I’ve kept a journal on and off since I was about 13.
The early ones recorded what I did at school that day; normally something like:
“Got to school at 8.45, had registration, double maths, break, French, English, lunch & Games all afternoon.”
Not very exciting!
Over time they became more detailed and I noted anything that had triggered an emotion or reaction. But then I stopped for a while in my 20’s. I’m not sure why but it didn’t seem to flow properly; I think I was probably too busy or too lazy to be bothered with it!
It wasn’t until my early 30’s that I resumed writing on a regular basis. I was in a difficult relationship at that time and as it drew to its close I started to feel very anxious about my life so I started to write about how I was feeling to help me put my thoughts into some semblance of order.
I bought myself a little notebook and just let the words tumble out of me on to the page. It helped to read them back and over the period of a few weeks it became very apparent what I needed to do (I talk about this in more depth in “From Cancer To Coddiwomple”)
After a few years had passed I re-read those entries and ripped up this notebook as I felt it was unwanted clutter. I needed to let go of this particular period of my life and ripping up that journal was cathartic and extremely liberating! I haven’t ripped up one since. I started a fresh one but it wasn’t a regular thing for me, I’d sometimes leave it for weeks or months without writing anything. I just used to do it when I wanted to think something over.
Bizarrely I didn’t journal that much when Mum & Dad were sick, as I didn’t have the physical energy to sit down with pen & paper. My Facebook statuses became my outlet when I updated friends and family of the Patients’ escapades at home or at the hospital. Facebook allowed me to be short and sweet, and it was quicker for me to type than to write. I’m so glad I did those statuses because those records were invaluable for me when I was writing “From Cancer To Coddiwomple.”
These days writing and journaling is part of my regular routine; yes I might skip the odd day here and there, but it’s never more than two days. It became hugely important when I was coddiwompling in 2015/2016; I wanted to record every important moment, describe everywhere I went in order to keep it all fresh in my mind for when I wrote my blog posts. I just didn’t want to forget anything!
Since I returned from my coddiwomples my style of journaling has changed again. Even if I’m feeling a bit meh I will start each entry with “Three Things I’m Grateful For Today:” If I am feeling a bit grumpy (the peri-menopause has a lot to answer for!) then sometimes I have to think about it more but I still make sure I do it because by the time I’ve written the third thing my mood has lifted. Some days I only write a page and it’s all superficial stuff because I don’t feel like delving too deeply, other days I can write page after page. This is more like “free writing” and I admit that there have been occasions when a load of nonsense has spilled out on to the page!
That’s the wonderful thing about Journals. They don’t judge you; they’re yours and yours alone.
So how can keeping a Journal benefit you?
- Can help you verbalise your thoughts and feelings
- Improves clarity
- Doesn’t require a lot of work to stick with it
- You can turn to it when you need to unload or brain-dump
- Great for keeping track of things like menstrual cycles, health issues, diet, goals & progress
- Promotes mindfulness, helps you to observe more
- Can be fun and filled with memories
When can it be a negative practice?
- If it makes you self-obsessed
- You become a passive observer – thinking about what to write about instead of fully experiencing life and what is happening
- Wallow in negative experiences
- You feel you’re adding extra pressure on yourself to write regularly
If you notice any of these things cropping up, try and flip them around:
- What can I learn?
- How an I grow?
It doesn’t matter if you write “I just feel like shit today, but I don’t know why…” and repeat it a few times, sooner or later whatever it is that’s bothering you might rise to the surface and once you’ve written it down you’ll have a new perspective on it.
Journaling for me has been a massive part of my grieving process and helped me to heal from that difficult time. One of my journals became blogs and look what happened to those…they’re now a book!
Therefore you never know what you might unleash; you might discover you’re imagination runs riot and find yourself becoming the next J.K. Rowling!
I’ll leave you to ponder that thought..
Until next time, thank you for reading and take good care.