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Each day, we have 1,441 minutes. If we are willing to free fifteen minutes of time, we can engage in a versatile form of self-care that is both fun and effective: journaling!
For many years, journaling has been my go-to form of self-care. Although many people think this practice is nothing more than writing a quick synopsis of each day in a cute little notebook, journaling can be so much more than a simple “diary” entry.
For me, journaling takes numerous forms that each provide me an opportunity to build self-awareness, engage my spirituality, and/or express my creativity.
When I sit down with my journal each evening, I use a few different techniques to build self-awareness. First, I write a little bit about my day, mainly the way I felt and reacted to any meaningful situations I experienced. As I do this, I am forced to think back over my day and mindfully build awareness of any patterns of thought and emotion I experienced, areas I need to work on, and what I am doing that is contributing to my well-being.
Most importantly, this aspect of my journaling allows me to consider the self-talk I used throughout the day.
When I take the time to read my self-talk written out, I am able to think more objectively and rationally about the situations that prompted it and notice the ways my immediate reactive emotions caused me to talk to myself in inappropriate ways.
The more I engage in this technique, the more naturally I notice my self-talk throughout the day. Consequently, I am more self-aware and able to talk to myself in a healthier way.
I also build self-awareness by noting important information each day so I can look back later to determine patterns and relationships between my emotions and my daily decisions.
For example, each day I assign an intensity level between one and ten to my various emotions such as depression/contentment, anxiety/peace, and hopefulness/despair as well as to my physical feelings, such as my fatigue/energy and weakness/strength.
Lastly, I note any strong emotions or feelings that are out of the ordinary, along with any relevant changes in my routine in order to build my awareness of how my decisions affect me.
By using journaling as my means of building self-awareness and beginning to notice my feelings, emotions, and reactions in my everyday life, I also give myself a written record of my development over time.
Consequently, when I am tempted to grow hopeless during periods of depression, I can look back at journals from healthy periods of my life to remind myself of the health I have had and can get back. Also, when I am healthy and am tempted to become less vigilant about taking care of myself, I can look back and remind myself of the effects of depriving myself of sleep, rest, food, movement, and other health-promoting activities.
In addition to helping me build self-awareness, journaling is a valuable tool in engaging my spiritual life.
Whether you believe in a higher power and participate in organized religion or not, a critical component of self-care is building awareness of and connection with your spiritual side because as humans we are all faced with deep questions about the purpose of life and the meaning of our experiences.
Journaling can be a great tool for engaging this aspect of our lives.
For me, journaling is a tool I use during prayer, meditation, and reflection.
Sometimes I note spiritual insights; sometimes I write about my spiritual struggles; and sometimes I simply note prayer requests and answers I notice.
The spiritual aspect of my journaling tends to be rather spontaneous due to the nature of its content, but I generally write my prayers in the form of letters to God. If you do not believe in or engage with the God of an organized religion, you could simply dedicate sections of your journal to spontaneous musings about the significant questions and thoughts you have on your mind.
Since I tend to see thankfulness as an aspect of my spiritual life, I often include lists of blessings I am thankful for in this section of my journal. While it may seem cheesy, the discipline of making a list of things you are thankful for each day is an incredibly powerful practice that can make a huge difference in your spiritual outlook on life.
Lastly, I think embracing what makes us unique and special is a critical component of self-care.
Including a “creative” section in my journal has been a helpful tool for this aspect of my self-care. In this section of my journal, I include anything that helps me express who I am. Often, this section includes poems, short essays and drawings as well as occasional pieces of art or music.
The beauty of journaling is it can be perfectly adapted to every person as an individualized tool for self-care. The tips and methods I use are simply what have worked for me, and I hope you find them a useful starting place to jump-start your own use of journaling in your self-care routine!
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