A Flexible and Fun Tool in Your Wellness Toolbox: Cards Decks

wellness card decks

Besides relieving us of the job of generating ideas just when we’re least likely to generate good ones, card decks give us ultimate flexibility to experiment and discover new strategies and new information about ourselves, in the process of looking for ways to feel better.

I come by my obsession with—and trust in—randomly generated wisdom honestly. One of my earliest experiences with card decks was Mrs. Thomas’ 3 x 5 card file. My first year back at school after my Dad died, I landed in Mrs. Thomas’ 6th grade classroom. She had a card file on the corner of her desk that held assignments you could do if you finished your other work early. I always finished my work early. I’ve never been particularly good at waiting, so I frequented her card file.

Card decks reward you for being open, curious, willing and courageous, the very things we don’t see about ourselves when we’re consulting an outside source for help.

Mrs. Thomas’ card file had math problems, essay questions, spelling, and research assignments in social studies or science. You got graded on these extra assignments, but if you didn’t do well, it didn’t lower your regular grade. It was whipped cream on a brownie. Without the whipped cream, the brownie is still good and still a brownie.

Good card decks give you a variety of types of strategies to try out, and even if you reject 9 and take the 10th, you may benefit from the new possibilities that open up in your thinking, just reading the 9 you rejected. 

I adored Mrs. Thomas. She wore pleated skirts and pressed blouses, nylons and lace up shoes. Her hair had been auburn and was turning gray. She didn’t fuss over her appearance, she didn’t raise her voice, and she made the standards of conduct crystal clear. Her class was orderly. We worked quietly. I think that’s the year we made an entire miniature village out of painted cotton balls and craft sticks. It’s certainly the year I wrote an essay about how dramatic my mother was, solved pages of math problems and produced neatly printed lists of correctly spelled words.

A card deck reflects the values, beliefs and experience of the person who created it. You’ll get the most out of decks that align with your values, beliefs and experience, with just enough new ideas to engage your curiosity and inspire you to expand from your current space.

I used to suspect that Mrs. Thomas had made a special effort to have an orderly classroom just for me. That’s how wise and kind I thought she was. Now I believe that Life landed me in the perfect place and treated me with gentleness and quiet at a time when I just needed to settle and have familiar things around me, like words, paper, pencils, people.

If life has landed you with a deck of cards or other randomly generated wisdom to consult, consider that something of value may be there for you. But equally consider that it’s your perfect right to reject any and all of it, if it doesn’t feel relevant at the moment.

Sometimes all it takes is to catch ourselves in the act of giving away our power to be able to take it back. But at others times, we can consult a card deck in full empowerment, allowing it to show us, in a loving way, something we didn’t see before, even if that something was there all along.

Here are some easy ways to incorporate card decks into your wellness practices. If you’re a therapist, you can modify these suggestions and work with your client usng the deck of your choice (For all the wellness decks, visit our Etsy shop.)

  • 1. Decide beforehand what you’re looking for. A suggestion? Something you’re definitely committed to doing? Pick a card at random, see what it brings up for you, and make a plan, if that’s what you’ve decided to do.
  • 2. Look through and choose a few—say, 3—that speak to you, and make a plan for how and when to incorporate them into your day or week, or even month.
  • 3. Have one card be your focus for the week. See how much comes up that’s related. 
  • 4. Pick a card you feel really averse to and use it to help you uncover something valuable that helps you become healthier. For example, maybe your aversion to exercise is based on shyness around people. Is there a way to incorporate physical activity without challenging every fiber of your being?
  • 5. Use a randomly picked card as a journaling prompt.
  • 6. Use a randomly picked card to generate a list of other ideas that you like better.
  • 7. Ask a question and then pick a card. Some great questions: “What’s a good thing for me to pay attention to right now?” “What’s something that would help me right now?” “What am I not thinking of?” In addition to questions like, “How could I feel better?” and “What would be good for my soul right now?”
  • 8. Pick a card that is already a goal of yours, such as drinking water, or writing thank you notes, and put it somewhere prominent to remind you to actually do the thing.
  • 9. Sort the cards into categories, such as Mind-Body-Spirit, or Physical-Emotional-Cognitive-Relational-Creative, and pick one from the category you feel most in need of new energy.
  • 10. Pick a pair of cards and see how they might work together.

Bottom line: Get creative! You can’t do it wrong! But you might end up feeling better and gaining a new wellness skill.

Published by Phyllis Capanna

Phyllis Capanna, MA, OTR/L, occupational therapist and counselor, creates mental health and wellness printables to help you shift your moment in times of change.

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