a self-care guide: journaling

14 April 2020

I can't believe it's 2020. And we're almost exactly a month into our MCO order. I was thinking for a long while to start blogging again, maybe my 2019 fitness journey. But I feel a sense of gracelessness in my words. So maybe I need to just start and pray it all makes sense in the end. 

Today I'm going to write about a topic I've been recently keeping very close to my heart. 

Since I've been stuck in for the last 4 weeks, I've been journaling almost every day, a lot more often than when I was working full time. I've grown to love the process even more and I just can't get enough of it, almost like an addiction. I've even gone so far as to break my blogging hiatus and write a post all about journaling.  It almost feels like a crime if I kept this beautiful practice hidden and all for myself. 

I just want to say, since journaling, I have never in my life felt so much self-love towards myself. I have never been so at peace in my mind. I have never said kinder words to myself and others than I have since I started journaling. My usually critically mean inner monologue has shifted to a much loving and kinder one. Ultimately, the practice of writing has made me more loving, kinder and infinitely more compassionate. 

I guess at first glance, it seems pretty perfunctory and straight forward, but I guess things like these never usually are. It all started when I picked up journaling in the 1st week of Jan 2020. I'm sure like many others who have attempted journaling, it never really stuck with me. I collected countless notebooks, stationery and watched youtube videos on types of journaling, how to get started with journaling etc. Desperate to find my own style of this whole process. I've tried and failed, so I just pushed journaling into the mental file of "things that just aren't for me". 

Ok so looking back on hindsight, I applied way too much perfectionism. My writing would have to be neat & nice, I'd need to have a ruler to underlines and god forbid the fucking typos would cripple me. I'd use 5 different types of pens and colours for the pages. And things like being frustrated at my own slow handwriting, for not being able to write as fast as my mind is going. 

I even tried digital journaling in the past, all sorts of apps like one day that have facilitated the process for you, or goodnotes5 on the iPad where you can physically write into a digital notebook. All of these methods of sustaining journaling have not stuck with me, until it did. 

Lets try and break it down now. 

Tips to start journaling: 

  1. Set your intentions. Ask yourself why you're doing this in the first place? In the past I've failed because I was more engrossed in the idea of being an ~aesthetic art girl~ who kept a journal and therefore had to write every day. My intentions for journaling have shifted and now the practice has stuck. I write to make sense of my thoughts, to grow self-aware and practice self-reflection. As I move forward and get older, I want to be aware of the toxic patterns of thinking I often get myself into and hopefully pivot when I need to. I write to keep a time capsule of all the progression of my thoughts, feelings and events I want to remember and read through when I'm 60. I write because it makes me feel good, its an act of self-love from me to me. So ask yourself: what do you want to get out of this process? 
  2. Let go of your perfectionism tendencies. Enjoy the process, the goal isn't about filling up the book. You don't have to journal everyday. Journal when you need to. You don't need fancy stationery with washi tape and all sorts of coloured pens. I use 1 black pen and my notebook and thats it. The fact that the practice is so low maintenance and yet reaps so many mental rewards has made it so much more appealing to me. Have 1 pen and that's it, don't worry about the mistakes you make when you write, just cross it off and just let the stream of your consciousness flow onto the papers.
  3. NO RULES. Its ok to omit details, you don't have to write every single detail of what you ate today. Write about how you're feeling, or this event that happened and how it made you feel. Just begin writing and see where 10 mins of free-flow writing takes you. 
  4. Set the mood. I usually like to journal after I've made my coffee in the morning and I play a really great lo-fi playlist. I make myself comfortable. In the evening, I'll make sure my table is clean, I'll play some music and I'll light a candle. It seems like a lot but there is a transcendental effect in these actions, it truly feels like an act of self-love. 

I was going through a point in my life where I was trying to make a sense of a lot of things in my head. I've always perceived myself as self-aware, as someone who is constantly conscious of my own stream of thoughts and feelings... And yet there are emotional connections in my mind that seemed to have slipped through, like an invisible being floating in my consciousness, not readily exposed but they make their presence known. 

 I inevitably realize that I am not so in tuned with my feelings and thoughts as I previously thought. I felt a general anxiousness that I haven't felt for a long, long time. From the outlook, there was nothing to be anxious about? I'm in a career I love, training clients who inspire me, I'm healthy, my marriage is great, I have a loving family and yet I still felt something trying to claw itself out of my subconscious. 

So I went into journaling again because of a heightened sense of urgency. The intention was I wanted to word vomit onto the pages and try to make sense of what's missing and possibly comfort myself in the process. I wrote in a half-written (failed) bullet journal from 2 years ago and I just started writing. And when I picked up momentum, I couldn't stop because it MADE ME FEEL SO FUCKING GOOD. Like here I was thinking I was okay, then I write about A, B, C and realizing holy shit, maybe I'm not so okay at all. There is a palpably cathartic relief in the act of writing. I was so skeptical about it before, but when you write it in pages, for only your eyes to see, for yourself ultimately, there is a sense of peace and comfort in that practice. 

There is great solace in the fact that these pages are for your eyes only and they can't talk back to you and pass judgment. They act as medium of safe space for your thoughts and feelings. 

Of course from Jan - March, I only wrote when I needed to. It was often sporadic and only when I had things to write about. When I didn't, I'd go 1-2 weeks at a time of between entries. When I did, they were a huge source of comfort in my really busy schedule. It was like I'm doing it for no one else but me. It was only when I had much more time during the MCO that I experimented with journal prompts and writing love letters to yourself.

Other forms of journaling I've branched into: 

  1. Gratitude log. I write 4 things I'm grateful about everyday and the 5th is an experience I've gone through that I'm grateful for. I started this bc I was feeling generally anxious with the whole uncertainty of the pandemic. I've done the gratitude log for 21 days in a row since the MCO started and I find that my mind tends to scan a lot more for the positive than the negative.
  2. Love letters to myself.  Honestly, this particular practice made me fell in love with journaling tenfolds. After reading this article and talking to my best friend Yasmin, I've decided to give it a go. She kept praising the love letters practiced and urged for me to try it. I've always been mentally hard on myself and in some way, constantly seeking validation and approval from other people through social media, or the questions I ask and the people I love. So I began writing these letters, and I wrote them in second person view. I wrote all the things to myself that I've been yearning to hear from other people. It came from a place of unconditional love. I began with "I love you. I'm right here, I've always been here and I will never abandon you." And the whole practice is so intimate and warm. I have never felt so much love to myself, the mean voice I usually talk to myself in was replaced by an infinitely kinder one. I suggest you all to try this. 

I'll leave this post on an excerpt on my last night's journal entry before I slept. 

"I have asked these questions in the past. And I always feel disappointed when the words I want to hear to feel validated and appreciated are left unsaid. But today was different because I had an "AHA" moment where I thought, I do not need to ask these questions to feel loved, validated and appreciated. Relying on others to make you feel that way has a sort of impermanence to it, it will always fall short unless it comes from yourself. The love letters practice has been really useful in that regard. When I speak in those letters, it always comes from a place of unconditional love, from me to me. The words I write to myself are words I've been longing to hear from others. It is so profound, realizing that I am enough. The journey begins with me loving myself first. It has a ripple of effect into the other areas of my life. My inner monologue voice has changed from a critically mean one to one full of love, kindness and compassion. The underlying lace of meanness that usually arises seems to have dissipated. I guess the voice of love always prevails. What a huge lesson for me in 2020. 
It begins with me." 

Lots of love,

Sara Suhaili. Powered by Blogger.