Journaling has completely changed my life. And I'm not talking about the journaling where you just write about the drama that happened at the office or what you ate for lunch yesterday. While I think any journaling practice is better than none at all...I want to talk specifically about using journaling as a proactive and spiritual tool to increase the connection with our souls and live with more authenticity, inspiration, and love.
Since starting a dedicated journaling practice over the last year, I now notice myself slipping into a funk if I go more than two days without hitting pen to paper. Destructive thoughts sneak their way into my mind....my ego starts to overpower the voice of my soul.... and SHIT HITS THE FAN. Granted, my version of "shit hitting the fan" is really just me feeling a little down. It's not like I'm slipping into a deep depression...but life is too short to spend even one day feeling anything less than amazing, ya dig?
While I utilize a variety of journaling practices, I wanted to share three of my favorites with you today. You don't need to be an author, blogger, or English major to do this. Hell, you don't even need to like writing. Don't worry about grammar. Don't worry about how it would sound to other people. Just give yourself the time and space to write on a regular basis and watch the powerful shifts within your life happen.
#1 : Release. Reflect. Revise.
This one is a fucking.game.changer...so listen up. Seriously. I do this basically every morning and I can say with 100% certainty that it has changed my life in ways I can't even begin to describe. I suggest doing this first thing in the morning. Even before your coffee (gasp)...
Release. Grab your journal, laptop, or roommate's arm and write down everything that's in your head. Don't try to control what you're writing. Just write whatever is on your mind. Regrets from yesterday. Worries for the future. Negative feelings about your body. Negative feelings about your relationship. (Granted, these could of course be positive thoughts, but don't try and force that. Just write down whatever is coming up for you). Try and get out at least three pages of this.
Reflect. After you've gotten it out, take a minute to sit back, breathe, and reflect on how those thoughts are making you feel. Are your thoughts making you feel inspired and energized? Or are those thoughts making you feel sad and discouraged? And then ask... "Is that how I want to feel today?"
Important note: Don't judge yourself for these thoughts. It's so easy for us to beat ourselves up and say "Oh my god, I can't believe I'm thinking so negatively all of the time" "What's wrong with me?" but the truth is....even the Dali Lama has negative thoughts. He has just practiced becoming aware of these thoughts and not associating them with himself or his worth as a person.
Revise. Now that we know what thoughts you're having and more importantly...how they are making you feel, we can start to create new thoughts that will bring you closer to the way you want to feel. That's right....we can control the way we feel. And we do this by introducing new, uplifting thoughts that we can believe in.
And yes... you need to actually believe in these new thoughts for them to be effective. So, you might not go from thinking "My body is fat and disgusting" to "My body is the beautiful and sexy." BUT, you can choose a thought that feels better than the former one. Maybe you can say "My body is healthy," "My body gets me from A to B," or "My body is capable of change."
Instead of going from "My job is fucking terrible" to "I love my job and can't wait to go to work;" you can go gently shift to "My job helps me pay my bills" or "My job is just a stepping stone in my long-term career path." Shift from "I am so broke right now" to "There is always opportunity to earn more money." You get the gist.
Some of my favorite power thoughts for myself are "I am worthy of love, growth, and awareness, " "I am capable of maintaining a healthy and sexy body, " "My message is important and people need to hear it."
Work with thoughts that feel good and true for you. And when you find them, WRITE THEM DOWN. Then, start to repeat these new thoughts out loud or silently to yourself. And don't just say the words... FEEL THEM. Feel what it feels like to truly believe in these new thoughts. Feel the tension in your body release and allow the uplifting vibration to take over when you are practicing thinking these new thoughts.
This might sound strange to some people, but I promise that working on your thoughts will change your life. Our thoughts determine our feelings. And our feelings determine our actions. And our actions determine our results. And we can control our results my working on the thoughts that will best serve us.
I suggest you take at least 20 minutes a day to do this thought work, especially if there's an area of your life you're really struggling (body shame, relationship struggles, insecurity, and any other part of your life you're not thriving in).
Soon, you'll begin to notice your mind naturally choose these feel good thoughts vs. the negative ones. You'll notice that you start to feel the way you want to feel without even trying. You'll start to take actions that best serve you and your goals.
