I am about to attend the “Change Your Mind” Festival in Sligo. There should be live entertainment, plenty of stalls with Huga represented, comedy, demonstration, etc… A celebration of mental health in all its aspects. Journaling is often associated with idle teenage girls scribbling about their latest crush, or being misunderstood by the wider world. At any rate, it seems to be a phase in the process of growing up, before acquiring a stiffer lip and ‘getting on with it’. Apps are replacing journals to quickly increase productivity, convenience, and efficiency and keep emotional wallowing at bay.
Yet Journaling is a very potent mean to enhance health, be it physical or mental. Indeed, they address the needs of the body, mind, and spirit deliberately and cohesively.
Focus the Body
Let’s start with the body. Traditionally, like most people, I would have relied on a mass-produced planner to help me
With apps focussed on convenience, speed, and efficiency – I felt no closer to being meaningfully productive. Bullet Journaling is a technique to increase mindfulness about how we spend time and energy.
‘Intentional living is the art of making our own choices before other’s choices make us.’ Richie Norton
Both “Bullet Journaling” and “Mindfulness” have become somewhat faddish terms thanks to Pinterest fancy graphics. In truth, bullet journaling is a method; using a blank notebook (sometimes with dot-grid), that develops intention and relevant habits. It is not about fancy drawing, it is about intentional living, i.e.
‘Intention’ differs from ‘goal’ as one is a journey, the latter the destination. Of course, ‘Intention’ is meaningless without a purpose, which is made real by setting goals and assigning priorities. Recording little wins and meaningful moments becomes feedback on whether intention matches actions. As the distance from the daily humdrum expands, so is perspective. Purpose becomes clearer. ‘Reacting’ becomes ‘responding.’
But, I would like to be clear: Life is what it is. Bullet journaling is not going to turn a tedious job into a marvelous one. The vast sources of frustration of the mundanity of the day-to-day do not vanish.
Bullet Journals are not about self-centered indulgence. They do not shield against responsibilities; however unpleasant, instead they
The benefits of such an approach are medically proven. Indeed, mindful living is associated with a greater sense of control over one’s life, which does reduce stress and anxiety. In turn, sleep, blood pressure, and memory benefit accordingly. The body truly benefits.
To summarise, bullet journaling:
- Sharpens intention, clarifies goals
- Consciously and consistently
organisestime and energy
- Strengthens relevant habits and perspectives
- Shifts ‘reacting’ to ‘responding’
- Harmonises intention and action
Sharpen the Mind
A personal diary, also referred to as ‘journal
‘And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself?’
By exploring our shadow side, we can develop perspective and acceptance, hence restoring trust. Or we can learn to let go of circumstances that are less than ideal. It can turn overriding anxiety and depression into concern and sadness while anger and hurt becomes benign annoyance and disappointment. It does not deny their existence, but it helps to explore the various perspectives associated with such events and gain a deeper understanding.
Additionally, it also supports accepting our less palatable self and embracing our failings or shortcomings. If journaling supports positive habits, it also helps to dismantle unhealthy ones; however addictive, by recording the success and struggle of the journey and the commitment made. Only by accepting those, can we make peace with ourselves and move on, stronger, wiser and more self-compassionate.
When dealing with anxiety, journaling
In reality, the ‘right way,’ or solution is a matter of ‘the best way at the time.’ A lot about life is about tinkering, adjusting and adapting. There is no “right” solution. Often there isn’t even a solution, we waddle our way through.
Writing allows the shift from stimulus-reaction to stimulus-response. Choice, agency or purpose can be revisited away from judgment. Anxiety can be particularly debilitating after a trauma. Yet, as writing takes over from thinking (as if the pen takes a life of its own), a difficult experience can be sensitively confronted, processing the event into a coherent narrative. By establishing distance with the raw emotion, one can reflect on life before and after. Over time, it hopefully will become possible to feel gratitude for the unexpected positive outcomes.
Depression also benefits from a safe place. Often, depression is over-simplified as “not being happy”. Add to this a feeling of total disempowerment and guilt in being stuck in a stand-still of brooding and ruminating and it can be very difficult to recover from a bad patch.
However; like the Medusa, happiness cannot be stared or looked at, as it will consume you. Happiness is the result of matching beliefs and action. Hopefully, those are based on goodwill and positive thinking. Journaling helps to clarify those beliefs and focuses on supporting actions, highlighting patterns of thinking that
‘As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.’ Mahatma Gandhi.
To summarise, a personal diary:
- Develops sel-compassion
- Assists the process of remembering or letting go
- Highlights pattern of thoughts, positive and negative
- Clarifies thinking by expanding perspectives
- Explores choice and consequences
Enrich the Spirit
Bullet Journaling and personal
Yet, as above so below, as inside, so outside – self-awareness and reflection are fundamental aspects to connecting with our higher self and allowing ourselves to truly shine. Indeed, we become most valuable to ourselves and to others when we cultivate the best in us. Especially those closest or dearest to us.
Awareness; about ourselves or others, relies heavily on honing observational skills. By observing more, one notices the goodness around and become more grateful and caring. We also get in touch with our intuition. Walking down a bland path, you may notice and value the hedge that brims with berries and medicinal plants.
The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper. W.B. Yeats
To clarify, journaling for the spirit also relies on a blank journal. At the simplest, it can be a topical gratitude/quote journal. Likewise, Bible journaling is also a popular form. This is where the Bible becomes a canvas for creative expression. Ultimately, whichever the medium, one reaches for something bigger than ourselves to become a full member of the cosmos.
To be clear, this kind of journaling is not about religion but about our relationship with an evolving spirituality. So be it:
- Recording or embellishing inspiring or thought-provoking literature (quotes, wise saying, poems or scripture)
- Developing the discipline of recording something to be grateful about in times of hardship
It is about integrating positive messages and associated values and strengthening a sense of resolve, purpose, and resilience. Through the quest for higher meaning, positive self-perception nurtures the satisfying feeling of having grown and gained integrity.
By seeking reference outside our own frame of experience, pain can get released, trust might be rebuilt, the present appreciated, the heart softened, purpose validated and hopefully faith allowed to flourish. We can embrace what the Buddha calls ‘Loving-Kindness’.
To summarise, spiritual journaling:
- Sharpens awareness of self and the world around us
- Enshrines positive messages into our value system
- Develops resolve and resilience
- Promotes the sense of self-improvement
- Nurtures personal integrity
What to Take Home
Journaling; done mindfully, is about meeting our own goals and improving the quality of our life, i.e giving direction to the body, focussing the mind and nourishing the soul. The messiness of scribbling on a blank page allows us to refine emotion and our thinking. Only too often, the efficiency of an app tricks us into reaching for a false sense of control, without review or reflection. The act of writing, drawing, scribbling or rubbing gently keeps us ‘in touch.’
Reformulating, exploring pro and cons and honing vocabulary makes interpersonal skills more nuanced. The improvement in handwriting and design skills over time is rewarding. And if some people prefer to express themselves in words, others instead draw, and that’s ok. The result is the same, and both can be done with a blank journal. Personally, I perceive any other format to be an infringement on my space.
I have experienced the benefits of journaling at all levels. Hence, it is from a place of genuine care that I can say that:
- Writing reconnects us with our physical skills
- Journaling helps establish positive habits, nurtures an attitude of goodwill and strengthens values
- Journaling integrates body, mind, and spirit into a coherent whole.
Ultimately, it is from being ‘whole’ that healing can take place.
They said it better:
In the end, just three things matter: How well we have lived, how well we have loved, how well we have learned to let go.
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