Wednesday, July 23, 2014

5 Tips to Start Journaling...Today

I've been keeping a journal in one form or another since I was a kid. I used to have a little pink diary with a lock and key. Now I have an assortment of beautiful notebooks. From childhood to young adulthood, new motherhood to middle age, divorce, remarriage, and everything in between, my journals have been my go-to technique to cope and to get in touch with my inner voice.

Here are 5 easy steps to get yourself started on this important daily practice:

1. Make an event of buying your notebook. You can use any notebook---even a dollar store composition book. There is no need to go fancy. However, if you are attracted to some of the gorgeous books that are on the market, it might be a good idea to go for it and buy a nice notebook.

Whatever type of notebook you choose, make it an event: a deliberate ritual, something special. The practice of journaling is a conversation with your higher self, so don't just throw a notebook in the grocery cart on top of the paper towels. I begin thinking about my next journal when I am about 3/4 of the way done with the current one. I start eyeing new notebooks in the store. When the time comes to buy a new book, I always get a small rush of excitement for the beginning of what is literally a new chapter in my life.

2. All for a "screen to pen" learning curve. You know what I mean. We all get so used to using our voice commands or typing into a computer, that to put actual pen to paper seems agonizingly slow. Just know that this is normal. Be patient and stick with it. Eventually you will come to enjoy the intimacy and pace of the medium. Your nervous system will relax, and get reacquainted with what it feels like to not being sucked into a laptop or phone screen.

3. Carry it with you. How many people carry their phones with them everywhere--even to the toilet? We are tethered to our electronic devices. Get in the habit of carrying your journal around with you.

If you know you are going to sit on the porch with a cup of coffee, bring the journal. If you are going to sit and watch tv, bring the journal and leave it on the table next to the sofa. If you anticipate waiting in a doctor's office, bring the journal...make a new habit.  

Just having it present will encourage you to be tuned into your inner voice. Rather than mindlessly checking your Facebook during your lunch break, you might feel moved to do some writing.

4. Free write. This is a technique I learned when I studied Adult Literacy at The New School for Social Research many years ago. We used to being our writing classes with a "free write," and it was a great way to get the juices flowing. The rules are simple. You decide on a time limit (5 minutes is good). You put pen to paper. You don't stop writing, not even for one second, until the time is up. It doesn't matter what you write about.

Ready, set, write. Try it sometime. You will be surprised at what comes out, and at how it unclogs the creative pipes.

5. Write in it every day. Well, the actual schedule is entirely up to you. It could be every day, every other day, every week...The main point is to stick with it. We seem to be able to log into email, Facebook, or Instagram multiple times per day. There is no reason why we can't take 10 minutes to write consistently---no excuses. There is nothing sadder than a lovely notebook with an entry from January 1 and then nothing until June. As they say in the sneaker business: Just Do It. 

Journaling really is the no-brainer of self-help techniques. It costs very little. Once you get in the flow, you will see that it really is a direct communication with your highest, wisest, best self. Ask yourself questions. Bring your most pressing concerns, dilemmas, forks in the road. Write that angry email in your journal before sending it (and you probably won't ever send it). Make lists of goals. Make lists of accomplishments. Say prayers. Make poems. Grieve. Rejoice. Draw pictures. Make collages. Write page after page of gratitude...the possibilities are endless.

The page is blank and waiting to be filled. What are you waiting for?