I was never one to keep a diary. I mean, I had notebooks that I would get out when I was feeling a lot of things all at once, but nothing consistent.
I’m extremely internal with most everything, but I’m also really good about letting out whatever I need to so I never felt like I needed much assistance in the thinking and processing parts of my life. I was very wrong. I never realized how much journaling can help you process and get things out before letting out things you may want to take back later. It’s a tool that could be utilized by so many of us to help improve our sanity within the chaos of simply trying to live and move forward in life.
It took me a while to get a board with regular journaling. Some of it was because I didn't feel like I needed it. A lot of it was because I didn’t believe I had the time. I’m not one to do much right when I wake up or right before I go to bed. I couldn’t see potential time slots in my day where I could fit it in so I simply just didn’t.
I had to realize that Journaling is not reserved for those of us who have a lot of free time.
It’s for anyone with a mind that can get overwhelmed by everyday life. For anyone who has thoughts that go through their head that need to be sorted through or remembered. It’s for keeping track of right now while letting go of what’s happened in the past and figuring out how to make things happen in the future. A journal is like a hard-drive for keeping our minds clear and our thoughts organized.
At this point, I try to journal everyday. I have made a point to MAKE time for it. Whatever moment I can find to write anything. Even if it’s just, “I don’t have much to think about to day” I will write it down. Even on days when I don’t feel like filling any pages, I always notice a difference in my mood and the quality of my day when I get a chance to journal a bit.
HOW I JOURNAL
WHEN I’M ALONE
This is when I do my best processing. When my husband is off doing something, my kids are preoccupied and I can sit by myself with no distractions and no one around to catch a glimpse of what I’m writing.
For me, a journal is a brain dump for anything and everything. But it’s really hard to think completely uninhibited when you’re constantly distracted by the needs of kids or there are people nearby that could potentially peer into the intimate corners of your mind. Even when it’s people I will probably reiterate every word to, I like to process it on my own. So I like to find a time when I’m alone and can pour my thoughts onto the page, no matter how significant or trivial they may be.
WITH A GOOD DRINK
Coffee, tea, wine, a cocktail, beer, whatever. Just something. I don’t know why a tasty drink is the perfect writing companion, but for me, it kickstarts my brain and makes it a luxurious moment just for me.
I think, truly, it keeps me in the moment. Every sip brings my attention to where I am right now so I can never get too lost in my thoughts and fantasy worlds.
IN A COMFORTABLE SETTING
Again, distractions when writing in my journal make it so every sentence is trivial and I don’t have the attention span to really let my mind go down whatever path it needs to.
I love to sit at the table where I have a hardy surface to bare down on. I like to be alone, but I can totally see the appeal of heading to a coffee shop and getting lost at your own little table. Really, just creating an environment where you feel completely at peace and uninhibited is key.
WHILE PLAYING GOOD MUSIC
When it’s too quiet, I get distracted. Something about having complete silence just gives me the creeps. I have a few playlists, some that I share in my monthly letters, that I like to cycle through here and there. For the most part, every playlist I make is great for playing in the background to create a mood. Some are a little more moody while others are more uplifting.
Really, anything that can fill the background and inspire a flow of consciousness will do.
WHY I JOURNAL
Once I get into the zone with all the things that help me get started, here are all the reasons I journal and what I write about.
TO CHECK IN
This may be the most important thing I do when I journal. I don’t consistently check in. Sometimes I have to go in and say with intention, “it’s time to check in with myself today.” But it’s a good thing to do whenever you can.
Basically, I start with one aspect of my life and move down the list. I’ll write about the good things, things that have improved, things I need to work on, things I wish could happen and then how to make them happen.
For me, my key check ins are always Husband, Kids, Hobbies - blogging and something random that I’ve picked up for a bit, Home - general health, decor, and cleanliness, and my general mental state.
Basically, whatever my most important things are at the time, I check in to see how they’ve been running. It’s helped me to realize I need to make a better effort to have quality time with my husband. I need more playtime with Oliver. It helped me to bring my blog to a more personal place and to help me step back and be patient with my slue of random hobbies I get into. And now, I’ve finally been able to realize I can work on my home little by little and that we don’t need to have a perfectly curated design or the perfect, seasonal meals all the time. All of this together has made my mental state much calmer and at ease.
