Growing up in the 90s, I was inundated with movies that depicted the simple practice of journaling. Princess Diaries, The Notebook, Freedom Writers, and Eat, Pray, Love to name a few. It was a practice that I began when I was 11 years old; it would begin with the humble "Dear Diary" and would detail my dreams, wishlists and goals for my life. I would describe in great detail how my future husband would treat me, what my house would look like, what kind of stage I would command, the flavor of gelato I would eat after landing in Rome, what I would be able to do for my parents when I had money and how I would treat others. I could sit for HOURS by candlelight, on the floor near my altar writing wrapped up in the words and fantasies that would enrobe the room that felt so safe and warm. But when life began to get a little harder and much busier, just like the rose scented candles in my room, the flicker would eventually go out.
As a teenager I felt pressured to stop writing, like it was too woo woo, too sentimental and too soft. That by taking the time to write down my thoughts, it was taking away from any moments of social interaction, tribe cultivation, 'real' goal setting and inspired action that would actually be beneficial for my life. A teen inverting was weird, and I couldn't have that. So I threw myself into the hustle and wouldn't realize until much later, what an integral piece journaling would be in my personal growth; a reawakening, a soft beginning and a portal to truth and a repossession of ritual and sensuality.
The Benefits of Journaling
Over the last decade I rediscovered my love for writing. When I was in the thralls of my healing journey, grasping at straws to cope with my deteriorating self image, trust issues, attachment flaws and social anxiety I looked for anything that could help, eventually finding a notebook and a small flicker, an urge or craving to scribble into a blank notebook. It was sporadic and incoherent, silly at times. But just like any self care practice, something I would need to titrate back into my system. It felt as if my life moved at too fast a pace still to even comprehend any benefit of sitting down and writing my stupid thoughts on a page. It felt frivolous and all-consuming. A burden really.
I started Travel Nursing in 2019 and felt like I had content that could stretch my writing muscle. With the deepest and most thoughtful and concentrated encouragement from my husband, I started writing again. He said Thomas Edison lived to accumulate over 1000 patents and only a few of them were ever worth anything. So write, even if it is for no one but you, it is out there. I have taken the time to sporadically write over the years, over experiences that were close to my heart. As my healing journey progressed that also translated in the ways I would journal. To write for myself; because journaling became less about something I have to do to feel better, and more about a silent prayer that is heard in the heavens. An invocation to disentangle the things within me that I did not yet understand. There are so many benefits to journaling, here are a few that might resonate with you.
Improve communication and writing skills
When we write we are practicing the art of communication. As you put your thoughts onto paper, you begin to explore different ways to communicate what is going on in your internal environment. We safely explore language, description and detail that can further alchemize into verbal communication with others.
Depending on the type of writing you do, it can be such a confidence boost to witness that sometimes what we write, what we feel no longer serves its purpose or belonged to us in the first place. It can certainly be a tool that we can use to set goals and intentions and see the progress made when we look back at our records. Sometimes your best accountability buddy is yourself.
Reduce stress and anxiety
"Better out than in."- We have about 70 000 thoughts per day and according to the National Science Foundation, "80% of them are negative and 95% of them are repetitive." Journaling is a beautiful outlet for momentarily breaking the loop of negative self talk that happens on a daily basis. It can be a release of emotion that can result in space to think of fresh solutions to spiraling problems.
Our minds are inundated with information, our bodies are stressed. This breeds short attention spans and disinterest in engaging in new ideas because we cannot possibly explore unknown places or thoughts because we are so scared. When we write things down, our brain processes it better and penetrates our memory. Journaling also allows us to focus our attention on a particular train of thought and expound upon it.
Flex your creativity muscle
While we often see the benefit of structure and order, there is something so primal and emancipating about writing something in freeform. You are likely the only person to see your journal, so there is permission to write without judgement, criticisms, misgivings and so we allow our freak-flag to fly and let the creative juices flow. You will be surprised to see how strengthening your creativity in this way can translate into your every day life through communication, idea forming and devising solutions.
How do I get started?
The trick is to just write and see what happens. You can find so many journal prompts on the internet or via Pinterest. My favorite way to start my journal apart from the "Dear Diary" option is "Dear Universe"... If that is still too vague, here's a few forms you can use.
At the beginning or end of the day, list all the things that you are grateful for. From what you ate, to the people in your life, to the weather, to what you hope happens or what has.
Stream of Consciousness
Write your thoughts, sensations or feelings as they are happening. It doesn't need to make sense. It gets to be messy, convoluted, mean, tangential, bullet-form, doodles etc,. Write with reckless abandon and in great detail. Sometimes when we are overwhelmed we just need to let the pressure out of the InstantPot, let it out and let it go.
*Pro tip - when you feel complete with this exercise, see if you can write another entry in the way you might respond to the previous as if you were a friend receiving this information. How would you coach yourself through this situation? You might be surprised with the difference in energy and tone between the two entries.
Workouts you may have done today, what happened today, recipes, mood, menstrual tracking, the list is endless. Committing to this type of tracking allows us to be mindful and present to what is happening throughout our day.
What is it that you want to accomplish tomorrow? Instead of keeping a running tally in your head, write it down. There is nothing sexier than checking off that empty tick box.
There was an instance when I was in college where I was attempting to creatively write in a booth right outside of my college library. This guy was waiting for his coffee order; he approached my table as I 'hummed & ahhed' about what to write, that was unrelated to my nursing studies. He asked me what I was doing and when I told him I was trying to write, attempting to journal, he guffawed at my struggle and said, "Journaling is for pussies." He proceeded to shake his head and walk away, but not without checking his shoulder and glancing back at me as if to reconfirm the audacity of my plight.
The thing is, when we escape into creative and pleasurable endeavors whether it being journaling, drawing, singing, movement, whatever, we step into gateways; portals to unknown, exciting worlds full of wisdom and truth. An endless vortex where chaos and destruction births creativity and an endless life of love and learning. When we are able to step out, in and through these portals we begin to understand the point of our essence, that vulnerability and softness is powerful and opening. I guess that College guy was right.