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. 

Rating iTalki as a Teacher AND a Student – An Honest Review

So, what’s italki?

I’m glad you asked – it’s an online language learning hub made up of a global community of teachers and students. 

As both a student and a teacher on the platform over the past six months, I have completed 15 learning sessions and taught 70 students from over 30 countries. While cooped up in my home office – aka my dining room table – I visited China, Russia, Chile, Norway, Kazakhstan, and Japan without crossing my doormat.

Aside from the main objective of language learning, it’s a phenomenal platform to meet individuals from around the globe. Hence, it’s no surprise that italki is one of the most popular choices for those on a budget, looking to encounter natives in a global marketplace. 

Being a Student on italki

What’s to love?

Speaking to Natives

For me, the fundamental pillars of language learning are speaking and listening. As the name suggests, italki is centralized around these two elements of language acquisition, where natives facilitate your knowledge of the language by correcting your errors in real-time and providing you with space to experiment naturally with the target language.

You can ask questions about slang or curse words, teachers are happy to help and explain the most outrageous parts of the language. After all, by learning a language you are adopting another cultural mindset, so the freedom to wonder and enquire about strange linguistic phenomena is a must.

Low Pricing

Due to the extensive market of teachers available, you can select the most compatible teacher regarding their pricing and their specialisms. All the teachers I have encountered so far make a real effort to create innovative lesson plans that differ immensely from the “textbook technique” we’ve become accustomed to in school.

Flexible Booking

One thing is for certain: italki is reflective of the unprecedented nature of life. Unlike Lingoda’s Language Sprint sign up for three months of consecutive language learning, italki allows for rescheduling, cancellations, package deals, or single slot bookings. When attempting to juggle the reality of life, the flexibility enabled by the platform suits the majority of people. 

But is it the most effective platform for learning a language from scratch?

What’s to be improved?

Structure-less Learning 

Coming from a background in mainstream education, jumping headfirst into spontaneous discussions about the environment or world politics can provide a challenge in a foreign language. Italki appears to be most beneficial when you have already grasped the foundational grammar points and concepts of the target language. Without this, most of the lesson is realistically spent in silence, contemplating verb conjugations or the correct usage of masculine and feminine nouns. 

Believe me, I’ve been there.

Learning from Scratch

While the bulk of your progress in language learning often happens in the beginning stages, it’s frankly exhausting teaching learners at this point.

Unlike other supplementary learning apps like Memrise and Duolingo, it’s not feasible to decide one day to learn Polish and the next day start speaking with a native. You must be willing to dedicate time to first building your foundation in order to utilise platforms like italki to the greatest extent. 

Being a Teacher on italki

What’s to love?

Work from Anywhere

I am all for this new wave of working from home, or as I understand it, working from anywhere in the world. For many people, it can feel isolating, but teaching online has only made me feel more connected to others and their lives.

Theoretically, teaching for italki can be comfortably conducted from anywhere, provided there is a stable WIFI connection and a quiet space. 

Cultural Learning

I’ve always considered myself as a somewhat well-travelled individual, but through teaching on italki, I quickly found that I had barely scratched the surface of the global insights that still awaited me.

I was in the middle of a lesson with a lovely woman from Kazakhstan when I had to abruptly stop. I was so embarrassed that I knew less than a single fact about her country, so we got talking about life in Kazakhstan.

If nothing else, italki enables you to meet and connect with a global base of students who are determined, enthusiastic, and well-informed.

What’s to be improved?

Unpaid Time

Although it doesn’t appear to be so, hours spent organising lesson plans, responding to students and rescheduling lessons are not recognised as official working hours. They soon rack up when you are providing constructive feedback or supporting students with queries, which italki does not adequately reward teachers for.

If they did, I think this would only improve the quality of teaching on the platform, resulting in a better experience for students and teachers alike.

The Pricing Predicament

Since the italki model targets a global network of individuals, the vast market of teachers available forces those already on the platform to drive their prices down to stay competitive. 

Simply put: the teachers on italki are the reason the platform prospers, but sadly they’re not aptly rewarded for the substantial value of their work. As an intermediary, italki deducts a 15% commission rate, after which Paypal then takes a 2% fee (regardless of your home country). To top this off, payment made in dollars must be transferred to your local currency to have any form of utility in daily life with an extortionately high conversion fee 

The bottom line: You can’t live effectively in the UK with the salary from italki unless you are willing to give up weekends, evenings, and your free time. Best to work at it on the side, and enjoy it for what it is – great conversations with interesting people. 

Take-aways

If you are thinking of booking a lesson on italki, go for it!

Overall, it’s been a fantastic experience, leaving me feeling more connected than ever to a global community.

I would absolutely recommend it to anyone wanting to improve their self-confidence and public speaking ability.

Thanks for reading as always, and feel free to like, subscribe and comment below 🙂

The Great Underpaid – Essential Advice for 2021 Graduates

Let’s start with a song. Frank Sinatra take it away please:

“I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet

A pawn and a king

I’ve been up and down and over and out

And I know one thing”

I could not sum up my experience of job hunting more accurately if I tried. 

