How to Journal for a Better Self

How to Journal, Document Life, and Write Yourself to Better Mental Health

How Do I Start Journaling?

Apart from breathwork, or maybe walking, journaling must be one of the cheapest self-help practices that exist. But is it naive to believe that you can simply write yourself to better mental health?

When I started journaling, it was a space for me to vent and complain about every possible downfall of the day. I didn’t hold back when detailing the extent of how people had wronged me, or to that end, how the world was certainly ending. I didn’t realise I was conveniently reinforcing my own negative cognitive biases about my life, writing my thoughts as concretely as if they were facts. 

Recently, my journaling style has become more of a logical process of identifying problematic or stagnant areas of life and finding a subsequent resolution to them. This has been a game-changer. Now, I still document all thoughts and feelings, but it’s my response to them that has transformed – both while journaling and in daily life. 

It’s important to document the entire spectrum of feelings, rather than just frustration, anxiety, and anger. 

When is the Best Time to Journal?

The practice of ‘Morning Pages’ was coined by artist Julia Cameron to mean just that: three pages written in the morning. She advocated this ritual practice, as one that doesn’t appear creative at first but intends to make space for documenting consciousness. This results in the development of new ideas and awakenings. 

Three pages of long-form writing are comparable to the thought-catching technique I mentioned earlier in the blog. Essentially, this process of tracking thoughts is incredibly beneficial for creating a renewed awareness of exactly what your internal monologue is saying. 

Granted, I have never made it to the third page. By the second page, I have most likely convinced myself that I have no more thoughts left to write about, which is certainly not true. However, the practice in itself is highly stimulating and certainly sets the tone for renewal at the start of the day. 

One of my favourite content creators, Ali Abdaal, recoins ‘Morning Pages’ as his ‘Brain dump’. For some reason, this transforms journaling from something previously archaic into a genuine practice where we can speak our truth. 

As a writer, it also feels essential to clean out any toxic waste piling up in my mental space, before I even attempt to start the day. Residual angst or harboured grudges tend to directly impact my writing style and even how productive in the day. 

I consider myself a morning person – whatever stereotypes of me that evokes, I write better in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not part of the 5 am club but, for me, it makes sense to wake up and almost immediately set intentions for the day. 

However, there seems to be no hard and fast rule, a daily journal works best when it is written, no matter the time. 

How Do I Write a Journal?

In my mind, journaling has always been such a personal thing, which leads me to believe that advising someone how to write one is somewhat counter-intuitive. 

At the same time, receiving guidance on how to structure my writing and thoughts has always been beneficial for me, as I’m sure it will be for you. 

I’ve found that separating your thoughts into three categories can be highly effective:

  • Thoughts: space for documenting your conscious thought-processing – any worries, anxiety, shame, guilt, joy, elation, can all be documented here. 
  • Intentions: once the entire spectrum of your thoughts have been released onto the page, then you can start to frame your focus on the day ahead. You might start to ask: what do I want to achieve today? What can I do for myself today? What should I prioritise today? 
  • Manifestations: once you’ve covered these short-term intentions, it’s good to remember your overall life goals that sometimes get lost in the daily grind. 

Take-aways

I hope you enjoyed this post and as always, thank you for visiting this blog page. 

As you can see, journaling is one of the most accessible methods of self-help that exist. Maybe as a writer, I am biased but I think there is something truly powerful in documenting consciousness and thoughts as they enter our mental landscape. 

Whether you explore this with a talking journal or alternative methods not suggested in this post, the ultimate goal is to reach a sense of heightened awareness. This means checking in with yourself regularly and building a stable foundation to operate from in daily life. 

Please comment, like and subscribe for more content about self-help and developing conscious awareness. 

What It’s Really like Travelling During Covid – Borders, Jabs, and Tests to be Had

Ottivar

The Village that Escaped Covid

Far away from the chaos and humdrum of state media, lies a village nestled in the neck of the Andalucían mountains: Guajar Faragüit.

The only sense of time passing here is the punctual ring of the Iglesia San Lorenzo church bell, on the hour.

There’s nothing like a weathered, old Señor pulling his cart horse down a winding road to put life glaring into perspective.

“Hola, buen día,” I mutter, clearly disrupting his morning routine with my offensively touristic outfit and English accent.

He ignores me and carries on with his descent.

As I continue my walk to the local shop, I wonder what must have offended him most –  was it my glaringly touristic leopard print hat or my lacklustre Spanish accent?

Risky Travel 

Many people told me not to bother with foreign travel this year:

“It’s not safe”

“I wouldn’t risk it”

“Why don’t you go to Cornwall instead?”

Right now, I am sitting in the crumbling ruins of el castillejo (a castle) overlooking the village and I feel thankful to be here.

Under the shade of a winding tree, a herbal aroma mixes with the midday heat. I realise the shrub next to me is actually wild rosemary.

There’s no need to worry about Covid here when I’m the only one crazy enough to be climbing this mountain in 34 degrees.

The noise pollution of the city that I grew accustomed to is now replaced by tinkering goat bells, casual street chatter and bartering village salesmen.

Languages are for Immersion

As a language learner and teacher, I am all for learning via online platforms but there is nothing like being in the country itself.

Listening to the boisterous conversations of locals with their thick Southern accent puts Duolingo to shame. I can barely understand them as they converse on their doorstep. Of course, they have WIFI to access news updates, but revelations seem to travel more rapidly by word of mouth here.

I try to imitate the bold intention behind the language, but when I speak, it’s full of doubt. Spanish feels rusty and neglected as I string together a simple order of café con leche and the tapas of the day.

A Note About Brexit

I fear that it’s not just Britain’s management of Covid that makes us enemy number one, but more so the simmering tensions post-Brexit.

They ask where I’m from, rather than directly why I’m here.

“I’m from England?” I respond quietly.

The old cashier muses about how she has never been.

There is a pause. 

I want to let her know that just because I am British, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be a global citizen. 

Not that she would be remotely interested, of course.

Freedom of Movement

I visited Spain three times in 2019, immersing myself in this culture. I was determined to overcome the classic stereotype of the Brit, who can only speak their mother tongue.

While the UK government focuses on adjusting policies and new trade deals resulting from our separation from the EU, my interactions with students all over Europe makes me crave an even stronger connection to our neighbours there.

Rather than simply focusing on the rhetoric of “locking” and “unlocking” our country in relation to Covid, we must also be careful not to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world.

For me, travel and most importantly, the freedom of movement has always been a sacred value.

After having my jab and following domestic Covid protocol (upon arrival and on return to the UK), I just don’t see an issue with foreign travel.

It’s trips abroad like this one that makes me realise: this is what I live for.

Take-aways

This article was a little different to my others – more of a poetic piece – so, I’m interested to know what you think in the comments below.

Having returned from Spain, I tested negative three times and can only speak from personal experience and with the personal sentiment that I felt safe enough to travel during this time. I appreciate that not everyone can consider simply jet setting away during pandemic, and I feel particularly lucky to have had the opportunity to travel recently.

With that being said: What’s your opinion of travelling during the pandemic? 

Let me know in the comments section below!