As part of my journey to cultivate joy, I have been working on more consistent journaling. I’ve wanted to keep a journal for years but was not able to accomplish a consistent practice until I changed my definition of consistent.
Initially, I thought a consistent journaling practice required daily, weekly, or some other standardized frequency of action. For years I would make New Year resolutions to start journaling, only to give it up before January ended. But who says that consistency is defined by time when it comes to journaling? Maybe consistency can be defined in another way? Maybe journaling consistently means writing things down when you need to get them out? Maybe it means making gratitude lists when you’re in need of a shift in perspective? Letting myself journal when I felt the need, and having a journal and pen at the ready helped me to let go of expectation or guilt and start getting into a journaling practice.
The benefits of journaling are vast and well documented. A quick google search shows that there are anywhere from five powerful health benefits to 83 benefits of journaling! In short, journaling is a very powerful tool for unloading psychological junk and gaining perspective. It allows you to put it down long enough to maybe look at things from a different angle. A few ways that I use journaling include:
Tracking: Be it food, workouts, alcohol intake, water, hobby work, or anything else you can think, a journal is a great way to keep track of your habits. In fact, there has been such a movement towards using journaling for this purpose that a journaling approach called Bullet Journaling has become popular. Bullet journaling allows you to track your habits and schedule intentionality into your day. Although this is meant to be an analog practice, there are also several bullet journal apps.
Spirit Work: Here I am including everything from gratitude lists to work that comes from other practices related to meditation, spirit work, releasing psychological junk, and all manner of stuff to shift perspective. This could also be called psychological work, but I am starting to see this more linked to spirit work. I find that the deep internal joy comes from tapping my heart into the universe more than wrapping my head around anything in particular.
Regardless of how you journal, you may find that your practice goes through phases or that your needs change. I journaled frequently after losing my father, but over time my need to release grief began to subside. My journaling went from hourly (early on) to less than weekly. I still wrote when I needed or wanted to, but the time was only tuned to my needs, not to the calendar. At some point I decided that I wanted to write about other topics, so even though I still had pages in my “Dad Journal,” I bought a new journal and started over.
You can also just free-form journal about anything and everything. Do it as needed, when you have something to get out. I’ve decided that this qualifies as consistent journaling. If you feel low and need to remind yourself of the good in life, journal. If you want to shout something from the rooftops, but have no one to tell at the moment, journal. If you’re working through some feelings or changing a habit, journal. Any time you feel the need to send my attention someplace, journal.
For me, a consistent journaling practice was easier to achieve if you allow yourself to believe that you already do it. Your ego may push back and say that you have to do it every day, but you don’t. The thing is, no one cares. No one is going to come after you and say that you don’t really journal. Once we let go of our egos’ ideas that we have to do something 100 percent to do it at all, we can redefine what it means to have a journaling practice and begin to reap the somewhere between 5 and 85 benefits of journaling!
Learning to tune out or quite the ego is so freeing! In this case, it allowed me to let go of the guilt that I should be writing more frequently, and just begin to journal and enjoy the process. These are powerful ways that we can create more joy in life – by journaling, but more importantly by letting go of definitions that don’t serve us.
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