Except my anthem might sound like this:

“I’ve been unemployed, 

Job searching for hours, 

Oh, the bane of it. 

Worked in a call centre, 

selling old people raised toilet seats, 

Listening to their qualms,

About Covid”. 

It doesn’t quite resonate in the same way, does it?

Throughout the pandemic, I was determined to find work, despite the financial shortcomings of businesses in every UK sector. Needless to say, being unemployed is already a huge knock on your confidence, and when combined with the hours spent filling out online applications, it can appear demotivating to say the least. 

As I write this, things are certainly looking up. 

Now that the job market is opening up again, it’s time to share everything I wish I had known when I began my year-long search. 

The Problem with Graduate Schemes

Graduate schemes – what a wonderful invention. When I witnessed the extensive marketing strategies targeting young, budding graduates, I thought so too.

I applied to Frontline, Charity Works, Teach First, IPSOS Mori, The Civil Service – to name a few – with varying levels of success. Nevertheless, I felt eager to start a rigorous, tailored programme. But when I started to get my foot in the door regarding the recruitment process, I realised just how long it was – most often a six month to a year wait before you start your first day. 

Are they all this long? I wondered. 

After initial interviews, application forms, role plays, more interviews, and psychometric tests, my enthusiasm – along with my will to live – dwindled.

Finally, I reached the ultimate stages of Frontline’s tests but was rejected a week later. Honestly, graduate schemes had severely tested my patience and I resigned from applying altogether. 

Take-aways: 

  • Graduate schemes are akin to The Hunger Games of UK universities. It’s highly competitive and the probability of you not landing one is more common than securing one. 
  • Be selective about the schemes you apply for since the process could take up to a year. Give yourself time to research the company culture, values, and career development programmes. 
  • Rejection from a graduate scheme is less of a personal attack, and more a manifestation of abundant graduate talent, with a lack of suitable positions available. 

“Entry-Level” Jobs

After saying a firm “no” to graduate schemes. I began my search for standard full-time jobs, as a streamlined route into my desired company. I was confident that my degree and graduation from a “top ten university” was a sure-fire foundation for career success.

LinkedIn became my playground.

Below is a real LinkedIn example I found in my search today of the key competencies required for an entry-level position as a researcher.

I have experience in researching climate change, human migration behaviour, and identity, but somewhere along the way, I forgot to apply myself to learning Python.

Frankly, I had undergone research for the past three years, even maintained my use of foreign languages but now I had to learn programming languages too!

Take-aways:

  • Apply for jobs, even if you don’t completely fit the description. Maybe you don’t claim to be a programming genius, but there’s no harm in stating that you are “developing [your] competency in Python through an online course”. 
  • Utilise the Apply Easily feature on Linkedin, to save time while tackling the job hunt. Applying to 20 jobs a day, rather than two has significantly increased my response rate from recruiters. Whether the response is detailed feedback or outright rejection, you are furthering your knowledge of the roles in the sector you are applying for. 

The Unpaid Internship 

With no luck securing a “proper” job, I resigned myself to the idea that yes, I was in need of some relevant, holistic, industry experience. Despite my extensive writing experience, I would have to secure an unpaid position at a reputable company.

It is true that within the writing industry, evidence of your craft is the writing itself, rather than your claims of being the next Steven King

Recently, I’ve received great interest from companies offering unpaid internship positions, the idea being that graduates eager to prove themselves produce high-quality content in exchange for training and a platform to showcase their work. In my head, this is an excellent proposition, but there’s still one problem – how am I going to pay for my coffee?

Not only was I shocked at the concept, but I found that it was the norm. In fact, the world’s most recognised inter-governmental organization, The United Nations, explicitly promotes a model of unpaid internships, just for the privilege of working under their name.

Although, that still doesn’t solve the issue of how I would pay for my coffee – or any of the necessities that support a basic level of human existence. 

Why is unpaid student labour the norm when students have completed at least three years of high-quality tuition and proven their drive throughout the duration of their degree?

Is it because we still believe that students live on baked beans, coffee, and other substances, that their labour is under-valued and unrecognised?

Take-aways:

  • As a student, companies will expect you to work for little pay or even for free. While this can be a fantastic method of gaining experience in a specialised field, keep sending out applications for paid positions on the side. 
  • Just because you are inexperienced, your time, efforts and labour is still of value to a company, so make sure there are incentives to the internship: letters of recommendation, credit for your work, or cover for your travel. 

Final Thoughts 

Granted, you may yourself in the sea of internships, temporary jobs and freelance work very soon, but don’t lose yourself there. 

Take a moment to be proud of your achievement: you have a degree, you earned a degree. 

When applying for positions, it’s almost impossible to measure progress, so make sure that you allow yourself to succeed in other areas of your life. 

