Since it is a mindful practice shown to reduce stress and anxiety, there is no perfect grade for performing journaling. You don’t need fancy pens in colors of the rainbow - unless you want to.You don’t need expensive, leather bound sheets of paper - unless you want to. You are doing this for YOU. Find what allows you to feel relaxed, to become more mindful and let it develop as you go along. Honestly, there really are no rules except for one - you have to sit and do it to gain the benefit, it’s not going to fill itself in.
When I was in school I had to write about what I learned or researched. It was a needed task to perform. It occurred to me one day, after being out of school for a few years, that I was still learning things and taking in information every day. So how do I use this new stuff in a meaningful way in my life? How will I remember those little aha’s?
I began jotting things down on napkins, torn off corners of papers, and on the backs of receipts. Great, now I had a sack full of randomness. Nothing I could easily flip back to rethink on or even develop into something. Just randomness.
A journal isn’t a day-planner. Although, I admit that sometimes mine has turned into that - our creative minds wander. My journal is for my thoughts, ideas and feelings, not for keeping track of all the ’stuff’ I have to get to each day. So I’ve carried one with me and if an idea strikes or I have some epiphany, I can put those thoughts into their special place. Organised randomness. Sort of. At least with a journal they weren’t just riding around in the bottom of my purse never again seeing the light of day.
For some, the ritual of sitting down and opening up a journal is what’s needed. For others, using an app on your phone to make voice recordings is easier. For others, making a word doc on their computer is what works. And for those who want to go ‘fancy’, they start a blog. Whatever works for you, again, the first step is to start.
When you start, maybe you only think of one sentence worth of observation. Sometimes it can be just one word. And, sometimes an entire page will effortlessly flow out. It’s also nice to date what you’ve written. After a while you can look back and compare what was going on around you and what it made you think of. There are times I have looked back at things I wrote and first go hmmmm, usually followed by an aha moment, followed by the thought I might need to rethink how I handled situations or things I may have said or thought.
We each also need to find the best time of day to take those 5 to 10 minutes for ourself. Some of us may need to set a reminder, some don’t need to. Again, there’s no benefit if we don’t make the time. Most days I carry a journal with me. If I have a lull in a busy day I can jot things down. I found it easier to remember to do if I had it with me instead of tucked away in some secret hiding place.
Remember, a journal isn’t a diary accurately logging our day. It’s dreams, and doodles, and things we’ve learned, and future plans, and spiritual insights, and feelings, and … whatever is on our mind. My mind can be a pretty busy place filled with lots of stuff. I have begun to look at journaling as clearing some of that out by putting it on paper to make room for other thoughts to grow. I find it relaxing, a way to exhale and I no longer feel soooooo obligated to journal, I just do it. If I miss a day or two, well, it means those days must have been pretty busy. Perhaps I was doing things I had only dreamed about weeks before, so I no longer have self-scolding for skipping a day.
Writing things down helps to clarify what we think. Plus, it puts us in control of our inner universe. By getting thoughts and feelings out, our inner universe becomes calmer, clearer and more ordered. This helps us to relax and actually develop a more optimistic approach to life. And, research has found that when we write out dreams and goals we are more apt to achieve them.
So, what have you got to lose by giving it a try? Some might say, 5 to 10 minutes a day, a waste of my busy life. I say, I can see how I got through times I thought were unbearable, those ‘ewe’ moments of ‘ok, don’t do that again,’ but most importantly, see my progression of doodles, ideas and dreams coming true.
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