Build a sustainable routine to soothe your heart & mind.
Do you have an on-again-off-again relationship with your journal? Or is journaling just not your thing? Those who journal regularly swear by it’s therapeutic effects on their sense of inner peace. The act of writing about our day, the things that are on our mind, the memories that plague us when we are trying to rest, helps release the mental pressure to “not forget this very important thing” and helps our brain gain perspective.
Personally, journaling has never been my thing. I’ve tried. Many times. I usually stick with it for a week, only to abandon the practice as soon as the overwhelmingly upsetting incident has passed. On the rare occasion that I have looked back at what I wrote, I’ve always been struck by how many painful thoughts were on the paper. Any outsider reading my journal would think I have a horrible life. But I don’t. Are there things that I wish were different about my life? Yes. Do I hate my life? No. Looking back at my journal entries shows me how deeply fused I was with my worry thoughts in those moments — so fused that it seemed that those thoughts were my complete, dejected, reality. I need a journaling process that actually helps me step away from the all-consuming negativity that my worry thoughts can sometimes become, without being too “froo-froo” for my sensibilities.
Recently, I stumbled upon a new form of journaling that is one part bullet journal and one part gratitude journal. This approach to journaling is flexible, and therefore a sustainable wellness routine to soothe my heart & mind whether or not I’m feeling consumed with angst, indignation, fury, or despair. I invite you to try this three-step process with me.
Step 1: Validation
Label two or more emotional experiences you had today. Keep it simple with a list, or write a couple sentences to describe the situation that elicited that feeling.
This first step is important. In today’s “time is money” society, we often push past our emotional experiences, treating them as inconvenient occurrences rather than respecting them as the change signals that they are meant to be. It is that much harder to receive validation and recognition from others when we are unwilling to validate and recognize ourselves. So, take a moment to label your emotions. Consider using this feelings wheel to help expand your emotion vocabulary.
Step 2: Balance
Write down at least one experience from today that made you smile. Cataloging these moments helps our mind pause from focusing on the things it wished were otherwise.
Evolution has shaped our brains to be fantastic at identifying and trouble shooting threat. It’s not that our brain is incapable of recognizing non-threatening, or dare I say, pleasant stimuli. But the homo sapient ancestors that survived were those whose brains could give greater attention to evading threat. That pattern persists to this day. The unintended consequence is that we develop a skewed perception of our overall satisfaction with our circumstances. Step 2 in this journal prompt is an attempt to balance our mind’s perspective about whether our life is “all bad” by identifying just one thing that was good. That’s all it takes to challenge our mind’s doom and gloom narrative.
Step 3: Happy Hour
Commit to doing one thing just for yourself before your day ends. Small acts of self-care help refill your wellness cup so you can be your best self when you rejoin your family and friends.
It’s good to be “selfish.” In fact, it’s the only way to sustain your ability to give to cherished others. Your Happy Hour experience can be as complicated and lengthy as you would like. You may invite others to participate with you, so long as the primary focus remains on meeting your personal needs and not theirs.
This 3-step wellness journal can expand or contract to meet your needs from one day to the next. Perhaps there will be an evening when you wish to add a couple of sentences that describe why you felt the feelings in Step 1. Perhaps another night you'll wish to unburden your mind by writing at greater length about what's going on. The point is that this journal format puts no pressure on you to write a certain number of words or pages. You'll find a link to a free template download below to help get you started.
Download our free template to help you get started.