The power of journaling

Alongside meditation and mindfulness one of my key tools for maintaining mental wellbeing is my beloved journal. It is always in the form of a thick and beautiful notebook and I get particular joy from writing in it using my Parker fountain pen and occasionally one of those colourful multipens that you likely had as a child (did anyone else always use to try and click all of the colours at once?!). For me it cannot be any old notebook or pen, it has to feel luxurious and indulgent so that I really feel into spending some time on me.

Now you may wince at the very word journal because you may instantly think of it as a diary and declare "That's not for me, I'm no Anne Frank or Bridget Jones!", but it doesn't have to take the form of a diary. You do not have to start an entry with "Dear Diary" or come up with an affectionate name for your journal (unless you want to).

You might also be thinking "Oh my life is far too dull to be writing about it!" First of all, I doubt that is really true. Secondly, a journal does not have to be used to chronicle the everyday happenings in your life.

Journaling is in fact a very individual thing. So let me tell you what journaling means for me, and I'd love for you to share how you journal if you do so already.

Firstly, my journal is a record of all the insights I gain from blogs, books, conversations, guided meditations, sessions with my life coach, videos, workshops and more. I can pick up an old journal at any time, flick through the pages and reignite former learnings to better apply them in my life. This is especially easy to do if you make use of colourful pens or glue in pictures or quotes as these will really stand out should you ever fancy looking back.

Secondly, I use it to develop a better connection with my values by evaluating, exploring and affirming them. This means that they sit more strongly in my mind and I am therefore more likely to behave in ways that are aligned and integral to those values.

A wonderful journaling exercise in terms of values, as taught to me by my life coach, is to write down an exhaustive list of everything that you value. It can be physical things (e.g. your home, a loved one) or more abstract things (e.g. honesty, freedom). Anything that you hold dear in your life. Then start with the first thing you wrote down and compare it to the second. Cross out the one which you perceived as valuing less. Evaluate mindfully which is more important to you until you have your number one value and then repeat the exercise again until you have your top five. You may feel some resistance when completing this exercise, especially when it comes to deciding between loved ones but stick with it because it does not mean that their worth to you becomes any less.

Thirdly, I use it to process difficult emotions and situations. This means getting out all my messy thoughts and feelings out on the page rather than having them buzzing around in my head driving me crazy. You can call it a brain dump. For me the act of writing it out slows down my whirring mind because the speed of my handwriting can never match that of my thoughts. It does not matter if you end up writing things that you don't really mean, it's only for you to see. Doing this brain dump means that your energy expenditure goes from problem-storing to problem-solving.

I also use it to strategise by working out what my goals are and transforming them into S.M.A.R.T. goals - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.

My journal is the place to be better connected with my affirmations e.g. "I choose to feel good about myself each day" , "Don't die with your music still inside you" and "If I can change my thinking, I can change my life". Journaling helps to keep them fresh at the forefront of your mind and for me they accordingly can be a great lift to my mood because I can more easily turn to them if life starts to get tough.

Perhaps my favourite use of my journal at the moment is starting the day setting out my intentions for the day i.e. how I want the day to go, how I want to feel, what I want to achieve. This means that you start the day with the right mindset and are therefore far more likely to have an amazing day. I like to pair this with an evening session in which I consider how the day actually went, and what I learned from it.

What brings together the above ways of using my journal is personal growth. Providing that you do not let your journal gather dust, it is impossible not to grow when it comes to journaling. Journaling is such a powerful tool to have in your life, and the way you use it can be as unique and beautiful as you are.

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