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The Life Changing Habit of Journaling

This year I have started a new habit that has changed my life. I did not start this with the intention of making a life changing habit, it happened seemingly by accident. I have never considered myself the journaling type. When I imagined putting my thoughts, fears, hopes, and anxieties to paper it just seemed too emotionally taxing. The notebooks that littered my office and laptop bags were filled only with perfunctory to-do lists and grocery lists. I would not have imagined that journaling could become such a force of positivity for me.

Towards the end of February I had reached a breaking point in my life. As some of you know I have been struggling with endometriosis over the last five years. The year of 2017 was my most difficult year of dealing with it yet and I entered 2018 without any improvement. The pain made doing the most basic of tasks nearly unbearable. By February, I had to cancel a trip to Spain because I could hardly walk and was blacking out from the pain. It broke my heart to cancel a trip that my husband and I had been looking forward to for such a long time, and I decided it was time to make a change and get myself feeling better for good. As anyone with endo knows, there is not a cure for this disease, but many women are able to manage the pain and symptoms through an anti inflammatory diet. I ordered a slew of books about diet and endometriosis and made the decision that day to start my new lifestyle.

The lifestyle change was drastic and admittedly very restrictive. I found this change very difficult at first. I started a diary the day I started my new diet. I wanted to chronicle how I felt every day to see how this change improved my pain levels and energy. The measurable progress was highly motivating. After a few weeks of just jotting down a single paragraph about my physical condition, I felt comfortable expanding my diary to cover new blog post ideas, outfit ideas, recipes I wanted to try, friends I wanted to get together with that week, chores to complete, and movies I had seen or wanted to see. I began to enjoy this ritual and the sense of gratitude I felt wash over me after completing each entry.

Acknowledging all of these things that brought me joy on a daily basis made me treat all of those things with much more respect and care. In a world where we are constantly absorbing stressful information at light-speed, I think many of us are dealing with anxiety and struggling to live in the moment. Journaling helps me slow down and take inventory of my life without outside stress or interference. It helped me clarify what actually matters to me, and I began to treat those things with more love every day. I felt an even greater sense of gratitude as my lifestyle change began to affect my body. My days were no longer revolving around managing my chronic pain and it felt like a miracle. 

After a few months of writing in my diary, I glanced back at some of my earlier entries. I noticed that almost all of the goals I had written about, I had actually achieved. This was a shocking revelation to me. I could not have imagined the simple act of writing down a thought or idea would correlate so highly to actualizing them. I began to realize the power that journaling actually had for me and I doubled down on my new habit.

 

I feel like this small change precipitated many other positive changes in my life. Recently, my husband said to me “Let’s deep clean the house and purge our possessions.”. Normally such a monumental task would fill me with anxiety and dread, but I surprised myself by agreeing enthusiastically. I broke it down in mini-goals in my diary, and I accomplished them item by item. I also made a goal of drastically cutting down on my phone time. Instead of checking instagram, I would check in with my journal. What a better exercise for my brain! I found my sleeping habits improved, and I was feeling happier and more grateful for living in the present.

I started stocking up on notebooks because I was filling up my journals so quickly. I found a spiral bound notebook I liked from Target and bought several copies to keep under my bedside table.  Recently I read the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and also her book Spark Joy. She recommends making a “personal power spot” in your home, to relax and recharge in. I picked an overstuffed chair flanking our fireplace, and I now enjoy journaling here with a cup of of nettle tea. This daily practice definitely has “sparked joy” for me, and I am so glad I discovered the practice of journaling at the time that I did. It was very grounding when I felt so lost and overwhelmed dealing with chronic illness. Now that I am not constantly consumed with that part of my life, I have found journaling to have really helped me with time management. I have more time for things that I enjoy, but often had to push to the side. I’ve started reading more and entertaining at home and my life feels much more rewarding for it. If you aren’t journaling already, you might consider picking up a journal just to see what happens. It certainly surprised me.

 

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17 Comments

  1. deb ferguson wrote:

    I’m so much older than you, post-menepausal, and I’ve followed you and your mom since you started Sea of Shoes when you were a teen. As a life-long-learner myself, I have been inspired by your curious mind, your open heart, and your thirst the finer things in your life. You seem to have found a man deserving of you. Congratulations.

    So, re: journaling. . .I don’t do it everyday, but when I am dealing with “demons” (ie: overthinking, anxiety, which I’ve been prone to since I was a young girl. . . a family demon.) Lately the anxiety demon was beckoning, so I pulled out my lap top to write about it. I had so many thoughts that needed to pour out my head that my lap top seemed most expedient. By the third day the demon was excorsised! Somehow putting it into words helps clarify the situation . . .You see it for what it is. . . and you able to make to make a plan, to control the demon.

