You’ve likely heard it before, journaling is good for you — you write out all your feelings and release them to the universe. But it can be hard to remember to make time and space for this activity every day. Writing takes time, a lot longer than typing, and while there is something magical about putting ink to paper, there are still only 24 hours in a day.
For more than forty years, Natalie Goldberg has practiced Zen and taught seminars in writing as a practice. She argues that if you “shut up and write,” and do so without self-criticism you will be launched into a world of self-understanding and connection.
The trick then, is figuring out what kind of journaling fits into your lifestyle and helps you reach your goals. A couple of my favourite journaling tactics are morning pages and gratitude journaling.
Julia Cameron first introduced the concept of morning pages as a creativity tool to clear your mind and kick-start your day. They may seem like a lot of effort at first, but they are absolutely incredible once you get into them. For a month and a half I completed my morning pages every day, about an hour or so into my morning. The thing about morning pages is there is no right or wrong way of doing them. The goal is simply to write three full pages based on your stream of consciousness. What I found as a solopreneur is that a lot of my morning thoughts were fears and anxieties about the day ahead. Would I be good enough? Would I make enough sales to pay my bills? The list goes on.
After a few days of this pattern, my morning pages started to transform. I would write down all my doubts about the day on one page, but then I would write about all the data I already had at my finger tips that contradicted these qualms on the next. This not only allowed me to coach myself through my fears, but it gave me evidence that I was capable enough to excel through my day, even when imposter syndrome was suffocating my inner confidence.
This, is the power of morning pages, they have an insightful way of releasing what you need to in order to silence your inner critic and come up with creative solutions.
Gratitude journaling is a common approach to journaling that has been proven to decrease anxiety and depression as well. The goal here is to truly embrace what you are grateful for each day, keeping your spiralling mind in check and ensuring you spend more time focusing on the positive.
Our brains are malleable, the patterns we let our brains practice in terms of thought processes (whether positive or negative) can be changed over time. However, these patterns create grooves, like water running over rock time and time again. You create a default neural pathway for your consciousness to flow through, and in order to change that, you need to take deliberate action to move your default pathway somewhere else. This is what gratitude journaling helps you accomplish, creating a default pathway that is more positive, optimistic and grateful to foster more happiness in your day-to-day experience.
While gratitude journaling does require a commitment, it is important to keep it simple so that it does not feel like a chore. For example, if you set yourself a minimum requirement for things to be grateful for each day it can become difficult and disgruntling. Instead, be cognizant of what warms your heart each day, and document as you see fit.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Not sure how to begin your journaling journey? Here are a few tips to help you.
1. Figure out if there is a way to build journaling into your day without it feeling like a chore.
Sometimes this means not writing every day. For you, every other day may be enough. This means not being too hard on yourself if you do a skip a day or dislike what your consciousness is telling you. Try putting a daily reminder on your checklist and find the best fit for you. I’m not really a morning person, so spending time with myself, my coffee, and my journal in the morning is actually the best fit.
2. Remember, you are not your thoughts.
Whatever your brain comes up with, it is not a representation of who you are as a whole. We are complex beings, and one stream of consciousness does not determine whether you are a good person. In fact, good and bad are rather arbitrary in the grand scheme of things. These pages are for yourself, not for others anyhow.
3. Buy that pretty notebook you saw at Chapters and just start already.
I know you want to. Pretty notebooks with cute patterns and motivational quotes are practically my life blood. If you are stoked on your new notebook, chances are you are more likely to want to write in it. There is not a real right way or wrong way to journal, just begin somewhere and see where it takes you.
Do you keep a journal? Do you find it helpful?