How to keep a Life Journal

7:30 AM

 This past Sunday, I mentioned the fact I keep a "Life Journal" and I also briefly mentioned it in my post "2020 : The year of self-care".

While what goes in that particular journal is VERY private, and about topics I am not very likely to share publicly, I decided to elaborate on the concept because I believe this is something everyone can benefit from. 

Life Journal is pretty much a term I came up with myself to describe a specific diary I keep which is less about ranting, or narrating my daily life and a lot more about actively reflecting on some specific issues, fears and past traumas, as well as setting goals and making self-care lists I can revisit regularly. 
It feels more like a "As I go" instruction manual to navigate my own life, grow and stay on track with my vision. 

It's a book I don't necessarily write in everyday, but it's a book I open to read through on a near daily basis, which is why I consider it a guide book of sort. 
I made myself specific rules about writing in it, the number one rule being : Never write an entry while angry or loaded with strong emotions.
I have another journal I call my venting journal for that, or I pour down my anger on a piece of paper that I latter crumble and toss in the bin. 
The life journal is a journal that I want to be able to use to build myself up, progress to the next step, analyse my fears and move on. A few pages of F words and other expletives jotted down in an angry way is not what I would call constructive material that need to go in a book I'll revisit regularly.

My other rule is "Keep it pretty". Why? Because I am a HIGHLY visual person, and the very act of keeping what I write visually appealing with colors, stickers and washi tape makes it have a lot more weight, and I take content that has gone through the effort of looking pretty a lot more seriously. It's a purely personal preference though. 

The reason I encourage all of you to start a "Life Journal" is that you can really grow from it, and deal with a lot of past traumas and fears in a very efficient way and see how your mind evolve over time as you keep it. Below are all the things you need to get started on that journey

What you'll need to get started

Since it's a journal, you will need a notebook. I strongly advise against keeping a digital journal for this one as it should be a book you can open at any page to read a few lines, or revisit a goal list on a daily basis. 
Any notebook will do, but since I mentioned I like mine to be visually appealing, I found that a dotted grid notebook normally used for bullet journalling works best. For mine I am using an Archer & Olive journal I got from Bigger Dreams Co, though if it's completely out of your budget (they are pricey), there are a number of other options available on Amazon India. I normally recommend Matrikas Signature Elite, but it seems those journals are currently not available, I instead found a 100 GSM notebook from a new brand called "The Mood Twister" which seems to have good reviews (those are affiliate links by the way). 

I embellish my life journal with washi tape, stickers, and watercolor illustrations so for me a thick paper is must. I usually write the main text with a black pen, and a few colored fine liners all of which I wrote about in detail in "The ultimate BuJo Scibble Bible"

Ok so what goes in it?  

You got your supplies, so now what? What is it that makes a life book more special than another journal? It's all about the content! 

One good place to start is to assess what long term goals you have, and what pattern you'd want to break free from and start writing those down.  Remember though that you do not need to have all the answers immediately, this book is a PROCESS. 
When I started introspecting into my life, I had a feeling I was having some past fears and traumas holding me back from living the life I wanted on my terms. I had no idea WHAT those fears, issues, patterns and traumas were exactly or how rooted they were in my past. Most of these are usually buried deep into one's subconscious and it can take months or years to really uncover the source.

The first step it to realise that yes, there might be something in the way that could need fixing and to write that down. 

For example, one of my personal block was over spending on things that I enjoyed but that for some reason I deemed non-essential or an indulgence, even though I could afford it. This stem from several incidence of family members berating me as a kid for spending my allowance the wrong way...some of these instances were pretty traumatic and I'll leave it at that. 
This has affected me long into adulthood and along with other blocks lead to me feeling like I was stagnating a bit. The first step was to accept I had that block, the next few step meant progressively going to the root of the problem.

Many of our fears and blocks are actually rooted in our subconscious, from a time when we were children and unable to reason things out. The reasoning capabilities don't really develop until puberty, and the subconscious mind tend to take everything at face value, as is, without applying any reasoning. So if as a kid you were constantly belittled over spending your pocket money on things that made you happy, or possibly worse, you would have reasoned "Spending money on things I want = bad".  You probably figured out that the only way not to invite verbal abuse would be to simply not spend it on things that you couldn't justify as absolutely essential. As a kid you don't reason that maybe those people in your family are out of line, that they are passing their own ingrained patterns on you. You just find a way to preserve yourself from further harm. 

This is what most excuses, fears and blocks we have as adults come from and we all have various degrees of unsolved childhood acquired subconscious patterns. They did a good job at keeping us safe as kids when we were not really equipped to process things any better, but as we carried them into adulthood, they are kind of clogging the system and preventing us from growing to our full potential. 

