Journalling is one of the most powerful and underrated tools there is when it comes to creating the life you want. And at times of year when there’s lots going on, family stresses, or emotions coming up, it can help us in powerful ways. So today I want to outline how journalling can help you survive the holidays – and support you into the New Year too.
If you’re not in the habit of writing in a journal, I get that there can be a bit of mystique around the process. Perhaps you’ve heard other people talk about the power of journalling, but not quite managed to get the habit set up yourself. Even if you’re a regular journaller, the 3 things I’m sharing today will help you deepen your understanding of how journalling can help you navigate busy times, and hopefully give you some tips to develop your habit further.
If you have questions, or if you use your journal in other ways than the ones I’m listing here, do scroll down and leave us a comment. I’d love to know how you use this practice – or what challenges you face when trying to get started – so that we can help each other.
1. Start each day with Morning Pages
This idea is the foundation of my journalling practice, and it comes from the excellent book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (highly recommended if you’re looking for a book to gift yourself!)
In the Artist’s Way, Julia suggests clear guidelines for morning pages:
- Write first thing in the morning, as close to waking as possible
- Write as fast as you can, for 3 A4 pages – no more, no less
- Don’t show your pages to anyone else
- Don’t re-read your pages for at least 8 weeks
Now, the realities of life might mean you don’t always manage to get your 3 pages written before doing anything else. If you’re a parent, your mornings are already packed, or just can’t see how you could squeeze and extra half hour in before work, it might even sound impossible.
These days, with two children and a business, I consider these guidelines the “gold standard”. There is something really powerful about tapping into your unconscious before any other activities have happened, or you’ve even spoken to another person. But free-writing at any time of day will still make a huge difference.
So you’re ready with your notebook and pen… where do you start? Julia says, essentially, “just write, and write fast”. For me, that pace is really key. Don’t worry about your handwriting or whether what you’re writing is “good” or “makes sense” – remember, no-one else is ever going to read this.
If your mind goes blank, or you find yourself getting stuck trying to “figure something out”, just keep writing (even if you’re literally writing “I don’t know what to write… I don’t know what to write”, over and over again).
I’ve found there’s often a really juicy idea or unexpected insight right on the other side of that “stuck” place.
The power of starting your days with writing, especially during a busy time like Christmas when you’re likely to have lots of things going on, is that you start the day by connecting to yourself – your own intuition and inner wisdom.
If you’ve got lots of people around you, it can be an incredible relief to allow yourself space to tune into “radio you” and listen to what’s bubbling up.
In Julia’s words,
“The voice of our original self is often muffled, overwhelmed, even strangled, by the voices of other people’s expectations.”
― Julia Cameron
See if you can give yourself just half an hour each morning to pour out whatever comes up onto a page – and notice the difference it makes to your day.
2. Process the emotions that come up
The festive season might be a time of goodwill and celebration – but it can also feel like bloody hard work.
- Maybe you’re staying with your parents as an adult, and reliving your teenage resentment and anger with every “house rule” you find yourself trapped by.
- Perhaps you’re being shunted from pillar to post like the gift no-one wants.
- Or maybe your entire office has swanned off for the holidays, and you’re the one holding the fort.
Whatever your flavour of festive challenge, using your journal to process how you’re feeling can be an incredibly effective way to shift those emotions and keep your energy flowing rather than stagnating.
If something comes up, you find yourself triggered, or you get overwhelmed with emotion, grab your journal and pour out how you’re feeling. You could write it as a never-to-be-sent letter, or just a stream-of-consciousness rant to let off steam.
Needless to say, Julia’s recommendation to keep your writing secret applies doubly here! Don’t let your uncensored thoughts fall into the wrong hands – or you might have a drama worthy of a soap opera Christmas special on your hands.
3. Use your journal to create your year ahead
Especially if you’re not where you want to be this Christmas, physically or emotionally, one of the most powerful ways to use your journal is to create. Think about what you’d love to bring into your life, or how you would like things to be different for you next year.
Rather than scrolling through fitness equipment online or googling “how to change your entire life in 6 weeks”, spend some time connecting to your intuition.
- What would your body love to do?
- Where do you wish you were right now? How would you like to feel?
- What would be an amazing thing to experience in the next twelve months?
Journalling is where I get some of my best ideas, and when combined with the practice of morning pages some inspiring dreams and incredible ideas can open up.
Should you read your journal back?
Deciding whether or not to re-read your journal is a personal thing. Some people prefer to burn or throw away their journals, and trust that what’s important will come back to them.
Personally, I’ve found Julia’s “8-week” guideline feels like about the right amount of time for me to wait before returning to what I’ve written. If you choose to revisit your journals, you might want to look out for:
- Challenges that have stuck around, and it might be time for you to deal with: “I’m still totally stressed out at work. What help can I access around that?”
- Great ideas you might not have remembered, and want to take action on
- Inspiration at how far you’ve come: “I can’t believe how hopeless I was feeling about my marriage – things have come a long way!”
Journalling is one of our foundational tools at One of many, and one of its greatest roles is in helping you find greater peace and connect to yourself.
Over to you
How about you – are you an avid journaller? Or is it a tool you’ve never quite got the hang of? Share your experience below – and let us know if it helps you get through the festive season with your sanity intact!
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