Transformation Tuesday: The Art of Keeping a Journal
May 19, 2020
We don’t know for certain how this year—the COVID-19 year—will ultimately go down in history. All of us are experiencing constant change and uncertainty causing high levels of stress and anxiety. But, we do know one thing. Looking back on this year, with our thoughts and experiences cataloged in a journal, will be truly magical.
Some of history’s greatest literary works have come from individuals who kept journals. Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank, Henry David Thoreau, to name a few. Obviously, those are big shoes to fill. But the act of writing is a creative process that has health benefits for anyone and everyone. We don’t have to be great writers to begin. By keeping a daily journal, we’re discovering that we possess resilience and courage to make it through this time. Here’s what we’re actually doing when we write. We are...
Clearing the Clutter in Our Minds
When we write in a journal, a diary, or a notebook, we’re allowing our thoughts to unravel the mess in our minds that often goes unchecked throughout the day. It becomes a safe space to share our concerns, our fears and anxieties, and also our joys. When it comes to our mental health, journaling becomes a powerful way to prioritize our problems so that we can deal with our day-to-day struggles more constructively. It also allows us to identify negative thought patterns, stressors, and triggers that are harder to track in real-time.
Tip: Make Journaling a Daily Habit.
It’s easier to keep good habits when we work them into our routines like brushing our teeth before bed or setting the alarm clock. If we always write in our journal for five to ten minutes before bed, right after we brush our teeth, it becomes second nature. When working a new habit into the mix, keep it short and simple. We like The Five Minute Journal, or simply listing three things we’re grateful for in our journal every night.
Finding Moments of Joy
It’s easy to become hyper-focused on the negative as we pay attention to everything that we’ve missed out on or lost this year. It’s human nature. So many of our friends have postponed important plans, missed milestones like graduations and ceremonies, and are grieving the loss of the lifestyle that was so important. But, the grass is only greener where we water it. Looking back at the journal entries from the past forty days, or so, since the initial lockdown, many of us who have kept journals are reminded of just how far we have come. There are moments of joy, hope, and resilience in our stories that are easy to miss and forget. In fact, having a space to read our accounts of what we’ve already been through gives us hope for what’s to come. Whatever that may be...
Tip: Try Journaling with an App.
Old-school journaling has a romantic appeal. But, there are so many convenient options available to mobile users. Check out this recent Top Journaling Apps List and give a few a try. We can also change the settings in our phone to allow for daily reminders to keep us on track.
Being Kind to our Future Selves
We believe in the Beauty of Change. As we ‘grow through what we go through,’ we’re reminded that change and growth is often uncomfortable, painful, and scary. Journaling gives us the platform to check in with our future selves, like a good friend, and to be kind to ourselves. We’re all going through this together, sure. But, also, we’re also experiencing life in our own, unique ways. Life can be a very lonely experience at times. When we take time to write down our thoughts, what we’re really saying is, “I have faith in what’s to come.” Our future self will look back, recall what we went through, and be on the other side of it.
Tip: Send a Note to the Future.
We don’t know what the world will look like at the end of 2020. But, having faith that things will progress for the better is important. We like the idea of writing notes to be read at the end of the year and sealing them. Or, for physical journals, we can write an entry on the last page of the book to be read once we fill all the other pages. For a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ option, there’s FutureMe.org, which lets us send an email to the future.
Thinking Beyond the Bookshelf
COVID-19 has forced the entire world to rethink the way it operates from going to work to shopping to seeing the doctor. For those of us who are in various stages of treatment for breast cancer, it’s been a shocking eye-opener at the vulnerability of the healthcare system. As we all shift and make changes to the way we move through the world, we can apply these same lessons to the way that we approach journaling. Writing down our thoughts every day, on paper, is the traditional approach. But, there are so many alternative ways to give it a shot. Scrapbooking and collage are a crafty, more visceral way to document our experience. Video and photo books, home movies, and vision boards are all forms of journaling. If it feels therapeutic and makes us happy, we are willing to try it.
Tip: Set it to Music
Music, like the smell, is a powerful memory recall tool. A playlist or a video montage with the music we’re listening to right now will likely always remind us of how we’re feeling during this year. Video montage tools like One Second Every Day now offer music options, too.
This is a historic time. But, if we don’t take the time to write our own story, our own history, when we look back, we may only have the version of the story that is told to us by everyone else. Everything we’re going through has the power to shape our future. It has the potential to be beautiful.
“Keeping a journal implies hope.” - Erica Jong