The other day, while decluttering my little cottage, I stumbled across a stash of diaries from my early teenage years. I cringed, marveled and giggled through the tatty pages like a voyeuristic uber-creep.
My fifteen-year old self gave me further proof that us humans just love to over complicate things.
Then I saw an entry from 31st December 2001. I was 15. I was on an aeroplane heading back from my motherland – England. I was watching four different time zones New Years Eve’s fireworks. And frankly, I was shitting myself. This was the very flight that kicked off my phobia of flying (a phobia I plan to conquer this year).
Besides my funny handwriting becoming increasingly messy the actual content was hilarious. I was just spewing my incoherent inner monologue onto the page in haphazard, half-sentences. *excuse the caps but for historical accuracy they are a must*
“Oh my god I think… WHAT WAS THAT NOISE?!”
“It’s starting to. I HATE PLANES. I am okay I. WHY ARE WE BOUNCING SO MUCH? Not safe. I think I am going to die. Don’t like. HATE.”
“I am coming back by boat”
Good times. By the end of the 16 (!) scrawled pages of traumatic flying I noticed something amazing. This journalling had talked me down from the proverbial ledge. Getting the crazy ramblings out of my mind and onto the page had helped.
I would psychobabble for a while, then address each of my points and calm myself down. “Oh my god we are all going to die” turned to “millions of planes fly every year – I am going to be fine”. Even in this moment of extreme stress just getting it onto the page helped me work it out.
So if journalling got me through the sheer terror of a flight then surely it would be useful in other moments of uncertainty? Yep. And given that life is what it is surely it could be classified as a long twisty moment of uncertainty? Absolutely.
In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself. The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather — in many cases — offers an alternative to it.
– Susan Sontag
Why should I journal?
It helps to make sense of your life
As humans we have an intrinsic desire to understand and to be understood. Even if your journal doesn’t even make much sense (more on that further down) you are naturally going to seek the meaning. You are going to pull all those clothes out of your washing machine of a mind, sort them out into piles and iron all the creases until they look neat again.
When your thoughts are on paper you see them with new eyes. It gives you such insight into why you may be feeling or doing certain things a certain way.
It gives you a good laugh
It is easy not to forget the big moments of your life but what about those small, wet-your-pants funny memories in your kitchen that one Sunday? You need these little twinkles in your life.
They are reminders of growth
Besides given you the odd giggle, journals can also provide you plenty of personal development fist pumps too! You can look back on your highs and lows and reflect on how different you are.
These diaries are proof that we are growing, learning, twisting and dancing through life. They remind us that every experience (even the ones we aren’t so fond of) has a reason.
It is a wonderful creative outlet
Creativity cannot be (but is) undervalued nowadays. It boggles my mind. Creativity is the facet of our souls that teaches us to express ourselves, problem solve, communicate, connect and discover. So if your creative juices are already flowing then carry on, dear friend! If not, then this is a great way to dip your toes in the water and get the process started.
It helps you sleep
We all have ‘em. Those nights where you are lying in bed and you cannot stop thinking about ideas or your to-do list. As soon as you write those thoughts down you can relax without worrying that you are going to forget them by morning.
Well that all sounds delicious doesn’t it? But a lot of people feel that they don’t know how to journal? They feel that they don’t know where to start or…
What to write?
Ideas, thoughts, dreams, your daily gratitude list.
Quotes, future projects, to-do lists.
Write about what happened yesterday that’s still on your mind.
Write about the idea that kept you awake all night.
Get creative! Draw, write a poem, pen a short story, create a quirky character that you hope to meet one day. Anything that comes to your mind!
The beauty (and knack) or journalling is that this is for your eyes only. It doesn’t matter if it is muddled, scrawly. misspelled codswallop! It doesn’t matter if it’s petty, needy or insecure. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense. The reason you are writing is to get all the mess out of your mind, and onto a clean nonjudgmental page.
Don’t think about what you are writing, just write about what you are thinking. (Click here to tweet this!).
Aim to write in your journal at least once a day. Find a comfortable distraction-free spot, nestle right into it and start. If you are muddled in the morning do it then. If you can’t sleep at night – BOOM.
Make it a ritual! I oil pull while I journal. Hey, you can’t talk for 20 minutes anyway! You could make your favorite tea and drink out of your fancy china while you do it or go climb your fave tree and write there.
Whatever you do – make it a routine that makes you feel calm and beautiful. Exactly how you deserve to feel.
P.s. This article is worth a look. Ten famous authors (like C.S. Lewis and Anais Nin) talk about the effect journalling has/d on their lives. Mind porn.
Tell me: How has journalling changed YOUR life? Or do you have another self-care ritual that you can’t live without? Would love to hear in the comments.