I have written a journal ever since I could hold a pen. As a child journaling was my way of making sense of the impermanence of everything. If I wrote about my day, I could hold on to it, go back to it, remember what made one day different from the next.
As a teenager, journaling was an important outlet for my tormented soul. My journal was my best friend, a constant companion who would never ever let me down. I had one of those diaries that you can lock with a key. It was like my secret sanctuary where I could express and keep my innermost thoughts.
As I outgrew the troubled teenager, I discovered there is a lot more to journaling than the “Dear diary, here are my feelings” phase. My journal became my personal sandbox where I could be creative and play with words and ideas. It’s in the pages of my journal that I discovered my passion for writing.
Much later in life, when I had to cope with the terminal illness of my husband, my journal became my portable therapist. My journal was on call 24/7. It was where I could speak the unspeakable. Journaling allowed me to work through my pain and grief, like nothing else could have.
Today, journaling is an important part of my daily routine. Like yoga and meditation, it connects me with myself and keeps me centred.
1. Journaling is a powerful way to meet yourself.
The act of writing down your inner fears, your longings, your pain can be scary. But once you’ve overcome that first hurdle to express in words the things you wouldn’t even share with your best friend, journaling can be transformational. It has the power to unlock things deep inside. Your journal is the one place where you can be brutally honest. It’s like looking at yourself in the mirror and pretending that crease above your lip isn’t there. By sharing with yourself what you are too ashamed to verbalise elsewhere, you are moving a step closer to finding your authentic self.
2. Journaling helps you gain a different perspective on life, on your past & your emotions.
It allows you to explore the right side of the brain and understand things that you can’t access through reflection and rational thought. By writing about anything, even something as banal as what I had for dinner the previous night, I might have a sudden insight into a part of myself that I could not have reached otherwise. Journaling makes you listen to your heart, understand your goals and deeply engage with yourself.
3. Journaling is a an essential act in self-care.
Journaling is as important to my daily morning routine as meditation. I meditate to gain clarity and calm. Journaling is a companion practice that allows me to process that tangle of thoughts and emotions in my head. By writing things down, I am able to work things out.
Like meditation, it’s a way of cleansing my head each morning before I start the day. Getting stuff out of my head and onto the page is a form of clearing out the blockages. You could say, it’s an act of mental and emotional decluttering. It allows me to reset my mind to a blank page each morning. In its essence, journaling is a practice in mindfulness.
4. Journaling is a way to unlock your creativity.
A clear mind will be more receptive to unexpected flashes of inspiration. Journaling, especially stream of consciousness writing, can be a powerful tool to tap into what lies just below the surface of our busy minds. Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages” is a powerful and popular ritual to connect with your creativity and make it flow first thing in the morning. In her seminal book The Artist’s Way, Cameron recommends free writing 3 pages each morning as a form of stream of consciousness writing.
5. Journaling can be deeply healing.
Journaling must be the oldest form of self-help there is. I instinctively reached for my journal when I knew no other way to cope with loss and grief. At the time, I had no idea that expressive writing and journal therapy are being widely used by psychologists especially with trauma victims.
Dr James Pennebaker, the author of Writing to Heal, says that “When we translate an experience into language, we essentially make the experience graspable.” And that’s the first step towards healing from trauma.
Journaling is also reported to have tangible health benefits. The emotional release we receive from journaling can lower stress and anxiety, even an improved immune system.
Here’s a challenge for you:
If you don’t have a regular journaling practice, start this week with 10 minutes timed free writing. Use the prompts below. Try to stick with it for five consecutive days.
Start right now. It only takes 10 minutes, but it can transform your life, trust me!
1. What do you associate with the word “writer”?
2. Describe where you are right now. What can you see? What can you smell? What can you hear?
3. Ask yourself: What do I want from this day?
4. Where are you happiest? Describe that place.
5. What is the best thing about journaling?