Life became busy again, didn’t it?
Some days, admit it, you barely pause to eat and draw breath. We rush – it’s how we move, scrambling to get to that beautiful moment that we can exhale. A day can go by and we don’t really feel we have “seen” or appreciated the now, the why, the journey, the achievement.
There are hundreds of column inches dedicated to self-care and wellbeing strategies, apps, books, podcasts and online resources, solely focused on providing support to people who know they need to change, to re-balance, restructure, to pause. Yet so often, we are simply in the thick of it and perceive ourselves as too busy to set the habit in place that enables reflection, appreciation and gratitude.
There’s no doubt this will resonate with most of us. The desire is there, the intention…but the focus and self-promise, is not.
When the world fell off its axis a few years back, many things changed, perhaps forever.
Suddenly, there was time.
Words such as gratitude, mindfulness…hope; became core language in the conversations around missing our life, missing our people. At no point, in that time, were we really wishing for the blistering high-speed rush of day to day. We craved connection, we took opportunities to learn skills to cope with the situation – meditation techniques, breathing exercises…
In amongst the online world we became immersed in for everything in our lives, the quest for restoring peace of mind, processing our experiences and emotions gave rise to the popularity in journaling, physically putting pen to paper and just letting our minds be still enough to write down how we felt in that moment, on that day and projecting forward in manifesting how we wanted life to work out from this moment.
So how does journaling actually help?
It focuses the mind. Indeed, self-reflection helps connect and order thoughts, emotional reactivity and affect positive change. Gratitude knows no colour, conflict, religion or circumstance – it transcends negativity. Being thankful for the good in your life, every day, enables you to fully embrace and see, the happiness you manifest in your future self.
But alongside the well documented benefits to a well mind that can be attributed, perhaps more surprising is the impact on physical healing.
Recent clinical studies, published in 2018, featuring a cohort of 70 adults with not only elevated anxiety, but also medical conditions; resulted in the split panel, half of whom journaled for 15 mins, 3 times a week for 12 weeks; healing quicker than those that didn’t. There was a marked decrease in stress levels, depressive tendencies and anxiety within the first month and physical wound repair was swifter than those who didn’t journal. Connections to the limbic system, the amygdala – which processes emotions, the same neuro pathways that fragrance connects to our emotional responses.
As journaling becomes a habit, it calms the stress response systems within the brain. Elevated Cortisol (the stress hormone) wreaks havoc on the body – inside and out, causing ageing, sleep interruptions and slowing down the natural healing process.
The study showed that expressive writing helps mitigate stress and order responses, stopping us brooding and holding on to negativity, alleviating emotional inflammatory responses.
So how do we set in motion and stick to a habit of daily journaling?
We talk a lot about establishing habits of self-care and wellbeing, whether that is in in skin and body external care, good nutrition, movement, breathing, hydration. Mindful habits take time to establish, it is a commitment to self and have to be prioritised.
You cannot have the energy to complete the myriad of tasks of daily modern life, if you don’t allow yourself a moment of self.
“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.” - Unknown.
Good habits, make goals achievable.
So many affirmations fall foul within weeks of proclamations of New Year New Me…resolutions set with good intent, but a tired mind, at the worst time of the year for negativity and motivation. Why not set these intentions with clarity, hope and positivity as the darker nights subside and the promise of newness surrounds us in Spring?
The first step? Make a start.
Whether you use a dedicated journal; we love the simplicity, clarity and structure of “The 6 Minute Diary”. These planners give you prompts, inspiration and opportunities for reflection throughout to document your thoughts, feelings, plans and aspirations, bookending the day with moments of gratitude for things in your daily life.
Starting can feel daunting, a blank page may feel a lot to fill, but a blank page won’t answer back…judge or criticise, a journal is always on your side and your ultimate confident.
You could try a 15-minute writer’s exercise, the continual stream of conscious. No restriction on what you write, just don’t let your pen lift to think, just write. That may start to unlock your thoughts and help you relax into the process of self-reflection. It doesn’t have to be pretty or lyrical…you can set yourself a topic or just let your mind free.
Journaling style is a personal thing. You may have a lot to say, or you may just want to make note of the good in each day, just a daily self-check in, be present and work through fears, trauma or anxiety.
The goal is to rise with gratitude and rejuvenation, rest with gratitude and reflection and restore your essential you.
Online Positive Affect Journaling in the Improvement of Mental Distress and Well-Being in General Medical Patients With Elevated Anxiety Symptoms: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6305886/
Putting feelings into words: affect labeling disrupts amygdala activity in response to affective stimuli- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17576282/
Expressive Writing and Wound Healing in Older Adults -https://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Abstract/2013/07000/Expressive_Writing_and_Wound_Healing_in_Older.10.aspx