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Hi, everyone! I’m back with another instalment of the “Joy of…” series, where we explore various mindful activities and how they can help benefit you. Today we will explore the enjoyment of journaling.
I remember being given my first-ever journal. I was six years old. I can still recall the weight of it in my hands, the blue cover, the picture of the dolphin on the front. It had a little lock and key, but I never used that, since I immediately misplaced the key.
It had dates preprinted for every day, so my six-year old self did not have to worry about that. All I had to do was write – and thus began my love of journaling, and by extension, writing.
Journaling is a well-known tool to help people cope with a myriad of problems. It’s often recommended to those struggling, as research shows that getting thoughts down and out both helps us sort through feelings and understand them.
“There are the obvious benefits, like a boost in mindfulness, memory and communication skills,” Haley Phelan writes for The New York Times. “But studies have also found that writing in a journal can lead to better sleep, a stronger immune system, more self-confidence and a higher I.Q.”
I, personally, recommend journaling to everyone, whether you are going through a tough time – or not. Journaling even for five minutes a day helps me organize my thoughts, feelings, experiences, and help achieve things like manifesting, planning my day, and getting out issues that bother me.
I quit drinking and doing drugs after ten years, and journaling helped me through the whole process. It was on those pages where I laid my heart out, cried, denied, and fought with myself. I had an emotional outlet where I could judge myself and wallow in self-pity; after doing so, that same outlet became a source of recognition and acknowledgement. It was like a well-laid plan every time: by the end of my journaling session, I would feel immensely better, more level-headed, and clearer about my intentions and goals.
I didn’t even have to leave the house or talk to anyone.
So – how can you start journaling?
First: keeping a journal is accessible and cheap. Notebooks can be purchased from the dollar store; no need for anything fancy. Alternatively, you can use your computer, as I sometimes do. I used to think using a computer for journaling was cheating – but I disagree with my previous assessment: my mind races so fast that typing is the only viable option. If you want to use a computer to type out your journal, go for it.
The biggest obstacle to beginning to journal is just that: beginning. People do not journal for the same reason they resist attempting to draw: they’re afraid they’ll look stupid, make a mistake, or mess up.
Alert: nobody cares. Your journal is just for you (unless, of course, you’re keen to share it). Don’t worry about what might happen if you make a mistake. I am more worried about self-realization I might miss out on if I do not journal. Mistakes be damned. I have personal growth to do.
I know there are some people out there who will not journal for fear of someone finding it and reading it (hi, Mom!) I get that. We all have secrets. But get your secret out, and then burn the page. Rip it out and tear it up into little pieces and flush it down the toilet. Keep it on a password-protected computer. Write so messily that nobody can decipher it.
Now that you have your notebook and pen out (or computer, or personal assistive device, or voice notes on your iPhone, or whatever it is you use), write. That’s it. Talk about your day. Tell it your secret. Divulge that you really hate Jason in 4B and by doing so maybe you realize it’s yourself you hate. Acknowledge that hate. Now journal about the steps you’re going to take to get over it.
Journaling opens new pathways in our brains and helps form new connections. It helps us make sense of what has happened and plan for what will happen.
Journaling requires you to be present in the moment. In order to write, you have to be in your mind to get the words out.
Journaling can be used as a tool for manifestation. If you use your journal to write out your goals, hopes, and dreams, and then reflect on what you’ve written and take action on it – boom, there’s your wishes on the page now manifesting into real life. This is a tool that, I feel, is unrecognized in journaling. Or under-utilized.
I say this from experience: by writing in my journal, repeatedly, that I wished to go back and complete my university degree after taking a 10-year hiatus, I did just that.
Thoughts, turned into words, have the power to turn into action. It’s a very humbling thought.
Besides using a journal to record day-to-day-life or manifesting your dreams, there are other forms of journal-keeping.
One of my other journals I keep on a regular basis, besides my daily journal, is a gratitude journal.
It takes about 30 seconds a day to write down three things I am grateful for. Any time I feel down, anxious, or stressed, I take it out, flip to any page, and read an entry. It immediately boosts my mood and brings warm memories back.
Another type of journal I keep somewhat regularly is an art journal. A lot of people mistakenly equate art with drawing; that is not the case here. Sometimes, I use a word prompt or reflect on my day, and create a collage on the page with magazine pictures, stickers, words, and any artistic embellishments I feel like (such as drawing circles all over the page with oil pastels). As with keeping a written journal, an art journal helps you stay in the present moment, guide reflection, and foster creativity.
I realize there are a lot of different ways of journaling and keeping a journal, many of which I did not touch on today. (Never fear, I’ll have an upcoming post on morning pages and wild minds.) There is also niche journaling, such as about nature or books or art.
Whatever approach you take to your journaling practice, remember that there is no wrong way to do it. Your journal is for you and you alone (or whatever), and you should treat your journal as a judgment-free zone.
The act of keeping a journal should be a source of enjoyment in itself. It should be a time of day you look forward to; not one that you dread – if so, perhaps journaling is not for you.
What about you? Do you keep a journal? Have I missed any types that you love? Leave a comment below 🙂