I can’t deny that there was a time when my brain placed the concept of journaling firmly in the "woo-woo" bucket, along with meditation, sage burning, and crystal healing.
But those were also the days of "corporate Sarah" who conceived wellness as eating broccoli and going to spin class at 5am before a 20-hour day at work, so the fact that I’ve changed a lot since then is a hard pro rather than a con.
It’s not a huge surprise that I suffered an inevitable health crisis a few years into my career that sparked a chain of events leading to my reinvention from lawyer to funtrepreneur (a story which you can read about elsewhere, involving matcha green tea powder and going into business with my now-husband).
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Another characterisation of that transformation is shifting from a "seize the day" philosophy to a "seize the yay" philosophy, which is now the podcast, book and product range that takes up most of my days.
That process of getting back in touch with joy and wellbeing is too long for this article, but much to the dismay of my former self, one of the biggest rituals I introduced (to which I attribute so many ideas and breakdowns-leading-to-breakthroughs), was journaling.
Interestingly, the dictionary definition of "woo-woo" (yep, there is one) describes ideas based on false beliefs or imaginary things, and it turns out that I couldn’t have been more wrong about the process of putting pen to paper.
There is a ton of research out there on the benefits of writing therapy for managing emotions, stress, and even symptoms of things like anxiety or depression. And the best part is that there’s no right or wrong way to write in a journal – it’s the mental version of any physical exercise you do, in that we all find different things enjoyable or more effective, and you just find what works best for you.
It’s become such a crucial part of my wellbeing regime – like a valuable tool in my toolkit that I whip out whenever I feel the need.
I feel my practice somewhat overlaps with the art of practicing gratitude - pausing to give thanks for the people, emotions and opportunities circulating around you and within you.
Gratitude can manifest in so many different ways, like connecting with nature (hello weekend ocean swims), nourishing your body (I love that I can rely on my favourite brand Soulara for fresh, plant-based meals, delivered to my door), or telling your best pal or long-term partner why it is you love them dearly (yes, four-legged friends count too).
But back to the whole journaling regime. There are so many reasons I think everyone should have a journal on hand. Here are just a few of them:
It's like emptying the trash, but for your brain.
Sometimes all you’re doing is taking a knotty web of thoughts out of your brain, putting them on paper to unscramble them with the clarity of distance, then putting them all back in neatly.
Once something is written down outside of your brain (hence, "brain dump"), you don’t have to hold onto it so tightly inside your brain, so it frees up space for other things at a time when we’re already overloaded with information every moment of the day.
You don’t have to have an audience.
Nobody is watching, nor does anyone else ever have to read what you’ve written, so you can explore how you feel or what you really think in a safe place. Sometimes, it’s only in writing something down that you even know you feel that way. I’ll be honest, the first time you sit down to journal, you can feel a bit silly playing "dear diary" like a teenage girl - but remember there’s no audience, so there can be no judgment or response from anyone unless and until you’re ready to share beyond its pages.
You can do it anywhere, anytime, for free.
If you have a pen and paper, you can conduct a little writing therapy session for yourself anywhere. I ALWAYS carry a journal in my bag in case I have an idea or an emotion I want to capture.
You can change your style whenever you like.
Some days, all I write is three words being the three things I’m grateful for. The power of even small reflections of gratitude over your mood and outlook for the day always blows me away. Other days, I write full stream-of-consciousness accounts of my feelings or even blow-by-blow accounts of a particular event or day.
It can be useful even to record symptoms of something you want to keep track of - particularly with anxiety, when it can be hard to remember how you actually felt in a particular moment and if you’ve improved or not. I’d go as far as to say drawing also counts!
It’s like a moving meditation.
Writing in a journal is fairly mutually exclusive with any other activity, so you have to stop multitasking and put down your devices while devoting time exclusively to your thoughts. Even if you don’t meditate or want to meditate, there are endless benefits to giving your brain a moment of single focus and blocking out the noise of every other activity. In that sense, it’s like a vacation for your mind from the daily grind and the endless to-do list!
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Sometimes, giving something like journaling a name makes it sound technical and intimidating, but you’re really just writing things down on paper. It’s far simpler than we make it seem, and I’d encourage you to just give it a go and see what happens!
And there are some beautiful journals around to bring some luxury to the experience if you feel like treating yo-self (but I’ve journaled on a serviette before so, again, there’s really no excuse to not give it a go).
So, get writing and let me know how you go...
Feature Image: Mamamia and Sarah Davidson.
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