#2 Asking yourself for guidance
When were struggling, we look outside of ourselves for the answer. We buy the books, read the blogs, hire the gurus. And while we should always be learning from others....the answer we really need to hear is waiting inside of us. Our highest self/intuition/soul/inner-mentor..whatever you want to call it...can always be called upon to help steer us in the right direction. But our highest self peaks softer than our ego and incessant mind chatter, so we need to make a real effort to call upon it.
That's why I like to write letters to my highest self when I'm struggling or feeling lost. And I encourage you to do the same thing. There's something about writing that allows you to just completely release emotions and thoughts you didn't even know were there. Ask the questions you want answered. Where should I go from here? Why am I struggling so much? What do I really want out of life? Should I leave my marriage? It's a free for all. Once you're done, take a few minutes to feel the questions you're seeking an answer to. Take some deep breaths. Internally ask for your highest self to give you the answers.
Then, take out a new piece of paper and write back a letter from your highest self. It might sound silly to you, but I promise you will get the answers you're needing. Don't judge the first couple of sentences. Don't try and make it sound perfect and inspiring. The truth is already inside of you...you just need to allow it to release onto that page.
This exercise isn't a one-and-done thing either. You can do this exercise as often as you need. In the times I was going through the most spiritual transformation, I was writing these to/from letter on a daily basis to ensure my thoughts and actions were aligned with the direction my highest self was steering me towards.
Don't judge what comes out of this exercise, either. Because, it might not be what you want to hear. I know for me, personally, my intuition has told me (and continues to tell me things) that my ego does not want anything to do with. Taking more chances, releasing attachments, having difficult conversations..... It's not always easy solutions. Just know, you don't have to act on anything you don't want to. But, you can observe what comes out and get curious about the resistance you have towards the advice your intuition provided you with.
#3: Savor the Joy
Do you ever feel like things in your life are just TOO GOOD to be true? Your job is amazing, your friends are great, maybe you have a new relationship, you're feeling healthy....so you can't help but wonder....when something is going to come in and fuck it up?
Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap calls this the upper limit problem. He defines it as "the human tendency to put the brakes on our positive energy when we've exceeded our unconscious thermostat setting for how good we can feel, how successful we can be, and how much love we can feel." And when we reach this upper limit, we actually start to self-sabatoge.
Think about it.... Have you ever gotten into an incredible relationship with someone, only to cheat on them because deep down you thought you were unworthy? Or have you felt really happy with your job and find yourself start to procrastinate and slack off because deep down you're afraid to achieve?
This has been a huge problem for me within the last year or so. Mainly because I can't believe my life is as amazing as it is. I've never been so happy before and I find myself worrying that it will all be taken away from me in the blink of an eye. And after reading The Big Leap, I know I'm not the only one.
Some of us may have been programmed as children to believe that life is full of pain and suffering. Some of us have deep rooted fears that were unlovable. Whatever the case may be, we can't seem to sit with and embrace the joy we have in our lives.
Brene Brown, the incredible author and researcher on guilt and shame found that joy actually causes us to feel just as vulnerable as shame does, This is really fascinating to me. We seem to muster up just as much anxiety about the good things in our life as we can about the bad things.
So now, I have a practice to help me accept this vulnerability I'm feeling and accept the beautyI'm experiencing in my life. When something amazing happens, or I'm just feeling exceptionally awesome, I write it down, express gratitude for it, and even ask for more of it. Yes, ask for more. We are all deserving of more of what makes us feel good. And when we do the inner work, we can begin to realize that its just important to receive as it is to give.
"My relationship is going so incredibly well right now. I am so blessed to have this person in my life. I know I know I am deserving of this love and ask for even more of it."
"My financial situation has been incredible lately. I know there is always an opportunity to generate more income, so please continue to show me the ways to do so."
"I have been feeling so incredible, both mentally and physically lately. I have been having so much fun. Please bring me the opportunities for even more adventure and love."
Journaling is truly such an incredible spiritual tool to help us stay connected through struggle and triumph. I encourage you to try at least one of these exercises (a few times throughout the week) and see how your mindset can shift. I'll share more exercises with you as we go on!