Written by therapist Melissa Del Carmen
While reflecting on the past couple of years, I once again had the realization that life just seems to be in constant motion. Whether that’s moving on to the next school grade, moving to a new neighborhood, growing apart from old friendships, or meeting someone who makes a significant impact in your life, life happens.
Have you ever heard anyone say the expression, ‘Life happens’ or, ‘That’s just life’? These sayings can act as a sort of acceptance toward a situation. A type of, ‘Oh well,’ of an event or experience. Our lives are consistently filled with beginnings and endings that may include new opportunities and adversities. Without taking moments to process, we may not realize the changes that are taking place in our lives and even within us.
Does life happen to you or for you? A heavy question to consider, I know. I feel overwhelmed just thinking about the type of relationships and experiences I might have to sort through. However, There are some helpful tools and activities that can help start the process of reflecting on life!
The Tree of Life Activity
Created by Ncazelo Ncube and David Denborough (Dulwich Centre Foundation), The Tree of Life is a helpful activity that can be of great aid in starting the process of reflecting and processing your own life story. Stories have the potential to help us make sense of ourselves and the world around us.
When you have a moment, grab a piece of paper, and let’s get started! Let’s start by writing out about all of the important things you want to include in your Tree of Life. Each part of your Tree of Life will represent something different. For each tree part, draw a part of your tree and write notes around it. Attached are some questions by Clinical Psychologist, Danielle Crane (Firefly), to help you think through each part.
Roots – Where you come from and your family:
- Where were you born? Where did you go to school?
- Do you have any favorite memories?
Ground – Your present life and day-to-day activities you engage in:
- What influences you on a daily basis?
- Who do you live with? Where do you go to school/work?
Trunk – Your skills and abilities:
- What talents and coping skills do you have?
- Can you play an instrument/draw/write? Are you helpful/kind?
Branches- Your hopes and goals:
- If you could have three wishes, what would they be?
- Do you have hope for health, happiness, success, money, family, etc?
Leaves – Important people in your life:
- Who plays an important role in your life?
- What type of influence have they had? If they’ve helped, how?
Fruit – Gifts from important people:
- Have these people provided you with a shoulder to cry on/support/compliments?
- What have your parents taught you?
Storms – Challenges:
- What storms have you experienced in the past?
- How did you manage with these?
Once you have identified all of the parts of your Tree of Life, take a moment to look through it. Do these things influence who you are today? How? Has your perception of your roots, leaves, or any other part of your tree changed over time?
Activities like these that help us intentionally reflect on moments in our life have the potential to show us that we are resilient. We can be a part of the meaning-making and identify purposes that came from each life event, significant relationship, and experience. Just as trees adapt, grow, and withstand storms, we too have the ability to change and adapt to handle what life may bring.
Exercises like these can be valuable tools to stay engaged in as you continue to grow in identity development. If you’d like support while getting to know your roots and reflecting on personal life experiences, please reach out to myself or one of the therapists here at Optimum Joy today!