In recent years journaling, or the act of mindful writing, has become popular again and for good reason. It is proven to be an “a highly effective strategy for relieving stress” (1) while also increasing “working memory capacity, which may reflect improved cognitive processing.” (2) The creation of the bullet journal in the late 1990s sparked a love for the century-old tradition with pretty title pages and organised habit trackers. he internet quickly became home to page layout ideas and journaling inspiration selling the ideal of a perfectly organised beautiful life.
I spent hours on elaborate page spreads that I never used and got frustrated when my spelling mistakes wreaked the overall perfect aesthetic I spent so long creating. My first few journals still sit in my cupboard, half-finished and pretty useless. I realise now that by putting so much pressure on myself to create a “Pinterest worthy” spread I had completely missed out on the benefits of freewriting.
ITS OKAY TO BE MESSY. That's right, you heard me. Make spelling mistakes, scribble, have a messy emotional rant. Your journal is for you and only you. It's your safe space to work through all the stressful times and thank the universe for everything that’s good. For your journal to be truly effective you have to let go of your need to be perfect; you need to be raw and open, you can’t to that if you are stressing about how pretty the page is.
There is no right or wrong way to journal.
I find that I am drawn to write mostly in the mornings after my breakfast while drinking my morning coffee. It’s so important that I make this time for myself before my mind gets distracted with work or in the evening before I go to bed to clear my mind.
My favourite practices are:
1. Gratitude or thank you lists
Bear with me with this one. I know it sounds cheesy but if there is one sure way to lift my mood, it’s listing everything that you have to smile about. Trust me it really works!
Start small and write 3 little things each day that you are thankful for and watch your mindset shift to gratitude.
I probably use this method of journaling the most, probably just because of its simplicity. Freewriting does what it says on the tin - you just write - let your heart pour out on the page and don’t hold back!
This kind of journaling is amazing in a crisis or when you are struggling to work through something. Your brain seems to find words that you didn’t know you could say, walls are broken down and mindsets shifted.
My favourite thing about journaling is how it unlocks your mind. As someone who has suffered from severe mental health problems for most of my life I often found that I didn’t have the words to express how I was feeling. Writing changed this.
3.Dreams and goals.
One thing I’ve found really helpful is writing down my dreams. By seeing my goals written down on paper it made me realise how much I have to do in my life, that I have so many hopes beyond my eating disorder and so much to live for.