A little over a month ago I made the decision to try really, really hard to create something before I consumed anything. In my case that meant coming up with my own words before ingesting the words and thoughts of anyone else. AKA, no email/Facebook/texts before I sat down and wrote a few pages in my journal.
You’d think that someone who started a company extolling the many benefits of journaling would already have had a rather healthy journaling habit. You would be wrong.
I’m really good at telling people what to do and not doing it myself. Just ask my kids.
So there I was, the first morning after my big decision, reaching for my phone, and then forcing myself to put it down. I made the kids’ lunches, made myself a cup of tea, and sat down at the kitchen table in the middle of the morning chaos and opened a brand new journal.
As I uncapped my pen, my kids gave me some serious side-eye, wondering what craziness mom was up to now. Then I started writing and they went right back to ignoring me.
Every morning (yes, even on the weekend) since then, I’ve done the same thing.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
1) It doesn’t matter where or when you write, as long as you do it
The kids talk to me, they move around me, there’s noise and chatter, and, if I’m honest, rather a lot of distraction, but by sitting down at the kitchen table instead of trying to find a quiet spot in the middle of the most chaotic part of our day, I give myself permission to find the peace in the madness. I pause in the middle of sentences to answer questions, and get back to writing. I don’t feel rushed or pulled away from my journal; I’m already where they need me. I am very much myself in the middle of my family’s chaos. The reality of finding the ideal space and time to write for a few minutes isn’t always a possibility. Learning to listen to your inner voice even when it seems like you could never hear yourself over the ambient noise teaches you that you can do it any time anywhere. When you have precious little alone time in the day, this is a priceless gift.
2) It doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you write it
One morning last week I stumbled into the kitchen, bleary eyed after a night of repeated awakenings, unable to form a coherent grumble, let alone a coherent sentence. I still wrote. I might have written “I’m so tired” over and over again, but I wrote. And I was glad I did. It helped me cut through the fog and start the day showing myself some kindness and compassion rather than wallowing in the crankiness caused by too little sleep. The act of making time and space for your words and your thoughts is more important than what you actually commit to paper. You matter. Your words matter. Your thoughts are important. Make time to hear them.
3) Taking those few minutes first thing in the morning will impact your whole day
Between the kids, the husband, the dog, the cat, the clients, the coworkers, the friends, the online friends, and everyone else I encounter throughout the day, there is no end to the number of things people need or want from me.
I used to give and give and give until there was absolutely nothing left of me at the end of the day only to get up and start all over again the next day.
By starting the day out with making space for my voice, my thoughts, my feelings, I find that I make space for myself more throughout the day. Not in big ways, but in meaningful ways. Once you make a habit of listening to yourself, of making time to pay attention to your innermost thoughts, you’ll find that you lend more value and importance to what you have to say. You might even find that inner-strength start to echo in other aspects of your life.
4) You don’t always know what you’re feeling until you try to write about it
I always start my journaling sessions by asking myself how I’m feeling. “Good morning, Jessica. Fine day we’ve got going, how are you feeling today?” Sounds silly, I know, but when people ask us that out in the real world, we’re conditioned to answer “fine, and you?” and to not really stop and think.
Your journal doesn’t expect niceties. Your journal doesn’t judge. So when you say “actually, journal, now that you ask, I realize I’m a little tense” you can take a moment to ask yourself why you’re tense, and then you can process it, in words, on the page, because no one will ever call you on your pettiness, your superficiality, your selfishness, or even your absurd reason for being upset over something trivial. Writing it out helps you get over what’s bothering you or make you decide to act on your feelings. When you tackle head on the things you didn’t even realize were eating you up, your day starts to improve even before your tea grows cool.
The other day, my husband mentioned that he’d noticed how much happier I’d been since I started journaling daily, and I have to agree with him. A lot of the little things that would usually bug me throughout the day get assessed and resolved in my 5 minute sessions with my journal. Sometimes I come up with solutions to things that were bothering me. Sometimes I give myself pep talks, or cheer myself on. Sometimes I am stunned by personal revelations that had been eluding me. Every time I put down my pen and pick up my mug, I feel at peace with myself and ready to face the day, knowing I’m in a better place than I was before I cracked open my little book of thoughts.