Journaling for self-growth
Updated: Aug 16, 2022
May is mental health awareness month and it's right around the corner which means the blog will focus on self-care, personal development and well being post a whole lot all throughout the month. I am taking a bit of a head start with it because one of the most affordable, yet powerful tool for self-care and growth is keeping a journal. I encourage ALL of you to give journaling a go if you haven't already because what you'll get out of it is something that is hard to quantify or explain.
I've been keeping a diary, aka journal since my teenage years, I think my first entry ever was when I was 13 and the victim of a nasty bully in my class. I was full of rage, and felt pretty let down by a system that unfortunately, didn't take bullying nearly seriously enough, it was back in 1992 and since then, my diary became a confident and quite frankly a great way to sort out my feelings and thoughts. It worked so well as a teen, that I kept on doing it as an adult, in one way or another and has helped me see clarity on a lot of things and heal a few trauma wounds from my past as well.
As a 40 something grown up on a mission to move past certain negative patterns and blocks, I embarked on a journaling mission on steroids during the 2020 lockdown and have called those journals my "Life journals" because unlike all my previous diaries, these are notebooks I go through again regularly, re-reading old entries to keep track of my progress. And quite frankly, this is the best kind of journaling you can do.
i call it "life journaling"
It's a fancy term I came up with to describe the kind of journaling that has the express purpose to address your own self care, explore past trauma, and dive deep into your set of own negative patterns you are attempting to break but don't quite know how just yet. In ma case a lot of them were around material posessions, belief about money and the idea that work has to be hard and draining to be considered work.
All in all, it helped me grow into my power, rewrite certain beliefs and move past serious blocks that were preventing me from living my own best life.
All you need to get started is a notebook, and ANY notebook will do really, don't feel it has to be a super expensive one. But! Make it a notebook that will feel special to YOU. This is after all a LIFE journal, and I believe your life is important enough to be jotted down in a notebook you feel happy about. Personally, I like pretty journals, with enough potential to draw and doodle in them, for those reasons, my life journal is currently a pretty pastel pink Leuchtturm 1917 (Amazon affiliate link). It has dotted grid pages which gives me the flexibility I want to have right now, but if you prefer to write on ruled paper or even blank, go ahead, it's again all about what feels right to you.
Over the years I have written on all kind of paper, in all kind of journal sizes, one thing that was always important to me was the whole ritual of choosing the notebook in the first place, or perhaps it was the notebook choosing me...You'll know it when you will feel that push just just buy that ONE journal out of all the others in the stationery shop.
how to start writing in your journal?
So, you got your notebook, you made it home and now you are sitting down, looking at it and wondering how you should start filling the pages. What the heck do you even write in a life journal? Where do you even start?
Here is my advice:
Start by writing down what the best version of your life should be like if there was no financial, work or family constraint. As my favourite author, Denise Duffield Thomas calls it in her books "Lucky Bitch" and "Get rich lucky bitch": write about your "First Class Life".
Once you have done it, re-read it and see how you react to it all. Chances are you are going to find some of it impossible to reach, or you might be tempted to play it down, replacing a first class dream with a more practical one.
These reactions will be your cues as to were you should start digging deeper into your subconscious to unravel the reason why your reasonable self decided your dream life is...well...nothing but a dream. One of the thing I trained myself to do while "life journaling" is to challenge my inner voice each time it comes with downplayed scenario or a rebuttal to what my goals and vision are. If my inner voice say "Seriously get a real job already" I will ask it "Why do you think that way?" and usually it's very vocal and reply with a reason that pretty much come from something someone said in my childhood at one point or another. Because guess what? A lot of our self-limiting beliefs actually have a root in our childhood. It often has to do with the fact that our capability to really reason things out do not really develop fully before we hit puberty, so a lot of the things we witness as kids are often taken at face value by our subconscious. In order to grow, you need to rewrite those "truth" and this is why mindset is pretty much everything when you are going after a goal.
In order to reach a goal, you need to change your mindset accordingly, and sometimes, your mind will oppose those changes because there is a mental block, somewhere that need to be addressed first. This is where journaling really helps you get down to it.
Often those blocks can be tiny but deep rooted enough that it could take you weeks or months to go over them and a journal is a great way to keep track of your thoughts, reflexions and progress. I usually find that the very act of writing down what bothers me on paper is making the problem clearer and less scary. It's pretty much like I can look at it and say :
"Well! Hello there! You aren't as mean as I thought you were' Writing my problems and blocks down gives them a shape, a physical form on paper that let me see them for what they actually are. I am a visual person, so for me writing is really the best kind of therapy there is.
You don't have to solve the problem right away
In fact, from experience with journaling and getting in touch with my feelings, trying to force a solution really doesn't really work. Those repressed feelings, traumas and mental blocks really just want to get out and away, so more often than not, you just give them an outlet through journaling so they can do just that. Once they are out, you'll just be able to implement a new thought pattern without resistance. You must realise that the things that are holding you down, are often things you repressed too long and just want to be acknowledged and given their due importance before they can leave. They don't want to fight you, so don't feel you have to do so.
Sometimes you will have to rinse and repeat a few times, you'll find that certain theme will pop back up often, but the good news, is that each time, they will pop up a bit less strong util one day, they get to fly free and let you be. This is why re-reading old journal entries is ALWAYS as good idea.
write about your successes too
The beauty of journaling is that it's also a place to log your personal wins and celebrate them. My journals have lists of goals I want to achieve and lists of things I succeeded at. It also has gratitude logs, because the power of gratitude is a force not to underestimate on your journey to your best life. Do take time to acknowledge those wins as much as you acknowledge those pesky mental blocks, your life is made of both and both need to be addressed and given value.
if it's too hard don't do it alone
A journal is NOT a substitute for the help of a professional therapist. If for any reasons you find that your introspecting journey is stirring up a lot of anxiety, more negative thoughts, make you aggressive or send you down a path of self harm. I URGE you to seek professional help RIGHT AWAY! Seeking help isn't a weakness, and you should not suck it up and bottle up those feelings again. If journaling opened a big wound, you will need to have the help of someone that can help you heal such a big would. Just like some physical wounds are beyond the help capabilities of a simple band-aid, some emotional wounds can't be just addressed with a journal, sometimes you need someone to stitch you back up together, and that is OK, more than ok in fact.
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