Journal + Pen = Free Therapy
My mom gave me my first diary when I was 8 years old. I had come down with the chickenpox and was stuck at home for days. The diary is a soft pastel green, padded cover, with a little girl and a rainbow. It has a brass lock and key and has been living happily in a matching green floral box for nearly 30 years now. I still love un-boxing this diary and twisting that small brass key in to it's corresponding lock. I put my nose in the spine, close my eyes and inhale. It smells like my childhood. The pages are filled with names of crushes, practiced cursive, notes from my BFFs, secret wishes, hopes and dreams, and oddly enough a lock of my hair which my friend cut from my unmanageable frizzy mess of a mane.
Year over year the stack of diaries and journals grew and eventually required a storage bin. The lines of the pages filled up with a roller coaster of emotions....heart break, sadness, and joy.....experiences that would change me, excite me, prayers that cried out for God's presence, confusion and confessions. It's where I went to safely lay down my thoughts. No judgement, no back talk, just me....talking to me.
I occasionally read back on some of my journals and it amazes me how trivial I thought certain things were at the time. But the one thing each journal over the past 30 years has in common? They all hold my honest and truthful self. The no-hold-back-real-talk. It pains me to read them sometimes, but it also reminds me of the freedom I felt when my pen hit that paper. The way my hand writing would change from page to page. Tirelessly working my fingers as they scrambled to catch up with my thoughts. It was like talking to a best friend. Only this friend had nothing to say in return. Which, can we all agree, sometimes is really what we need? Just a listening ear?
In between the paragraphs of the scramble are empty lines of space. Those are the breaks in my thoughts. Those spaces are where I took a breath, released, let go, changed my perspective, and proceeded. In nearly all of my entries, I ended with some form of self-reflection or realization.
I have not given up journaling. A million adorable little journals live in the nightstand of my bedroom. I write to recover from a day that was heavy. Or when the buzzing feed in my head is too much for my brain's capacity so it must download elsewhere. I journal to my children, to my future self, to my past self. I put in writing "I Am Ok" when I just need to get it out in the atmosphere. I write to remember. When things were good, tough, sad, joyous. Sometimes I am afraid that I'll forget how the experiences of my life made me feel, who was there, what actually happened.... so when someone tries to bus toss me 10 years later, I have proof....
As I've aged, I have also discovered that journaling has become more about growth and gratitude. If you're looking to make journaling more of a priority, I might suggest focusing on the following:
Visions, goals, aspirations
Prayers, how you can apply God's promises in your life
A letter to your future self
A letter to your past self
A letter to your spouse or children
Insecurities (WRITE THEM AND THEN GET RID OF THEM! They're just lies we tell ourselves)
Fears and how you will overcome them
Travels or Adventures
Recall special memories or life events
Capture the setting that you are in
Express what you're feeling in the moment
Most of all.....be truthful and honest about your feelings! When you go to a therapist, they ask you questions, ask you to elaborate on your feelings, and help you talk through the tough life stuff. Who's to say you can't do that with pen and paper? Re-read your words. Let it sink in and really focus on what your heart and mind are telling you. In many cases, you may find yourself reversing the disappointing words you sketched on that paper. Because deep down inside, you know you are stronger, smarter, and more beautiful than that negative speak.
The most creative and inspiring spin on a journal is the The 52 Lists Project by Moorea Seal - not only is it gorgeously crafted with visually stimulating photography, but the idea behind this book is so unique.
"The 52 Lists Project is a journal of weekly lists that will help nurture self-expression and self-development - written and art directed by our founder, Moorea Seal! Each seasonal section includes list prompts, with plenty of space to write your own lists, and challenges to help you take action and make your dreams a reality. Each section of the journal is paired with stunning photography and beautiful detailed illustrations by local Seattle photographer and designer Julia Manchik. With perfectly timed prompts that meet you where you are throughout the different seasons, this journal will open up new avenues of self-knowledge and help you celebrate, enjoy, and take ownership of your life, as each week of the year becomes more thoughtful and vibrant." - Moorea Seal
This lists journal has prompted some unexpected ideas and reflection. I love that Moorea took a spin on the everyday blank paged journal and prompted a thought process for vision and inspiration by organizing those thoughts in to lists. It's truly a creative approach that taps some places of the heart and mind that don't normally get attention.
Journaling can be so freeing! Whether you choose specific writing prompts each week or month, or write as you feel things rise up, journaling can transition you in to a better place by guiding you to self-discovery and healing. Find yourself a journal + pen that put you in the mood for writing. What you choose can make all the difference in how motivated you are to actually do it. Just like purchasing cute/trendy athletic wear before you start hitting that dreaded treadmill again.
When I'm feeling low, lost, confused, or scared, journaling becomes a place for me to lay it all down. Talk my self down from the highs of anxiety and really look at how ridiculous some of my insecurities truly are. It almost becomes tangible. Like I can grab it and shake it up.
The most beautiful part is.... I can be whoever I want to be, just my journal and me.