Go Here Daily: Journaling
Journaling always seems like a great idea. I love journals. I love buying journals. I love the feel of the paper and the smooth design that beckons me to believe: I will fill those blank pages with life altering, wise reflections. I will expose my soul and be transformed by this act of vulnerability.
And yet I have accumulated more blank journal space than I have pages filled with awesomeness and life changing words of wisdom recorded by my own hand.
Like many people I know, my journaling practice has been off and on for a number of years. I have accumulated numerous entries that go something like this: “So I haven’t written anything for 3 months, but I’d like to start journaling again….”
Four entries later: “I know it’s been 5 months since my last entry, but so much has been going on…” I get a solid streak going and then boom. It stops. Again.
Sometimes my journaling has only happened in the low times of struggle, questioning, a difficult period in life, or a huge decision I need to make. I actually have thought, if someone were to find my journal and read it, they might think I am emotionally unstable.
And then I have the bursts of journaling because I am attending some event, conference, or am on a retreat. The string of brilliant ideas, quotes, ambitions, and wise nuggets that will change everything, solve problems, make life better, revolutionize the world–all show up in these pages.
And still there are notable gaps of time and silence in between.
My new journaling practice that seems to be working
I have been putting pen to page daily (minus 2 days) for 28 days straight. And the two days I missed, I thought about it a lot because it felt like something was missing.
Journaling has helped me feel more focused, grateful, purposeful, grounded, and generous. It helps me see myself and what is happening around me differently. And it helps me be more intentional–about everything.
Here’s what helped me get into the groove:
1. Commit to journaling daily
I needed to set my mind to doing it and then just do it. I know the basic rule about habits is if you do something for at least 21 days, it becomes routine. This helped me become a daily flosser, so I figured it could work for journaling. I journal as part of my morning routine before I start work and get distracted by the busyness of the day.
2. Pick a journal that looks inviting
Some people can have a plain, square, hardcover, lined book with a teddy bear on the cover. Some can use a 75 cent notebook from the grocery store. I love the simplicity of Moleskine journals. But for this new attempt, I chose a journal that called out to me while wandering in Pike’s Place market: a hand made leather journal designed by a local artist. I actually saw it one day, then left because I own several journals already. But I couldn’t get it out of my mind so I went back a week later to buy it.
3. Pick a place and go there daily
I designated a spot to use for my morning ritual. It’s a leather chair by a window in my living room. I leave my journal out with a pen so it is there waiting everyday. The visual reminder has been a helpful cue and helps define the space.
Help with what to write about:
It can be just a free flowing open ended time for capturing whatever reflections come to mind. But I have found focusing on these specifics are a great guide:
1. Grateful For:
I journal a list of things and people I am grateful for. I list at least 5, and just let it flow if I keep thinking of more things. Even if they seem trivial, I write them down.
I review the last 24 hours and notice what took place, who I met, things I did, ways I became aware of God. The focus on appreciation and gratitude reframes my experience. It fills me with joy. I realize that a lot happens in a day, and I often forget. This section increases my delight and wonder and thankfulness.
2. Looking forward:
I also write a list of things scheduled for the day I am looking forward to, or people I will see. But I also get specific with goals and priorities I have for the day. This is not a long list, usually about 3 specific goals that I can accomplish and a couple commitments. For me this is going to crossfit and giving my all. Or going to dinner with friends.
3. Reaching out:
I think through who I might meet in the day or who I could encourage, inspire, listen to, bless…some way I can give and serve. This may be a person I text, call, email, send a card. It may just be I visualize how I can be welcoming and affirming when I see them that day. It may be a gesture of hospitality. Whatever.
4. Statements about who I am
Sometimes these are just a word or a short phrase that I want to define me. I often write things like: strong, confident, generous. I often write this phrase: eat well, sleep well, smile often. I may have a longer sentence or two that reframes my values or purpose. This helps remind me of my why and who I want to be. Simple but transformative.
5. Observations of how things are going
I write what I am feeling about my journaling practice. If I’m distracted, I say so. I note what seems to be working. I ponder in writing how I can adjust. Just reflecting on the practice helps me do the practice and makes it consistent and better.
I know my journaling will continue to evolve. But these things have really made the experience rewarding and helped me be consistent. These are great starting points.
How about you? What can you put into place today to experience the benefit of journaling? Are you willing to give journaling (another) try?