In an overcrowded, stess-inducing, crazy world, where does one find solace and relief?
Modern “civilized” humans are no longer naturally conditioned to spend time just thinking, or devoting sacred time for turning within. It can be easier to work with a therapist, take a pill, another drink, or just chin-up-it and perc along hoping things will get better on their own, as though time alone is a restorative curative for what ails one.
There is another way to grab back some sanity and self-discover what is really going on underneath the stress and consequences of this modern, hectic life: journaling. I’m not talking about keeping a diary, although it can be that if that is what you need, nor is this just expanding on your day planner by tracking what you did or who you saw, although it can hold some of that as well. I’m referring to the frequent (if not daily) habit of writing in a journal or notebook and capturing your inner thoughts, true feelings, and surfacing hidden or suppressed emotions. This method is an excellent path to take on the way to growing your soul and nurturing your spirit.
Journaling can take many forms: by keyboard, keypad, handwriting, audio recording, or any method that works for you to motivate and keep you writing. Those who start fresh will likely notice their journals in the beginning are mostly daily what-I-did captures of things in a journalistic, recorded way … at first. Over time and through a repetitive, daily writing habit, you will likely discover thoughts coming through your fingers unexpectedly, revealing emotions and true feelings about something that has been bothering you. It is not uncommon to surface something old or long-buried under the modeled behaviours and trained thinking we all grew up with. The consistency of daily (or at least frequent) writing coaxes out those bits to resolve that will be balm for your soul and elixirs for your spirit.
Whether you are a veteran journaler or just beginning, here are some approaches and methods to try out. No one way is better than another, and this list is by no means all forms possible: think of it as a starting menu to mentally dine from and eat experimentally. What you write about is up to you and my best suggestion for whichever method or approach you try is to just keep the pen, pencil, or fingers moving and see what happens.
- Morning pages – First thing each morning, write for X minutes or X pages non-stop, and keep the writing instrument/or fingers constantly moving. 15 minutes or two-to-three pages is a great start. This method is excellent for a mental dumping of whatever has bubbled up in your consciousness (or sub-consciousness) overnight.
- Timed journaling – Similar to morning pages, but instead establish a duration (15- or 20-minutes is good) to write about whatever comes to mind. Keep your thoughts going, but not necessarily with a constant moving of pen or fingers. Intent is for more focus on capturing thoughts or events in whole rather than a mind-dump as with morning pages. Works well any time of the day, and a variant late at night can be beneficial for reflecting back on the day’s events and thoughts.
- Journal prompts – Like guided meditation, this method is worked via a specific prompt to keep you writing and thinking along the prompt’s topic or question, as opposed to whatever comes to mind. The internet is bulging with writing/journaling prompt suggestions, so toss a search phrase out in Google and you will be overwhelmed by options.
- Journal challenges – Best one I know of (and use myself) is the organized NaJoWriMo, a cousin to the famed annual November novel-writing challenge. Check out najowrimo.org for the next monthly challenge to join (I believe Bakari runs them two-three times per year). You can also purchase a month-long daily prompt from Bakari focuses on the challenge’s topic (I did just that for April and loving the guiding prompts!).
- Trigger word – Think of a concept that you struggle with: commitment, sustainability, participation, activism, doing art, doing creative things, exercising, etc., etc. – could be anything. Then spend a timed effort (or even free-form) writing about that concept: how you feel, how it makes you feel, your barriers/desires/wants/needs, etc. This method can be quite powerful and surprisingly emotional if you let yourself get into it, but then, that’s the growing/nurturing you may truly need!
- Self interview – Useful for working through issues you are blocking or resistant to talk about at a deep level, the self interview consists simply (but powerfully) of emulating a journalist by asking yourself questions interview-style. Each answer then leads to a follow-up question that leads to another and so forth. This method can be both fun and a bit challenging, depending on where you want to take it and what surfaces in the process.
There are many more targeted uses for journaling, but one or more of the above methods should help you on your way to growing your soul while nurturing your spirit!
Have success, challenges, or failures with any of these? Let me know in the comments, where I would also love to hear about other ways you use journaling along your life’s path.