    Anyway, when I saw your beautiful post about journaling and how it has helped you, I thought I would share with you my experience. It still is helping me even in my late 50’s.

    Keep growing, sharing and inspiring.

    onward and upward

    5.4.18 · Reply
    • Patricia wrote:

      Hello Jane–I too love and admire you and your fabulous mother, and all of your interests and creative endeavors. I read you regularly because I love your unique style and curious mind; you are so much more than a mannequin, and your clothing actually reflects that. I am glad you are feeling better, and hope you can make it to Spain soon–it is my favorite country on earth (besides Texas, which is its own country, and the USA.)

      Your post inspired me to try journaling again–I have always liked the idea of journaling, but in practice not so much, for various reasons. I have blank notebooks scattered around my house, waiting for me to sit down and start, and your post has inspired me to try again.

      Now if only I can make a stab at paring down my own extensive wardrobe! If you can cull the truly fabulous from the merely pretty items in your closet(s), surely I can! Opening up that space (mental and physical) by discarding things you truly do not need allows room for the new treasures you will find and can’t live without–

      Cheers!

      5.4.18 · Reply
  2. Patricia wrote:

    And 2 more things:

    There is actually a book written years ago called “Write It Down, Make It Happen,” which covers the very idea you discussed–that writing down what you want is vital to materializing that thing.

    And second, I recently read about this retreat, in Spain, for those who are writing their novel or memoir on the fashion blog “That’s Not My Age”–a friend and I are considering the September course; here is the link: http://write-it-down.co.uk/spain

    5.4.18 · Reply
  3. Great post as always! x

    http://www.evdaily.blogspot.com

    5.4.18 · Reply
  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. You inspire and motivate me every moment of the day and I trust everything you recommend. Life changing or not! I’ve heard great things about journaling and hearing your experience with it makes my interest of it even greater. If it helped you so much, I cannot wait to see the wonders it will do to me! Have a lovely weekend dear!

    http://www.beingisabella.com

    5.4.18 · Reply
  5. Remi X wrote:

    Beautiful post! Thanks for sharing and putting this into words. I also love journaling and writing by hand and find it useful for many of the reasons you have stated here. I don’t do it every day because it can be very time consuming, but then again so is scrolling endlessly through my phone feeling worse and worse about the world… you’re making me want to make it more of a daily habit for sure!
    My undisputed Master of the Diary format is Anais Nin. She writes so incredibly deeply about her own mind and life and the act of writing itself, it’s absolutely transcendent. I consider her to be one of the most profound writers who has ever lived, largely because she created and chronicled her inner life with such incredible richness and depth.

    5.4.18 · Reply
  6. What a beautiful inspiring post. You’ve inspired me to go back to journaling after a long hiatus. Thank you.

    5.4.18 · Reply
  7. One other question – what journals and notebooks have you found that you love?

    5.4.18 · Reply
  8. Kathrin wrote:

    I’ve also turned to journaling during difficult times in my life. I’ve read about the numerous benefits and while it sometimes seems pointless or I feel like I have nothing to say, I know that sticking to it can make all the difference and it has helped me in the past. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Kathrin | Polar Bear Style

    5.5.18 · Reply
  9. Mireia wrote:

    Absolutely love it!

    Mireia from TGL
    https://thegoldlipstick.com/

    5.5.18 · Reply
  10. sara nena wrote:

    i am so happy for you, sometimes we feel lost and we have to stop and catch up with ourself!!!!

    http://7-sevendays.blogspot.it/

    5.5.18 · Reply
  11. Kate wrote:

    Good for you! This is so great to hear.

    5.5.18 · Reply
  12. Sorry to hear about your endometriosis, I know very well how painful it is! Your post is very inspiring, have a wonderful weekend!
    Magda

    https://www.gloryofthesnow.com

    5.5.18 · Reply
  13. Jane wrote:

    Thanks for sharing your journaling experience…I’m going to follow your example!!

    5.5.18 · Reply
  14. Kelly wrote:

    The next trick is making the written journal as clear when sketched.

    5.6.18 · Reply
  15. chichi wrote:

    I so wish to start journaling as well!
    http://www.thestyletune.com

    5.7.18 · Reply
  16. Linda wrote:

    Thanks for sharing your trip experience. Have a lovely day, beautiful girl1
    XXX
    http://bestwalletreview.com

    5.15.18 · Reply