When someone first told me to purchase a journal, I thought to myself, isn’t a journal another word for a diary that weenies confide in about their thoughts and feelings and crushes when they are seven years old?
And second, when am I going to have the time to sit down and just write out my feelings? Probably never. Turns out a year later that journaling would become one of my favourite, and most relaxing activities.
Journaling actually changed my life. Not only did I learn that many of the most successful and influential people that I admire keep a journal, but once I started, I instantly noticed a steady increase in four very important areas of my life; my productivity, positivity, education and gratitude.
- Productivity: This actually sky rocketed once I started journaling. Every night before I went to bed, I started making a list of the top 5 things I wanted to accomplish the next day at work, and the top 5 things I wanted to accomplish in my personal life. I called these my “Productive 5”. Original, aren’t I?
This probably seems like a lot to take on in one day. On the contrary, it felt like it opened up more time to do even more productive things! My “Productive 5” could include anything, big or small, routine or not. I counted it for any and all accomplishments that deserved me giving myself a pat on the back. For example, a typical productivity list of mine would include:
- Get up at 5:00 am
- Meditate for 20 minutes
- Make a pre-workout protein shake
- Go to the gym
- Read/Learn from 30 minutes
Again, it was a simple trick that had turned a very non-morning person into someone who now had an additional three hours of skill honing and goal setting prior to heading into my 9-5, every single day. Jotting down my productivity goals every evening allowed me to reconnect with my vision of success. It not only held me accountable, but the feeling of crossing something off my to-do list felt extremely rewarding and became something I looked forward to every evening, even if it was the same little goal every day! It kept me motivated, inspired and ensured my productivity remained at an all-time high. It helps to remind you that you have a purpose every single second of every single day and that each one of those seconds are opportunities and gifts to get you closer to where you want to be in life.
- Positivity: This could not have come at a more opportune time in my life. When I purchased my first journal, I was working in a toxic environment where stress was routinely high. I used to feel so anxious at my job that I was actually concerned I might vomit every time I was called into my boss’ office. My partner at the time (that I was certain I would spend the rest of my life with), and I, had just called it quits, and I didn’t feel like I had any real support system to turn to, as my closest family and friends all lived across the country. I was so busy at work that I stopped taking care of myself - mentally, physically and spiritually. I stopped going to the gym, doing yoga, sleeping enough, eating healthy meals, eating in general, and I began to lose weight. I was told I looked like I was wasting away and uncomfortably sick. (Does sick ever look comfortable?) So I did what any sane person would do in that situation... I booked a trip to a different country and purchased a journal to document the journey. (I’m pretty certain that’s standard across most females my age that go through a break-up, though it seems like they go somewhere cool like Spain or Greece, I decided to go to Portland. I started writing down what made me feel miserable. What made my whole body wince in emotional agony. What were the triggers that sent me into a downward spiral that caused me to randomly burst into tears for twenty minutes, straight. (People stuck in the cars next to me at red lights didn’t know what to do.) But I also started documenting when I began to feel happy again. How I felt after certain meals, once I started getting enough sleep, once I started exercising and most importantly, how I felt once I started getting everything out of my mind and onto paper. (Relieved!) This was a breakthrough for me. I was able to see in words and with such clarity what triggered sadness and what brought me joy. I was able to see clearly what allowed me to have a healthy mindset, and to keep doing those things that triggered it. Further, once I started writing everything down in my journal, it was almost like it released all of my sadness onto those pages and freed up my mind for new positive thoughts to come in.