The idea of getting ahead of the game, or falling behind others is an illusion. Opportunities will arise and you will apply yourself to them, with the resources you have available to you at the time. 

Stay motivated and take care – let the process continue

Making an Impact: Why Everyone Needs a Personal Blog

I started this blog about two weeks ago now. And a lot has happened in those two weeks, not least that I now have my own sacred place on the internet ready to be transformed into a curiosity shop of wonderful things. In the 16th Century, it was entirely normal to fill cabinets or entire rooms with a scattered assortment of flamboyant and eerie items: human skulls, sea coral, ribbons, or stuffed pigeons. 

Now, we have the internet. 

… 

So, you might be thinking: there are already so many bloggers out there documenting their lives – why would anyone be interested in what I have to say?

Truly, the blogging world is highly saturated with content creators, but – as cliche, as it gets – there is no one with your particular spin on the world. You are experiencing the human condition in an entirely unique way. I had to affirm this to myself many thousands of times before I realised just how powerful that awareness is. 

For me, this recent year has been hugely isolating in many aspects, and I love to share. What I mean is, my greatest interactions with the world are social ones, such that my most developmental learning occurs in these social settings. So, with the recent barriers imposed on social life, a blog can be a great way to open up those avenues for sharing once again. 

So what happens when you start a blog?

Venturing Outside Your Village   

One thing I’ve noticed, especially over this period of Covid-19, is the shrinking of my social circles. Occasionally, I would meet up with friends and family and have the privilege of connecting with students across the globe. 

As for my creative work, on the off chance that anyone was interested, I might send them a poem or read one aloud at a poetry convention. But on the whole, my creations had a limited reach. 

Ali Abdaal uses a wonderful analogy for this: life in the metaphorical village. Say that, for instance, that Harry resides in the quiet village of New Haven, only interacting with individuals from the village – co-workers, family and friends. His exposure to new opportunities would be greatly limited. Whereas, if he were more adventurous, travelling to neighbouring villages, interacting with a multitude of others, his development opportunities would inevitably increase. 

Starting a personal blog is simply a way to connect with like-minded others in dispersed and far-reaching communities. 

You might watch on, with disappointment, as your blog post gets one view from Norway. But fear not! The fact of the matter is, that something you said mattered to someone for a time. 

Emancipation from Perfection

It’s funny how easily we apply an exceedingly high standard of perfection to ourselves, but not necessarily to others?

Austin Kleon, perfectly summarises a creative solution to this predicament of perfectionism, with the idea of rejoicing in our amateur selves. While the amateur has no formal training, they commit to life-long learning in the public eye, “so that others can learn from their failures and success”. 

Nowadays, our morbid curiosity leads us to wonder about the behind-the-scenes aspect of people’s lives, not only the final product – film, Youtube video, book, or Instagram post. After all, the creative pieces that we produce don’t just occur in a vacuum but the complex and chaotic landscape of life. 

If you are trying – regardless of failure – at something, the likelihood is, someone out there is interested in your experience. 

Documenting Life and Telling Better Stories

Recently, I’ve made a commitment to journaling about life. 

Firstly, when I’m not journaling, it’s terrifying how much of life I forget. Between one day and the next, there isn’t much to distinguish my experience of working from home: work, eat, sleep, repeat. Life appears to follow cyclical patterns, but journaling allows you to magnify crucial moments in your mind – why would you want to forget those? 

Secondly, documenting your life can actually make you a more interesting person. Bear with me on this one, maybe this rule doesn’t apply to everyone. Most certainly not Ronald at the party who’s always talking about his chaotic mayhem of a holiday, darling. Surprise, surprise, the best stories you can recount are not about your recent vacation. No one can relate to that, especially not during Covid. 

Dare I say, people want to know about the insight you had about that recent book, your future dreams, or what you really think about salmon fish cakes. I don’t know but I think it’s those thoughts you had in the shower that people are much more interested in. 

So, by documenting life through a personal blog, you can connect in the most fundamentally human way, practised since the dawn of time: storytelling. 

Sharing Good Work

Maybe you’re on board with me by now – maybe not – but nonetheless, you are wondering: what do I write about? 

Good question. 

You can start with what you know. Perhaps you are obsessed with the niche topic of curating bonsai trees or making wearable garments for labradors with arthritis. It doesn’t really matter: someone out there is interested in what you have to say. What’s more, the fact that you’re passionate about a certain subject or interest is highly contagious. 

We have a habit of internally devaluing the importance of our own experiences when they seem insignificant to the remarkable feats of others. There is, in fact, so much value in what you have to share if it can help just one other person by enhancing their worldview, or their understanding of themselves. 

Final Thoughts 

For now, I rest my case. 

Those were four very genuine reasons that prompted the creation of this very blog. 

Hopefully, this article inspired you to begin your writing journey. 

If it did, I’ll be posting a follow-up article with more practical advice about web domains, hosting sites, and how to schedule content very soon.