Journaling. Does that word conjure up a teenage girl gushing her love in a pink fluffy diary? If it does know this – there are a huge amount of journaling styles and techniques. They can offer incredible insight and wisdom and all you need is a pen and paper.
Writing is hugely valuable. It is not the final product that I believe is in anyway special but the act of writing. Our thoughts can get so scattered and confused that when we try and get them down on paper it can be surprisingly and eye openingly difficult. What we thought was a simple scenario or topic is multi layered and has many viewpoints. Without a journal thinking your way through your thoughts just adds to the confusion.
Keeping some sort of diary has been shown to reduce levels of stress, improve mental health and boost self-esteem. It is a way of getting to know yourself just as you get to know a friend or partner. We live in a world where we constantly distract ourselves so we aren’t left alone with our thoughts. Journaling gives us an opportunity to glimpse what’s actually going on and even to delve a bit deeper by asking ourselves thought provoking questions.
I used to write a detailed diary every day but I found that it became a chore and very mechanical and full of “I did this and I did that”. Once I decided to write only when I wanted to I started to write more about the real and juicy stuff. We are all motivated to write for different reasons and there is luckily a style out there for everyone. I have a great friend called Fra who writes for about an hour every day in her diary and has done for the past 10 years (not a single day missing!). It is very special to her and admirable but not something I am personally motivated to do.
So what do I do?
If I feel like I have had a moment of clarity or a moment of confusion (which can be the same thing in disguise) I pick up a pen. I try to write from my heart and not my head and somehow an abstract idea can become very real just as water condenses out of vapour. I write as much as I can on the first day of my period because I have a huge amount of wisdom on that day and my left and right side of the brain are better at communicating. I write a brief page every evening for menstrual awareness purposes (read more about menstrual journaling). I also have a tiny “I love …” book where I write something I love every night.
I used to write morning journals with my tea of about three handwritten pages where I wrote my stream of consciousness, no editing just pure word vomit. Sometimes I would just write ‘I am sleepy, I am sleepy’ but real pockets of wisdom would occasionally emerge.
Sometimes I find myself some questions to help my personal growth and development. Here are a list of good ones:
- Why do you do what you do?
- What is your relationship like with your mother/father?
- What makes you who you are?
- Who do you want to be?
- What in yourself is holding you back from being incredible?
You can also write yourself some questions and try and answer with your heart/intuition, it may not come immediately and sometimes it helps to leave the question unanswered for a couple of days.
Another really valuable skill is to write yourself a love letter. Tell yourself why you are amazing, why you are proud of yourself, what you have achieved and pretend (if you have to) you are writing as a friend. Self-love is so so so important.
A gratitude journal can be really powerful. I have a gratitude blackboard so I can look at it whenever I’m in my sitting room and because I now have an outrageous amount of journals!! Some other ideas I have yet to try are art journaling (sometimes words aren’t enough), nature journals (what did you notice about nature today?), writing about your problems/scenarios in the third person and keeping a success log of everything from fist pump moments to the more subtle achievements.
One thing must be said about writing, it can’t convey everything. The phenomenon of Facebook trolls and rants is using language as a mask. My friend and teacher Rebecca made the point that without language we can connect through our energy and actions in a much more fulfilling way. Just as people have fallen in love who don’t speak the same language. Have you ever tried staring someone in the eyes for 2 minutes? I guarantee that you will find more meaning in that than words ever could.
This article is encouraging you to write for yourself. Sometimes writing is futile but more often than not I find that it helps. I learn something about myself or I see a situation in a new light. So what are you waiting for? Go get yourself a notebook and a pen, pour yourself a cuppa, light a candle and write. You never know what you might learn.