I know, I know, you’re a very busy person. You don’t have time to sit down for half an hour and pour your heart out into a journal. But do you have time to check your Instagram feed, catch up on Love Island, or fill up a basket of stuff you don’t need in an internet window shopping spree? Then you do have time to journal. Journaling for self care is one of the simplest and yet most transformative things you could do with your time. Make time for it. Here’s how:
How to Start Journaling for Self Care
Start with a pen and paper. It doesn’t matter what you use for your journaling, but you’ll enjoy it more if you have tools you love using. So why not treat yourself to a beautiful new notebook and a pen that is a delight to write with? You’ll be more likely to stick with regular journaling if it feels joyful.
Journaling is perfect for you if you’d like to meditate but you just can’t. When I first tried to meditate, I couldn’t bear it! My mind would chatter away and I would become more and more agitated. It felt like a hive of bees buzzing in my head, and I couldn’t sit there for more than a minute or two, let alone find any kind of stillness. Journaling helps to quiet the mind, by giving it a focus.
Here are some of my favourite journaling techniques. I promise that journaling will do far more for your wellbeing than floating in a bubble bath or indulging in a chocolate bar. Invest some time in yourself and prepare to get to know yourself better, learn how to cope with worries, and develop a more positive outlook on life.
Gratitude simply means focusing your attention on positive things that have happened through your day. Practising an attitude of gratitude has proven psychological benefits. It lifts your mood, increases feelings of wellbeing and can reduce stress. Studies have even shown that it can improve people’s physical health!
Instinctively, our minds are designed to be negative. This evolutionary trait comes from the hunter-gatherer days when we needed to be constantly on the lookout for danger. However we now live comparatively safe lives, but our minds are still watching out for trouble. This can make us feel pessimistic and anxious. The good news is that we can easily retrain our minds to be more positive by keeping a gratitude journal.
At the end of each day, simple write down three things you are thankful for that happened that day. This could be a big thing like ‘I went to a great party’ or ‘We had a fantastic day at the beach’ or it could be something really simple like ‘The sun was shining’ or ‘I ate a delicious meal’.
This trains your mind to look out for positive things during the day, instead of focusing on what went wrong. Practice this habit every day and you will soon start to realise that we all have many reasons to be happy, every single day. We all have good days and bad days, but even on a bad day there are still things to be happy about. Knowing this can make you more resilient in tough times.
A CBT technique used for anxiety, a worry diary can help you if you feel like you are worrying constantly or struggle to control your worries. This technique has two parts.
Firstly, as you go about your day, make a quick note of any worries as they come to mind. Just write them down in a sentence or phrase. Keep it short, then let the worry go and refocus on what you are doing in the present moment (this gets easier with practice). By writing it down, you don’t have to worry about forgetting about your worries! But you also don’t have to let them take over your day. You’ll come back and deal with them later on.
Secondly, at the end of the day, allow yourself 20 minutes of “worry time”. Go through your list of worries and:
- Cross out anything you are no longer worried about, either because you have dealt with it, it’s no longer a problem, or you no longer feel as worried about it.
- Add any quick tasks that need doing to your to-do list, or schedule a time to deal with them.
- For any big problems that need solving, allow yourself some time to come up with a solution e,g. dealing with debt, finding a new job, problems with the neighbours etc. Brainstorm possible solutions and then plan a time when you can follow through.
- You may be left with some ‘what if’ type worries – things that haven’t happened yet. Now let yourself really worry about these things – what would it be like if this happened?
- After 20 minutes, stop your worry time and do something relaxing and enjoyable before you go to bed. You can always revisit your worries again the next day if you need to.
With regular practice, you should start to find it easier to let go of worries. You’ll also feel more in control of your worries because you know you have a set time each day to deal with them. You will realise that your worries are not always as urgent as they may insist they are when they pop into your mind!
For more details, The University of Exeter have created a great resource about dealing with worry and the worry diary technique.
Would you like to check in with yourself every morning, and get really clear on what’s important to you right now? Then morning pages, a concept invented by Julia Cameron, are for you. All you have to do is write three A4 pages of whatever comes to mind, first thing every morning.
It doesn’t matter what you write, it can just be a stream of consciousness. You don’t have to read your morning pages, keep them, or show them to anyone else. It’s important to do this by hand – the point is to be slow and mindful, not just to get it done as quickly as possible. Writing by hand also reduces the temptation to go back and edit what you have written.
The power of this journaling tool is that getting everything down on paper helps to clear your mind. It can help you to spot issues that you hadn’t even realised were bothering you, develop new ideas, and get crystal clear on what your priorities are for the day, and for life in general.
Like this idea? Check out Chris Winfeld’s in-depth explanation of how he does morning pages every single day.
Journaling for Self Care: Do you have time NOT to do it?
Whether you can spare five minutes or thirty minutes, whether you prefer to journal in the morning or evening, these techniques will take your practice of journaling for self care to the next level for real, tangible benefits to your wellbeing.
Do you like to journal? What’s your preferred journaling technique?
Zoe T. Williams is passionate about supporting families with food allergies, having two daughters and a husband with multiple food allergies and intolerances. Right now, she is busy in the kitchen concocting new allergy-friendly recipes for her blog, My Allergy Kitchen. You can also follow Zoe on Instagram @myallergykitchen.