I have never been someone who journals.
I tried when I was younger, but I’d get bored with the mundanity of writing out the events of a standard day. Often finding my imagination getting in the way, the entry would turn into a make-believe story rather than a factual account of my life.
Many assume that as a writer, a journal would be a big part of my life as it’s another creative outlet, but I’ve never thought I had the time or much of an inclination to be honest!
However, I’ve been finding it harder and harder to ignore the chorus of voices telling me how good journalling is for you, especially for mental health.
So, this summer I decided to find out more, and actually give it a go.
Learning from an expert
As part of the Dream Club Membership, Teresa Heath-Wareing delivers a live mindset session every month. The subject matter ranges from improving confidence, and your personal mission statement, to productivity and more. In addition to these live sessions, every one is recorded and made available to members for as long as they are in the club.
Which was perfect for me to go back into the archives, and catch-up on the journalling workshop she lead, in March of this year.
Journalling can help . . . .
- Achieve your goals
- Track your progress and growth
- Gain self-confidence
- Improve writing and communication skills
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Find inspiration
- Strengthen Memory
- Allow a stream of consciousness
7 brilliant benefits
The idea is that journalling allows you to better track your intentions, which in turn makes it more likely that you will achieve your goals. Similarly, because you’ll be tracking the progress of those intentions, you’ll have a physical record of how far you have come. Sometimes when things take a long time it can be hard to see any improvement, by detailing the intention and the progress, you’ll have proof of the changes made.
As you recognise your progress, and take the time to celebrate it, you’ grow in confidence, because you’ll be showing yourself how brilliant you can be and just how much you can achieve.
Over time, your writing and communication skills will improve as you develop your skills in formalising your thoughts and emotions, finding the right words to express yourself. This practice of regular journalling will also help ease some of the fear around writing you do in other areas of your life, that you might not have previously enjoyed.
If you’ve ever read ‘The Chimp Paradox’ you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say your inner chimp, even if you haven’t read the book, you’ll no doubt have heard your own negative inner voice at the back of your brain on more than one occasion.
By using journalling to really exercise that ‘chimp’ part of your brain, exhaust it, argue against it, and remove its power. It’s proven you can go a long way to rewire your brain, reducing stress and anxiety that shows up as negative thoughts and beliefs.
“Stop. Take a breath. Then ‘come from love’.
It’s a vital opportunity to reframe your thoughts”
Teresa Heath Wareing
Letting your thoughts spill out onto the page can reveal thoughts and ideas you didn’t even know you had. Leading to the discovery of inspiration from within, new ideas can flow out when you relax and just let your brain do its thing!
It’s recommended to use pen and paper over keyboard, as this act of physically writing things down signals to your brain that you want to remember it. Think of all the students in lecture halls scribbling down notes, rather than just attempting to ‘absorb’ the knowledge from the speaker at the front.
Of course, it’s not a strict rule – in fact there are NO rules when it comes to journalling. It’s simply discovering whatever works best for you.
I’ve a friend who prefers to use her voice notes to friends as a form of journalling, and whilst she may not actively be writing things down, she’s still practicing the art of letting her stream of consciousness out.
By freeing our minds in this way, we allow ourselves the opportunity to work through problems that previously felt overwhelming. We can strive to find compassion for ourselves when all we’ve done on the surface is berate ourselves for failure.
Writing down the bones
Hard to argue with all this right?
It certainly had to be worth giving it the time to at least try!
So, I refrained from setting any expectation, and I told myself I would just see where my thoughts took me, without pressure to write a certain amount, or to focus on a particular subject.
As simple as that, I made a start . . . . the most interesting thing happened, very quickly I got into a conversation with myself. A paragraph of negative thoughts, or problems I was unhappy about, would be followed by a paragraph of kindness, understanding and objectivity.
I certainly wouldn’t describe that first time as easy, and I was aware of really trying to articulate my thoughts, so it didn’t always flow. But, on the other hand I didn’t find it hard either, these were my thoughts, they were all sitting just below the surface, and it felt as though they’d been trying to get out for a while!
Following that initial effort, I found the resistance to journalling wasn’t as strong, though undoubtedly still there. I’d want to write but I’d be looking at the bedside clock and calculating how much sleep I would get if I went to sleep now vs. writing for half an hour or so.
Honestly, I love my sleep!
So, I changed tack, and tried journalling in the morning instead. Finding the time to do this was a real issue as normally it’s ‘get up and go’ with the kids in our house, but I set aside some time and I found I actually got entirely different results with morning journalling!
I felt far more creativity coming through, I was generating ideas about what I wanted to get done. I used the opportunity to plan for the week. But not just a task list, more than that, a list of intentions for things I wanted to achieve and how I was going to get there.
Practice makes perfect
I’m still working on creating a habit for my journalling, and I certainly still feel that old block when it comes to making the time. But, what I have now is actual proof of how good it is for me, which I can use to counter-balance my resistance when it arises.
Whilst it’s clearly still a work in progress, my mind has most definitely been changed about how journalling can benefit me. I understand now why I was avoiding sitting down and being alone with my thoughts, but I also see now that they aren’t so scary and they are only thoughts. Which I can look at, consider and then choose to let go – if that’s what I want to do.
Journalling without Judgement
One of the biggest things around journalling that I have learned is to come to it without judgement.
Let go the judgement of spelling and grammar, of neatness and readability. You don’t ever have to share what you write with anyone, it’s just for you.
Let go of the judgement around the negative thoughts, this is your opportunity to work out what’s really going on. Thinking these things does not make them true, nor does it make you a failure in any way.
Let go of the judgement around the pain you feel when facing situations that arise whilst writing your journal, show yourself compassion. Show yourself love. Feeling sadness around your negative thoughts does not make your selfish or pitiful.
A final piece of valuable advice I learned from Teresa during the training was to always end with gratitude.
It would be easy to run away from some of the thoughts that may arise whilst journalling, by closing the book and promising to finish another time. But it’s always worth spending the time to work through thoughts with compassion.
Don’t stay in the negativity.
Teresa says a great way to finish is with ‘a simple practice of gratitude’. Nothing fancy required, just a short list of three things you are grateful for, no matter how big or small. Because whilst the brain is feeling the emotion of gratitude it is physically unable to feel anything else. Moving you away from the pain and negativity and into a more peaceful place.
The conclusion of the fully converted
I have honestly learned so much since going through the mindset session with Teresa’s membership. Among many other things, most importantly I have had my mind changed about what journalling is and what it can bring to my life.
Now, I have a fledgling new hobby that I enjoy doing, even if I do still have to encourage myself to ignore my pillow for 10 more minutes at the end of the day, take up that paper and pen, and just start writing.
Suzanne Frear is a creative copywriter working with passionate small businesses. Helping makers, bakers and motivators shine on the internet and connect with their audience.