Journaling is a very potent means to enhance health and wellbeing, by addressing the needs of the body, mind, and spirit deliberately and cohesively.
The benefits are often overlooked as 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’. Once ‘grown-up’, we rely on apps instead of journals to quickly increase productivity, convenience, and efficiency whilst keeping so-called emotional wallowing at bay. Journaling is not for girlies: it clarifies thinking, desentangles emotions, explores inner depth and here is how-to.
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 organise my time and energy. I would have chosen it with great care, yet its mass-produced format never catered for my particular rhythm, needs and priorities. My life became a succession of appointments, meetings and to-dos. A treadmill devoid of sense or meaning, an auto-pilot following other’s diktat. For all its efficiency, patience, kindness or goodness certainly had no place in my mass-produced planner.
Apps: Tools or Masters?
With apps focussed on convenience, speed, and mindless efficiency – I felt no closer to being meaningfully productive. Bullet Journaling is a technique to increase mindfulness about how we spend time and energy.
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 (albeit drawing can be an excellent stress relief), it is about intentional living, i.e. organising the time and energy available mainly through the process of reflection and increased self-awareness. A simple method, with simple tools, becoming a process of mindful living.
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. Ultimately, ‘reacting’ becomes ‘responding.’
Bullet journaling sharpens ‘Intention’ and clarifies ‘Purpose’ while strengthening the relevant habits and perspectives. Purpose and action are not only harmonized, they also reinforce each other.
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 a mundane day-to-day do not vanish.
Bullet Journals are not about self-centered indulgence. They do not shield against responsibilities; however unpleasant, instead they highlights how those frustrations and compromises may build toward higher purpose and goals. By highlighting the little gems that indeed do make life sweeter, it helps uncover more nuggets through greater awareness and astute use of time and energy.
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.
Bullet Journaling for a Mindful Day-to-Day
- Sharpens intention, clarifies goals
- Consciously and consistently organises time and energy
- Strengthens relevant habits and perspectives
- Shifts from ‘Reacting’ to ‘Responding’
- Harmonises intention and actions
SHARPEN THE MIND
A personal diary, also referred to as ‘journal intime’ is also a blank journal, sometimes lined. In it, are recorded the little things that are either worth keeping, or maybe not. So often, people would have a topical one for keeping (Pregnancy, Travel, Bucketlist…) and one for venting pent-up emotions or record the journey of life. Whatever the narrative (for keeping or venting), writing and recording about life is a way of clearing the head from overload. It can preserve the texture of a valued present experience that risks being absorbed by the past. It can also establish a connection between thoughts, feeling, and behaviour which can highlight a pattern of thoughts that may or may not be supportive of a purposeful life.
Journaling to Make Peace with Ourself
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 become 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 offers a safe space, away from prying eyes. Often worry baits us with the expectation that we ought to come up with a solution. 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.
Better Choice for Deeper Rewards
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.
The Misery of Being Happy
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 undermines or stops one’s journey. Are situations always made more awful than they are? Is the slightest frustration sure to set you off? Is there a pattern of total damning or rigid expectations of self or other?
Personal Diary for Self-Understanding
- Develops self-compassion
- Assists the process of remembering or letting go
- Highlights patterns of thoughts, reinforcing the positive and acknowledging the negative
- Clarifies thinking by expanding perspectives
- Explores choices and consequences
ENRICH THE SPIRIT
Bullet Journaling and personal diaries are great tools that allow the creator to live in the moment more fully. They channel and focus efforts, clarify and establish perspective, enrich our experience. However, we are human – aspiration, inspiration, and access to higher realms are essential for our sense of belonging to the universe. That sense of belonging is what makes us radiant, i.e. gives us a sparkle.
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 and sensing skills. By observing and sensing more, one notices the goodness around and become more grateful and caring. We also get in touch with our intuition. By contrast, thinking and overthinking cuts us off from ourselves and surroundings. Walking down a bland path, you may notice and value the hedge that brims with berries and medicinal plants.
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. At last, we can embrace what the Buddha calls ‘Loving-Kindness’.
Spiritual Journaling for Positive Living
- Sharpens awareness of self and the world around us
- Enshrines positive messages into our value system
- Develop resolve and resilience
- Promotes a sense of self-improvement
- Nurtures personal integrity
JOURNALING FOR WELLBEING
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. In contrast, 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 personally 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,
Letting go nurtures an attitude of goodwill and strengthens values,
Reflecting integrates body, mind, and spirit into a coherent whole.
Ultimately, it is from being ‘whole’ that healing can take place. So own your story: Start journaling!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How does Journaling Help with Wellbeing?
Journaling is a very simple, cheap and accessible technique to address basic needs such as feeling organised, understood or being part of a greater whole. By supporting reflection, it fosters learning and helps developing a sense of personal development. Finally, exploring ideas and feelings, objectively or creatively, perspective can be gained allowing for thinking to become clearer.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF JOURNALING?
Use Bullet Journaling to:
– Sharpen intention and clarify goals
– Consciously and consistently organise time and energy
– Strengthen supportive habits and perspectives
– Shift behaviour from reacting to responding
– Harmonise intention and action
Use a Personal Diary to:
– Develop self-compassion
– Assists the process of remembering as well as letting go
– Highlights patterns of thoughts, reinforcing the positive and acknowledging the negative ones
– Clarifies thinking by expanding perspectives
– Explore choices and consequences
Consider Spiritual Journaling to:
– Sharpen awareness of self and the world around us
– Enshrine positive messages into own value system
– Develop resolve and resilience
– Promote a sense of self-improvement and personal development
– Nurtures personal integrity
And finally, through journaling:
– Writing reconnect us with our physical skills
– We develop goodwill
– We integrate Body, Mind and Spirit into a coherent whole