Book illustration Restoration Yard

Journalling for Wellbeing

By Jen Wood

Ever thought about journalling to help your own sense of wellbeing, but don't know where to start? Restoration Yard's emotional wellbeing coach, psychotherapist and wellbeing consultant, Jen Wood, gives us some great tips for starting in her post below as we navigate our 'new normal'.

Jen Wood, Wellbeing Consultant, Restoration Yard

Journalling. It may conjure up an image of a young girl writing ‘Dear Diary’, or Bridget Jones, but there’s a lot more to journalling than meets the eye. I have journalled, on and off, for 30 years and have found it one of the most helpful therapeutic tools.

For anyone in the health profession, the idea of being a reflective practitioner will be very familiar. Having worked in palliative care for many years, I remember feeling frustrated that it was important to notice and record how certain experiences had impacted me, when all I really wanted was a cup of tea and some chocolate. The benefits were undeniable, as it allowed me to feel the feelings that came up, rather than numbing them out with chocolate and wine.

Journalling for our wellbeing can play an important part in helping us understand our thoughts and feelings, and can be a great way to vent. You’ve heard the expression, ‘better out than in’? Well it turns out there’s science to prove it.

Anne Frank, possibly one of the most famous journallers of all time, wrote “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

What is Journaling?

Journalling is the practice of writing in a diary or journal about the thoughts, feelings and physical sensations that come up for us in connection with life events. It can be focused on processing our emotions, achieving our goals, overcoming writers' block or reconnecting to ourselves and our inner wisdom and innate wellbeing. I always recommend to my coaching and therapy clients that they journal and reflect on our sessions, to gain a deeper understanding of themselves.

It’s also a great way to clear our heads and start to make sense of overwhelm. It’s a type of active meditation. Just allowing words to flow on to a page, like a stream of consciousness, can be a very meditative and healing experience. It can help with externalising the dialogue that can happen in our meetings between our inner critic (or perfectionist) and our inner wisdom.

How can it help us?

  • To be more mindful – by being more aware of our mind and make connections between our thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
  • To be happier – by remembering and savouring positive experiences, we can enhance our resilience and positivity.
  • To enhance our wellbeing. To reduce worry and anxiety.
  • To enhance our creativity – Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages idea of starting the day off with a flow of consciousness writing can unblock creative and emotional blocks.
  • To help us achieve our goals.
  • To help us develop more awareness and self-awareness.
  • It can help us process difficult experiences.

How to do it?

  1. Write in a private space where you won’t be interrupted.
  2. Centre and ground yourself before writing.
  3. Reflect and balance yourself after writing.
  4. Schedule a regular time to write.
  5. Write whatever feels right in the moment, and be totally honest.
  6. Your journal is for your eyes only.

The Centre for Journal Therapy have a useful acronym WRITE:

  • W – What do you want to write about? A good tip is to start writing about anything – like what you had for lunch or your trip to the supermarket – and then keep going and see what comes up. You can’t make a mistake!
  • R – Review or reflect on any situation. Start sentences with ‘I feel…’, keep things in the present and be mindful.
  • I – Investigate your thoughts and feelings and behaviours as you write. If you get stuck, reconnect to your breath, and the sensation of your feet on the floor, and write about that.
  • T – Time yourself. If something feels like it will be quick and easy, you’ll be more likely to do it. Set the timer on your phone for 5 minutes and stop when the time is up. If you find it helpful you can increase the time gradually. If 5 minutes feels too much, start with 1 minute.
  • E – Exit consciously. You might just close your journal and feel the texture of the cover, or you might choose to read over what you’ve written. If you can make a ritual of it, it will feel more nourishing.

I wonder if we could use journalling to find the silver lining in this dark coronavirus cloud? If we use our journal to help us to remember what we really appreciate in life, that perhaps we can’t do at the moment, it may help us to savour life more fully when this is all over. How can we start to notice the little things now, that are bringing us pleasure? I have been planting seeds and I’m surprised how much joy I experience when they germinate and start to grow. I’m keen to remember this, and come out of this situation with more awareness.
There are so many benefits to journalling, not least the excuse to buy a lovely new journal. However, the most important thing is that you enjoy it.

And if you need a new notepad, The Store at Restoration Yard has plenty to choose from here. Or take a peek at our pick below.

Jen is offering online Mindfulness Meditation (Mondays) and Reduce Stress - Feel Good (Fridays) classes via Zoom on Mondays and Fridays at 12noon. Jen also offers individual wellbeing coaching, therapy and mindfulness sessions via Zoom or by phone. To find out more, head to Jen’s website.