!)
  • Getting an answer right in lectures/ classes.
  • Skiing down tough slopes!
  • Finishing cleaning something out, making tidiness out of a mess.
  • Doing well on assignments.
  • Finding great blackberries when we go blackberry picking!
  • Completing DIY tasks without reading the instruction booklet.
  • Successfully cooking/ baking something for others.
  • Climbing up a lot of stairs, especially if it’s the hardest of multiple options (escalators, lift).
  • Successfully playing something on the piano.
  • Making arty things I’m proud of: scrapbooks, albums, personalised cards, videos, etc.
  • Cracking a joke that actually makes people laugh.
  • Completing a colouring page I like.
  • Go Ape!
  • Resolving a conflict.
  • Winning prizes at funfair stalls.
  • Winning bets e.g the horse racing.
  • Climbing trees.
  • Ice skating smoothly.
  • Winning table tennis.
  • Doing well in a sport.
  • Writing a poem I’m proud of.
  • Reading other’s emotions correctly, being “insightful” and receiving positive feedback for it.
  • Growing my nails, counting the days.
  • Finding a piece of clothing I like.
  • Para-sailing.
  • Defying people’s expectations and impressing them.
  • (One day I will sky-dive.)

Especially during periods of low mood and high vulnerability, putting even the smallest mastery-building activities into my day can make a world of difference.

Today I took my sister to Go Ape – a tree-top adventure obstacle course – and it REALLY did help me feel a sense of achievement, pride and joy (amongst other things) which I have not experienced enough of lately.

I go back to work tomorrow, and I am nervous for it to say the least. I am going to try and apply this concept to my role at work; to help me find ways I can replicate the feelings above in as many ways as possible. A sense of accomplishment and purpose is invaluable to my sense of self, stability and overall wellness. Fingers crossed for tomorrow!


11 thoughts on “Activities Which Promote a Sense of Mastery, Achievement and Joy πŸ‘

  1. I don’t quite understand. You get to work the puzzles while you are having your session? Isn’t that giving only 80% of your attention to the therapist?
    And yet you got so much out of it. Please explain.
    Btw, I also do all the things on your list that are not sport-like because I also get a yeah me high from crossword puzzles and writing a great blog post. Interesting.


    • Nope because it’s a pretty mindless task for me, it’s more about having something to fiddle with that doesn’t involve my own skin. I sort of “accidentally” figure them out whilst we are talking, that’s why I surprised myself. And otherwise I end up destroying my skin/ nails/ cuticles which is basically lightly self-harming during therapy, and she won’t let me do that (understandably) so this takes up less attention at the end of the day!!
      Let me know if I can explain more

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for a really helpful post, it made me realise that I don’t do many things at all that make me feel mastery, achievement or joy. Even my few actual achievements don’t often make me feel that “YESSS!” feeling, even when they are objectively good. Winning at climbing walls though, that is one I can do. And I went to Go Ape once, it was amazing fun. I think your blog has inspired me to climb up things?

    Liked by 1 person

    • If this is something you struggle with, perhaps start with one small-ish thing per day (crossword? climbing stairs on the tube instead of escalators?), one medium-sized one per week/month (competing/ engaging in a sport? playing a game with friends?) and one on the big’uns per year (jumping out of a place, Go Ape, etc).

      Oh, and thanks for making me giggle a little. I do indeed LOVE climbing up things!

      I appreciate your post πŸ™‚


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