Journaling has become a popular tool for ‘clearing’ thoughts that are bouncing around in your head. By turning thoughts into words on a page, you are confronting them, and you are forced to think clearly about them.
Lots of people compare it to a one-way therapy session with yourself, and we think that’s pretty damn accurate. Here are 4 ways to practise journalling…
Tool 1 - Morning pages
Set a timer, or a number of pages (let’s say, 15 minutes or 3 pages in a small diary).
Ok, now write. Just write.
Write what the voice in your head is saying. Do not write to be smart or even with the idea that this will ever be reread. Don’t worry about punctuation or spelling. Don’t go back to fix mistakes. Just write. Eg.
"I am writing and it feels ridiculous cause I don’t have anything to write about blah blah strange that I'm still doing this I wonder how long I will be bored for but I said I will keep going so I will keep going wa wa waaw I like that Rhiannon song or was it Beyonce?..."
This is great. Get this rubbish out. Very quickly you will discover that the river of scrambled thoughts settles and you will start unpacking some of the deeper level stuff that is sitting in the bedrock.
This practice is referred to as Morning Pages, but in reality, it can be done whenever you like. Try this for a month and reflect on how and if it’s improving your mental health.
Tool 2 - Weekly reflection
Block 30-60 minutes every weekend to reflect on the week. Write whatever comes to your mind.
What good things happened this week? What challenges did you face? Did you spend your time in a way that aligns with your priorities? What are you working on moving forward?
This can be a more formal session of writing. Ask yourself questions to issues you want to put focused attention towards. Perhaps you want to ask yourself the same set of questions for a period of time to see how things are progressing. Maybe you want to score yourself out of 10 in each area.
Use this time to expand on more complicated issues in your life.
Tool 3 - Gratitude journalling
Yeah… so we know it sounds a bit ridiculous, but this tiny effort can really be quite life-changing. Cultivating ‘gratitude’ (AKA reminding yourself that life isn’t so bad and that there’s a lot to like) helps foster positive emotions and reduce stress. Since it takes about 5 seconds a day, your return on effort is huge.
Once a day before bed, write down 3 things that you are grateful for. That’s it.
Even if it feels like you are going through the motions in the beginning, just stick with it. For many people, this turns into a life-changing habit. What do you have to lose?
Tool 4 - Mantras
This is where things can get a little ‘new age’, and if you’re not into it, we get it.
Mantras have been scientificallyproven to show a widespread reduction in activity (or 'deactivation') across the brain during silent repetition, primarily in the 'default mode network,' a system responsible for self-reflection and self-judgment. In other words, simple repetition appears to quiet internal thoughts.
You can use this mantra whenever you think your mind feels a bit busy. Pick a word that doesn’t have any meaning to you.
Tool 5 - Metta
Metta is about directing positive emotions towards total strangers, people you care about and even people you don’t like. There are a lot of scientific benefits which you can check out for yourself. But we will just focus on 'the how here. Imagine someone clearly in your mind and wish them well. Change the person a few times and wish these people well. You can use the following words as a guide:
“May you live with ease” “May you live without suffering or pain” “May you be healthy” “May you be happy”
Eventually, you will end with imagining yourself, smiling and happy. Repeat the following: “I am enough” “ I am happy” “ I am healthy”
This should ideally be a daily practice of around 5 minutes.
For more inspiration on how to clear your head, read our article about Meditation.
What to drink when to think?
To help keep you calm and in the flow state while undertaking one of these tools for the first time, try Ārepa the New Zealand made brain drink containing natural, caffeine free plant based extracts proven to assist cognitive function and reduce stress. It's a perfect alternative to coffee, tea and contains higher levels of brain boosting polyphenols vs kombucha.