This is where you need to start, and often it could be something as seemingly innocent as a sentence you keep telling yourself like "I would love to dance but I have two left feet" or "I'm unlucky in love/career/money..." or "We can't all be what we dream to be" 

Make no mistakes, all of these are big fat excuses created by yours truly in your subconscious. The real question is are you willing to want to clear the air and move past those self limiting beliefs? 

So to sum it, start your life journal by addressing a fear or problem you really want to get past from.

Right! So how do I proceed now? 

Once you have spotted a block disguised as an excuse or misguided "wisdom" you can start writing it down and write down all the memories associated to it. When did you hear it? Who said it? Was there more than one occurrence? Was is rooted in a situation that happened to you or someone in the family? 

You might not have all the answers right away, but the act of writing it down and purposefully reflecting on WHY you use those self-limiting beliefs will progressively unravel more of it. 

With a little practice, I found myself starting to question myself EVERYTIME I would think of an excuse not to do something, or whenever my critical inner voice would issue a critic, I would wonder why exactly it popped up. Whenever those snippets of negative thinking would pop, I would sit down, and write it in my life journal with the intent of figuring out why it was happening. Since I am also familiar with meditation and have been practicing it since my teenage years, I often resorted to first putting my headphones on, putting on some meditation music and retreat into what I call my "mental palace" which is a very specific place with furnitures and a decor and everything if you must ask. 

While meditating I often gets odds and bits coming back, pieces of the puzzle that were missing, which I could then use to reflect further in my life journal. 

Add in some positive too

Then there are days you might want to start focusing on what you achieved, and write those down as well. I have several entries that are all about what makes me happy, what I achieved, what patterns I successfully broke, goal lists of all kind and pretty pages with hand lettered affirmations that resonated with me. 
I even added pictures, there is one about that day I FINALLY decided to treat myself to take out sushi for dinner, out of my own money. It might seem like no big deal, but I took a picture of those sushis and printed them to paste in my life journal, because thanks to that mental block around what is and what is not "essential" I could spend as much on a salad and sandwich if not more and being ok spending it on that because that was an acceptable expense, but sushis were in my mind a luxury (again costing the same as the salad and sandwich combined). Breaking through that barrier felt like a HUGE achievement and it went into the life journal. Months later it was my laptop that made it into the pages. 

Re-read it often

This kind of journal is not the kind you write and forget about for a couple of years, this is the kind you leaf through regularly. Some of your earlier entries might amaze you a couple of months later, or you might suddenly have more insight on something as you re-read what you reflected upon and that is the purpose of the journal. It's a reminder we are a constant work in progress and that what we figured out months/years ago, can be revisited and seen in a new light (write those new insights in a new entry by the way). What was a struggle 6 month ago could as well count as a massive achievement today and unless you get back to what you felt, you might not even notice it, leave alone give yourself credit for that amazing growth you went through. 

This is also why I include goal lists in my journal, if there is one place I guaranteed to read them often it's in this book. And anybody on a trajectory of success will tell you that they set goals and spent time re-assessing them almost daily. 

Once you finish the pages in one journal, start another

We never stop growing, we never stop uncovering things from our past, breaking old patterns is a never-ending taks. A task you won't get over with in one journal, so do start a new one, carry your most important goals and achievement in the new one, and keep going. 

If it gets too dark, don't go in alone

There is always the possibility that you may uncover something pretty traumatic that you would rather have left alone. Or you could find yourself overwhelmed dealing with a surge of emotions. If that is the case, DO NOT go in alone, seek help, it's ok to ask for help really. Talk to a friend about it, or a trusted family member, and if you really can't do it without more serious support, seek the help of a therapist. Those feelings are better out than in, but you might need extra help to figure out how to address them and move past them and there is ZERO shame in that. 

All in all, we can all benefit from a little introspection and go past our self-limiting beliefs. And if you found yourself reading this and rolling your eyes thinking it's a bunch of  woo woo, you probably have a self-limiting belief against introspection or self-care that maybe would be a good place to start. 

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  1. Very nice guide. You have explained it all in so much detail.
    I haven't kept anything like that. Though I do have diary, it's not very introspective in nature.
    After reading this, I think I must try keeping on Life Journal.

    1. I've been keeping diaries since I was 13, mostly to vent and chronicle my life as a teenager, then navigating my life as a 20 something adult. I never really spent much time introspecting in those either, it was more of a way to pour it all out on paper to feel better and move on.

      The life Journal is far more deliberate and pushes me into seriously rethinking things I took for granted in my life and about my beliefs. It's really a great way for my to grow.


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