- Education: Ooh babey. Game changer. I say that about a lot of things on this blog, but if they weren’t game changers, they wouldn’t be worth writing about. This little trick is the BEST part of my day. Nothing gets me going and more excited to get out of bed at 5:00 am, than thinking about what I am going to learn about today. Seriously. It sounds so silly but it is 100% true. I dive into a book during tea time, I’ll dive into a podcast while I’m at the gym, I’ll turn on a motivational YouTube video while I am cutting up my fruit and veggies for my morning smoothie, and my journal accompanies me the whole way! I jot down every single thing I find valuable in any of the above learning mechanisms. (It sometimes takes me a full hour to get through a five-minute video since I have to keep stopping, rewinding, and starting again to write down everything I’m learning.) I was one of those students in school that had to re-write the text book over and over again if I wanted to retain any information for a test. I could never just read and memorize it. Turns out it is applicable to self-development education as well. If you don’t record it, you won’t learn it, (unless you’re one of those incredibly fortunate people with a photographic memory). Utilize every single second you have to increase your awareness of all of the amazing educational tools you can find for free online these days. Highlight the most important lessons you learn and make them stick!
- Gratitude: This was the one that took me the longest to get used to, and the one that caused my unhappiness to do a complete 180. It felt so cheesy to me – sitting down and writing what I was grateful for. That seemed silly, how could I focus on the positive things in my life when everything seemed so utterly negative? So I forced myself to do it. I started “counting my blessings” as my mother encouraged me from a young age. Even if I felt so completely useless and disappointed with where my life was currently, I started writing about the things I should, by, definition, be grateful for. Food on my table, a roof over my head, family members that loved and supported me, a job that paid enough to feed me and pay my rent, the amazing soy latte I was experiencing at the moment, that the barista had formed a cute little heart out of the foam, and more importantly, a full life ahead of me to make the necessary changes I needed to make, to get back into that healthy life and mindset that I had lost. I began to do this every single night for 30 days straight. It began to shift my mindset so that my brain subconsciously started paying attention to the positives in life, instead of the negatives. The meaningless inconsequential things that used to bother me and that would make me want to reach over the counter at a coffee shop and throttle the young hipster boy taking my order incorrectly, would now make me stop and quite honestly smile at how fortunate I was to be doing what I was doing in that particular moment.
"That's great!", you're thinking - but how do I get started?
It’s simple to go out and purchase a journal. (In fact, Indigo sells the cutest little journals that have all of these inspirational and motivational quotes on them! The difficult part is actually sitting your butt down and getting started. Once you start it though, you will 100% thank yourself. This is actually one of my favourite parts of my day. Every morning and every night, I set aside some time to journal. I make it, “My happy time” I plug in my fairy lights around my bedroom window, light a candle, pour myself a steaming cup of mint tea (or the tea of your choosing) and I pull out my journal!
If you don’t know where to start, I'll give you a few suggestions! First, start off with the four areas above that we talked about - Productivity, positivity, education and gratitude. Write down your “Productive 5”. What do you want to accomplish tomorrow? What did you accomplish today? Map your tomorrow out, today – and you’ll be forced to hold yourself accountable.
Begin documenting what makes you tick, what makes your mood shift. Write how you feel after you eat certain foods, get a certain amount of sleep, or after you spend time with a toxic friend that holds you down. You would be surprised at how quickly your behaviours shift as a result, and the difficult decision (like not eating those three fritters at your favourite cafe) will now be easy to make.
Bring your journal with you everywhere you go. Begin writing down a smart expression your boss always uses, an inspirational quote someone graffitied in the subway station, or write down something loving your mom texts you. Use it as an educational tool to document all of the amazing messages we hear in a day, but often forget.
Lastly, try writing down things you are grateful for. Every night. Even in your darkest hours you would be surprised at how many things you have to be grateful for. All you need is a quick little reminder.
Still feeling stuck? There is an amazing book from one of my favourite authors – Robin Sharma – called “Who Will Cry When You Die?” It’s comprised of over 100 short, 1-2 page messages (perfect for the fast-paced society that we live in, so no one can say they don’t have time.) that contain quick and easy inspirational ideas that help readers create true success and happiness. I started jotting down one new message a day from the book, what I could learn from it and how I would apply it to my life. After following through, I would write down the outcome or how it made me feel.
You are an amazing person, living an amazing life, in this big, beautiful and amazing world that we live in. You and your journey deserve to be written about – so start writing.