My first entry into journaling came from an event I attended. It was a retirement event and the person speaking gave an amazing talk based on entries from their journal. They talked about past memories, words of advice, and how they had captured key moments in their life in their journal that they were now able to share with others.
After that event I really wanted to have a journal. I wanted to have my own reflective moments, share what I had learned, and have a personal memoire to relive my past. I started writing at the end of my day, capturing all the big things that happened, channeling this person speaking.
However, not everything happens the way we expect. I fell off the wagon. I kept it up for a few days, but it didn't stick. Sometimes things don't stick because it's the not the right time, sometimes it's about the approach. For me, it was both. I approached journaling with high expectations for the process and the output. Spoiler alert, this is not the way to approach journaling, and actually robs you of the magic of the process.
Fast forward a few years, enter a pandemic and quarantine. I used my extra time to join a book club for The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. This book is wonderful and I highly recommend it. A key tool introduced in the book is Morning Pagers, or said differently, Journaling. The approach was simple, and just what I needed to take away the pressure, expectations, and complexity of journaling.
I now use my journal to unpack things that are on my mind, to download before I "plug-in" to all the messages and distractions of the world. The world is a noisy place and grabs our attention constantly. Journaling allows us to tune into ourselves for a bit, and really helps clear our minds.
In addition to the benefits, there are some helpful tips on how to get started:
When do I Write: Morning Matters. Try to write as soon as you can in your day. As I mentioned above, the world is noisy and demanding. The morning is our opportunity to get quiet, get clear, and unpack anything on our mind before the day gets started.
How much do I Write: Start with 3 full pages, no more, no less. This rule helps you get started and helps create some structure. You may find when you are writing that about half way through you run out of things to write. Keep writing! Even if you write, "I don't know what to write." This is important and a resistance you need to pay attention to, and push through (trust me).
What do I Write: This is your time to free write. That means anything that comes to mind. Don't try to write something perfect, or pretty, or to be a "good" writer. Just write all the thoughts that flow through your mind. If you run our of things to write, keep going! I had entries in my start that included "I don't know what to write," "I have nothing to write," and even the occasional "blah, blah, blah."
How long do I do this: To start, 90 days. I know it sounds like a lot, but this means getting through the rule that it takes 21 days for a habit to form. After 90 days go back and read your entries. What can you uncover about yourself; where have you grown? This will help you reflect on what journaling can mean for you. Now you can add different things to your journaling habit.
Journaling Additions: write a gratitude list of all the things you are grateful for in your life right now; write affirmations or empowering phrases to energize you for the day; work with journal prompts to challenge yourself.
I hope this helps you get started on your path to journaling. I have now been consistently journaling for over a year. It is such a valuable part of my mindfulness practice, and a sacred time in my morning.
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