James Clear, Author of Atomic Habits said “Reading can teach you the best of what others know, reflection can teach the best of what only you know”
In my experience Journaling can result in being more mindful, more present and has the power to move us from stressed to calm, from confused to clear and from good to great. Some people call it ‘a mind dump’ getting their thoughts out of their head and onto paper for the purpose of self reflection, clarity and learning. Writing on paper is very effective as there is no backspace or delete; it is an honest conversation with self. 60 – 70% of the time we are in auto pilot therefore not fully aware or mindful – if we don’t write it down we may lose it! Brain scans have shown that handwriting engages more sections of the brain that typing and it is easier to remember something once you have written it down.
I have been keeping a journal since 2007 when I returned to train as a Life Coach. For each learning journey I embarked on, I bought a really nice hard cover notebook and today when I reread the journal entries I took I am always struck by the new information I read even though it was me who wrote the entry. If you think about looking at a younger pictures of yourself it reminds you of how you looked, it reminds you perhaps of how you felt and reading an old journal entry can be even more specific reminding you of exactly what you were thinking and what exactly was happening. Our beliefs shift slowly as we gain experience and journal entries have the ability to freeze your thoughts in time and a glance at previous entries can be proof of how much you have grown and the journey you have travelled over the weeks, months and years that have passed.
Many people now like the idea of journaling, but few people stick with the act of journaling. It sounds great in theory, but making it a habit or priority is the challenge. It has so many powerful benefits. For me it has been an exploration of the mind through writing and very often a gateway to clarity and greater inner peace as it helped me to resolve inner turmoil and conflict. At times of busyness it has been a powerful tool to prioritise the chaos of my mind, all the open tabs! Jung in his writing talks about “the shadow”, a place for us to be honest & have time for ourselves, journaling has certainly been a gateway for me to meet my shadow and the pieces I perceive to be wrong and/or right. It is been an opportunity for me and I know for others also to distance ourselves from our thoughts, remove judgement and seeing it for what it is. In short a powerful way to benefit our physical and emotional well being which can reduce stress and anxiety, reducing the stress hormones which reduces the urge for fight or flight
Journaling is strongly recommended for all who hold Leadership positions but the challenge to journaling for many Leaders is it takes time and requires reflection, which is quiet time, a rarity for many Leaders. It can be powerful learning for Leaders to reflect on challenging situations but often these are the situations that even though there is learning, the desire to forget wins over the benefit of learning.
Journaling is a powerful way of shining a light and illuminating our subconscious patterns – do I blame? Do I judge? What is the pattern emerging in my journal?
Client feedback has shown evidence that journaling has been a way to build more self trust and compassion recognising the small wins and expressing gratitude for themselves and others. It has been a way to help relieve mental tension getting all the noise and agitation on paper.
To start and build the habit so it sticks, I strongly urge keeping it simple. One method I use with clients which is simple yet structured is a series of 3 questions;
What Is happening/the activity/the observation?
So what does that mean?
Now what will I do next time?
Gerry Hussey of Soul Space suggests another simple but effective and disciplined method and that is; (CODE – Calendar of Daily Events) what can I do today for my mind, body and soul?
Some thoughts to set you up for successful Journaling; There is no right or wrong, it does not need to be perfect, art, pretty, neat or tidy! Perhaps see it as a mindful moment for you to open, to navigate or to close your day. By scaffolding it into your day it will become habitual – set alarm for 10 minutes earlier in the morning or take a morning coffee break with your journal. Include pictures that support your journaling, this helps with visualisation.
Finally all our lives have changed with Covid taking over the world – could be a powerful first journal entry on what have You learned during this time? What are You still holding onto in your system and what can You now shed through journaling as we begin with hope the final leg of this journey in 2021?. Use it for the purpose of releasing, cleansing and clearing to be lighter, clearer and have a greater sense of inner peace and calm. Some prompting questions which can help to get started;
What happened for You/your family/your business?
So what does that mean for You now?
Now what will You do in the future?
To conclude Oprah Winfrey an advocate of journaling said
“Keeping a journal will change your life in ways that you’d never imagine”