When I revealed my theme for July – #JournalinginJuly I admitted that I struggle with keeping a journal. During the month I will be introducing guest writers who love to journal and they will share their thoughts and ideas to help someone like me who struggles.
My first guest is Jennifer from Unfold and Begin and I knew she would be perfect as my first guest. Jennifer writes about creative inspiration, so I’m turning to her to share her thoughts on Journaling and how it has evolved over the years. There are some ideas which I would never have thought of. Don’t forget to connect with Jennifer through her website and social media links at the end of the post.
A small diary with a lock and key was how it started. A Christmas gift when I was 8 years old. Once I got that cute little journal, decorated with flowers and stripes, I never stopped. I’ve journaled through diaries, notebooks, school composition books, handmade journals, and even a journal made from leaves! I really loved that one. Little did I know that when I started my journaling journey that I was doing something that was good for me.
Benefits of Journaling
There’s a lot of scientific research to support that the act of journaling is good for you. For instance, expressive writing has been found to benefit people who’ve gone through traumatic experiences linked to PTSD.
But there are also health benefits for those of us who’ve gone through less trying experiences. There are a host of benefits from the mental/emotional ones and even physical benefits.
Reduce stress. Writing about the feelings you have when you’re stressed helps to relieve some of those symptoms. While still there, they aren’t as intense which helps to calm the fight or flight response. Fight or flight is a physiological response that is great when you’re in an actual dangerous situation. Not great if your stress is being triggered by your teenager, or that co-worker who is driving you crazy.
Writing it out helps to bring your stressful situation into focus, helps you to identify possible solutions, and at the very least, just helps you to get it out of your system. All of which help to reduce your stress, which calms your body and releases your fight or flight response.
Calms Anxiety. When you journal about your anxiety you can find ways to feel better by releasing your negative thoughts, calming your feelings, and tracking those things that trigger your anxiety in the first place.
Improves your creativity. Journaling every day can help connect you to your creativity. Free writing can help you decipher problems and connect patterns. You can describe your experiences, express your gratitude, collect sayings and affirmations and even draw in your journal. Since it’s yours, you can do what you want to do.
The Evolution of My Journaling Journey
Over the years, I’ve had numerous journals and notebooks. I started by trying to journal my day. Just write out what happened during the day. Quickly enough, that was not satisfying, I wanted something more.
When I was in high school, I created a notebook that had various sections. I was able to keep track of quotes, writing practice, and even some things that were happening in my life.
To this day, I’ve still kept most of the pages that were in that notebook.
Daily Diary and Morning pages. Throughout the next 30 years, I’ve kept journals in college bound spiral notebooks. I even used Morning Pages to journal my way out of the darkness of my failing marriage and divorce. All my pain and anger went into those pages. In the morning, I would write out three pages of what I called crap. The crap that was flying around in my head. Then at night before I went to sleep, I would write in my Diary journal about the day. It was a way to face forward and look into the future and show myself that I wasn’t sitting around all day wallowing in self-pity. I was getting out and doing things.
My Period Journal. Yes, I tracked my period. I was trying to get a better handle on the swing of my emotions, so each day I would put down the number of days out from the start of my last period and then how I felt that day. It was simple. Day 10 – Moody. Day 15 – Lots of energy.
I was looking for patterns and trying to reduce the swing of my moods. I didn’t like myself when I would let my emotions control my behavior. The first step to change your behavior is to be aware of it. I kept this diary for years, right up until the last two years of menopause when I was getting my period once every six months.
My Meditation Journal. When I was going through Yoga Teacher training, we were taught meditation. Something that I admit was hard for my brain to grasp. It was too busy going around in circles and chasing every thought I’ve ever had in my entire life. Out came the meditation journal. I tracked the length of time and how well I thought I did during meditation. I even tracked the thoughts that were driving me crazy as a way to help release them. I went through two journals doing this. One of the journals was my beloved leaf paper journal.
Gratitude Journal. This is a recent development in my journaling history. A place to track my gratitude. I try to keep it daily, although that doesn’t always happen. The point is to find 5 things to be grateful for each day. And it has to be specific or you’d probably run out of things. How often can you say, “I’m grateful for my loving husband,” before you stop trying to track it?
Instead, pick a specific thing to be grateful for. In the case of my husband, I might write how grateful I am that he took my car to get the tire fixed or that he made my favorite meal for dinner. It teaches you to appreciate the daily events of life, big and small while also teaching you to focus on the positive instead of the negative.
Un-Bullet Journal. This is my latest version of my journal and I’m hoping it’s my last. This one takes everything that I liked about all my other journals and includes them in one. I call it my Un-Bullet Journal because I don’t have the patience to create all those pretty or practical Bullet Journal page layouts that you see on Pinterest Boards.
And truth be told, I have two Bullet Journal boards in Pinterest. I absolutely love these journals. The only problem is…they’re not for me. I don’t have the patience to create the pretty tracking grids, even with the stencils I bought for that purpose! And quite frankly, while I can admire all those pretty layouts, they are just not me.
My journal is raw. It’s a combination To-Do list, quote catcher, blog post starter, gratitude tracker, appointment list, and daily tracker of my life. And it doesn’t look pretty. I scribble things out, draw lines from one thing to another, check off my To-Do list and sometimes spill coffee on it.
I start all my blog posts in my journal, although I never finish them there. I usually manage to get the first few paragraphs started, complete with cross outs, arrows and even questions as to whether it’s what I really want to say.
I’m a Moleskine Journal fanatic now. I go back and forth between the hardcover and softcover, which are both the 5×8 size. I like the hardcover for its durability and size in number of pages. I like the softcover because it’s lighter. I carry my journal with me every day and everywhere I go. You never know when inspiration is going to strike, or I see the perfect phrase, or I have some time in which to start a blog post. Plus, I have my To-Do list in there. I need that when I’m out and about. It took me years to find the way to journal that fits my needs, but now my Un-Bullet Journal is exactly what I need it to be.
Do you journal? If you do, how has it changed over the years?
Jennifer Koshak is the fifty-something blogger behind Unfold and Begin. She writes about creative inspiration, vision boards, and trying new things. She chose the name Unfold and Begin as a way to remind us all that we need to open up, share ourselves, try new things and embrace life with a bit of creativity and a lot of curiosity.