So by far, checking in is one of the most important reasons why I use my journal. They’re all important really, but this one forces me to take a detailed look at everything that’s important to me to make sure I’m giving every aspect of my life the attention and quality that it deserves.
TO MAKE LISTS
This is an amazing tool for a racing brain. When you have a lot of things on your to-do list or deadlines you need to meet. Even if it’s just a lot of books you want to read or groceries or whatever. Whatever category or things that you’re trying to manage, make a list. I have so many random lists sprawled throughout my journal. I don’t even necessarily go back to them all the time. Simply getting them out and sorted can help me to prioritize and organize everything in a visual, tangible way that puts my mind at ease.
It gives me a next step, a first move, something to turn into an action so I’m not sitting on a bunch of thoughts that lead to nothing getting done.
I’ll use this to write out goals that we have for our future, goals I have for my personal hobbies. It helps me to sort through items I need for my wardrobe or home so instead of looks at each as a giant project that I have to do all at once, I can look at exactly what I need and think about what I want to fill that need with and then take my time finding exactly what I need.
Lists are probably the best way to turn your dreams and desires and goals into tasks that will help you reach each of those things in a manageable way.
TO SORT MY THOUGHTS
There’s always those completely abstract moments where you’re thinking about so many things that it almost feels like you’re thinking about nothing. That is when I use my journal to help me start with something and get my thoughts moving.
During these times I imagine there’s a giant tumble weed in my brain. I know there are a million little peaces of straw making up the giant tumble weed, but it’s spinning so fast that I can’t grab onto one of them. So yes, that’s when the journal comes out.
These are the days where I usually start my entry by saying, “I have no idea what I’m thinking about but I know there’s something.” That is when I practice the exercise of writing anything until you finally reach something. Literally writing whatever rambles come to mind until the tumble weed starts to shrink and eventually you have an organized pile of straw that you can actually see and sort through. Even if there are no significant thoughts that come from it, at the very least you’ve cleared your mind and you don’t have to feel stress over nothing.
TO DEAL WITH ISSUES
I am the type of person who feels and reacts within an instant. While my husband is the type to not even realized he felt something until the feeling is almost gone, I definitely feel all of my feelings immediately and intensely.
This has gotten me in a lot of trouble over the years. Reactions are never the best way to handle things and while I’m lucky to have fairly good instincts, there are some situations that could have been handled better had I taken the time to sort through the jumble of feelings before acting on them.
So now, if I’m feeling something strongly, I write about it. I write until I have a very clear answer on what happened, how I feel about it, and whether or not the situation was a big deal or if I just felt like it was a big deal in the moment. I have literally written 7 pages, front and back, on one issue just to try to understand and find a solution.
I’m a firm believer in talking through things and being honest always. Confrontation can be one of the most productive parts of a relationship, but only if it’s handled with empathy and reason, which hardly comes when you’re in the middle of feeling all your feelings.
Beyond that, behind every strong feeling, there is something deep within that triggers it. Feelings of being wronged rarely stem from our friends or spouses. Generally, the little wrongdoings that happen in adulthood come from something deeper in our subconscious: a pain we’ve acquired from the messiness of growing up.
We all suffer from childhood trauma. It’s how our very personalities are formed. We’re all born unable to receive some type of love from our parents, whether they actually give it to us or not, and that inability follows us for the rest of our lives. We all have the chance to learn this about ourselves and work on it, but we’re still going to have these weaknesses triggered by something every once in a while.
So this is why journaling helps me. It helps me to work through the strong feelings I have. It’s helped me to realize that when my husband does something on his own, he’s not doing anything wrong. It’s simply that I have a fear of abandonment and I need to learn to trust that when he leaves, he’ll still come back. But then, I can dig even farther and look at where that fear of abandonment comes from and learn to let go of the anger I built up towards my parents as a kid. To realize that they did their very best and that while as a child it’s sometimes sad when your parents have to go to work, as an adult I can help my inner child understand that there is no reason to hold onto those negative feelings because they weren’t actually abandoning me. The process of journaling before reacting makes it so these small triggers won’t effect me as deeply in the future and helps me to have a better relationship with the important people in my life.
So these are all the reasons I journal.
It’s basically like a therapy session that costs me $10 every 6 months to a year. A place for my mind to wonder, but not get stuck. It’s how I keep my mind free and at ease while still working through whatever it is I have to work through, big or small.