I tend to avoid New Year’s Resolutions because a) they usually don’t last, and b) if you want to do something, why wait until some arbitrary point in our Gregorian calendar? Do it now! Even so, the impending arrival of January 1st 20-whatever is a great time for evaluation and reflection around the habits we want to spice up over the next 365 days.
If you’ve been hanging around Becoming Who You Are for any amount of time, you’ll probably know that I’m an e-nor-mous fan of journaling. Having spent many an hour writing, typing, reading, and reflecting, I also know that sometimes a regular journaling practice can start to feel a little stale. And when activities start to feel stale, we’re less likely to maintain them.
So, if you’re thinking of starting, restarting, or adding a little more vim to your journaling practice in 2014, I highly recommend you take this course, and that you introduce one or more of the following:
1. Set up an opening and closing ritual
I first took part in a ritual when I came to the end of my first year of counselling training. As a devoutly non-woo person, the mere idea of taking part in a ritual left me cringing.
That day, I learned that rituals aren’t about woo. They’re about doing what you need to do to reach a place of mental preparation (for an opening ritual) and mental closure (for a closing ritual). A ritual can be as simple as making a cup of herbal tea, sitting in a particular chair, and taking a few deep breaths before opening your notebook to journal. It can also be as simple as closing that notebook, taking a few moments to acknowledge the fact that you just invested time and energy in yourself, and then getting up and getting on with your day.
Rituals aren’t about spirituality as much as they’re about making space for what wants to come forward from our subconscious. In other words, they’re about creating a boundary around our time and saying “OK, brain, this is your chance to tell me what’s going on for you—no distractions, nothing else vying for my attention, it’s just me and you”.
The way we journal isn’t set in stone. I’m a huge fan of Morning Pages but sometimes I like to mix it up and work through a particular issue that’s been on my mind, use a different journaling technique, explore a trippy dream I had, or similar.
While making time to sit down and journal regularly is important, what you actually do with that time is your choice. Don’t feel like you need to stick to a rigid formula or way of doing things. Instead, give yourself the freedom to go with the flow and do what you feel like doing on any given day.
3. Challenge yourself
One of my favourite journaling resources is 750words.com, partly because they run monthly challenges and offer cute little badges as incentives for journaling a certain number of days in a row.
If you want to sign up for a monthly challenge, you sign a “contract” saying what you will do if you complete the challenge, and what you will do if you don’t complete the challenge. Although no one else is holding me to that contract, just making the commitment to myself to do 30 days, 50 days, 100 days, or more, of journaling helps keep me motivated. Challenging yourself in this way can help you overcome areas in which you feel stuck or blocked, and can help you feel satisfied with your journaling practice again.
4. Join a community
Communities are great for staying enthusiastic and on track. There’s nothing like hearing other people’s experiences, ideas, and suggestions to inspire your own. I’ve found communities especially useful when I’ve been struggling. It’s so easy to feel like we’re the only ones dealing with a particular problem (resistance, lack of motivation, writer’s block, etc.), when actually everyone goes through these things at one point or another. Starting or joining a community is also a fantastic way of connecting with other people who have similar interests to you.
If you’d like to join a journaling-related community, I set up Viva Journaling!, a free Facebook group dedicated to all things journaling. I’m also creating a small, private community for Journaling with Heart so that participants can share ideas, offer each other support, and get one-to-one feedback from me during the course.
5. Find complementary practices
Journaling is an amazing personal development tool on its own, but you can use several practices to complement it, and increase your overall well-being. These include:
- Meditation: Meditation has more health benefits than you can shake a stick at. If you’re not already practicing meditation, today is a great time to start.
- Exercise: A healthy body promotes a healthy mind, and vice versa. Like journaling, exercise is a type of self-care. When we practice self-care in one area of our lives, it has a knock-on affect on the other areas of our lives too.
- Painting/art/photography: Although this post has focused on written journaling, art journaling and photography are valuable types of journaling in their own right—even if you’re not an artist. Play around, try different mediums out, and, most importantly, have fun.