Imagine a place you can go where everything about you is welcome. Where you can say exactly what’s on your mind, messy and unfiltered. Where the way you look doesn’t matter - your hair a mess, your make-up smudged, or decked out in couture. It’s all perfect. Actually, it’s necessary. Giggles and joy? Bring them. Cries you didn’t know you had, or have been holding onto for years? That’s what this place is made for. It’s even made for the questions racked in the back of your mind- Who am I? Is this the right choice? Where do I go from here? How do I create everything I want in my life, work, relationships? Those answers are here, too.
That’s what a feeling of inner peace can bring. The secret, used by world leaders and celebrities alike to keep stay grounded and make a difference? A journal.
Journaling clears your mind of overwhelm, things to do, and old feelings you pushed away. It builds your confidence and ability to make decisions – because you trust yourself. It’s the place you can go to celebrate your excitement and joys, and to release your deepest pains, especially when you’re not sure who to talk to.
Not Dear Diary. Journaling is not your 15-year-old self’s crush log, though those are fun (and embarrassing) to look back on. Reflective journaling is an active expression of you that releasing habits that aren’t helping anymore.
Robin Sharma, bestselling author of The Monk who Sold His Ferrari recently called journaling “meditation on paper”. When you can separate the thoughts in your head from your identity and can clear your mind from stress, you’re better equipped to handle life. You don’t need to join the bullet journaling craze, drawing graphs and using stickers either. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen, or your phone if you’re on the move.
Reflective Journaling. There are two main types of journaling I recommend for inner peace: free writing and prompted journaling. Free writing is opening up to a page and writing anything that comes to mind. Prompted journaling uses incomplete statements or questions, like a fill in the blank. “I want to experience…” and “What am I thankful for?” are two examples of using a prompt. You choose the prompt and write your answers.
Ready to try it? Here is a simple, 10 minute or less practice that will have a major impact on your day:
Set a quick scene
Grab your notebook and pen and set yourself a 10 minute timer. If you have less, time for less. Set the scene for the session by lighting a candle or taking a deep breath.
Answer these 5 journaling prompts:
- What am I feeling right now? Why?
- How do I want to feel?
- What’s getting in the way of what I want?
- What 1 thing I can do to get closer to what I want, today?
- What 3 things do I appreciate about myself?
Don’t overthink it
The key? Write the first thing that comes to mind. If you can’t think of anything, follow author Julia Cameron’s advice to write down, “I have nothing to write…” over and over until something comes up. Trust me, it will.
Journaling is not the time to be strong, productive, or politically correct. Being fully you on the page is the secret to releasing stress and remembering how awesome you really are. What would embarrass you if other people saw what you wrote? Write that.
Let go of fear someone is going to see your entries. Throw them out after if you must. Whatever it takes to be unfiltered. Then let go of perfection. Some of the most powerful journaling sessions are full of spelling errors, random phrases, or words that would make your grandmother blush. You might even write a poem. There’s no “right” way to journal.
Practice Digging Deeper
Ask yourself follow up questions like “why?” and “what am I not saying?” to dig deeper after you’ve written something down.
Feel the feelings
Notice emotions coming up as you journal? Keep writing. Suppressing emotion will only make the feeling linger longer or catch up with you later on. It’s uncomfortable, but this is the exact time you want to keep your hand on the page. Let yourself feel instead of numbing out – that’s where real inner peace begins.
Take action if it shows itself to you
You may write down something that surprises you. A decision you need to make or something you need to express to someone. Don’t brush off the signs your intuition is trying to show you. Part of the practice of building inner peace is learning to trust yourself and what you write down.
No time to write?
If you’re in a rush, grab your phone and record a voice note answering the prompts or ranting generally. Speak until you feel complete, and then delete the recordings (unless you had a million-dollar idea!). This release can have a similar peace-inducing effect to pen and paper and might even give you ideas you didn’t know you had.
It doesn’t matter what time of day, how many minutes, or even how many times per week you journal. The more regular you can be, the better, but you’d be amazed at what can come through after just one session.
Remember, a journal is a safe, private place to express and see your thoughts for what they are. Thoughts. They’re not YOU. Not your essence or your value. But they play a role in how you perceive yourself and your life. Becoming friends with them just might change your life. When you get the hang of it, you can build a journaling practice into your life that works for you. Free writing, or using different prompts based on the area of life you want to focus on.
The only way you could get journaling wrong? Not starting at all.
Image courtesy of Giphy.
From Harper's Bazaar Arabia's September 2020 issue