Take note. Literally. The power of journalling to help you through these times.
The Coronavirus has united everyone all over the World with the same fears and concerns. International, racial and religious barriers are seemingly forgotten while we all face the severity of the situation, and the phrase commonly being bandied about is ‘we’re in this together’.
Many people are being forced, or at least encouraged, to self-isolate. Lockdown is becoming a recurring term, previously unheard of just weeks ago. People are naturally concerned about the health and safety of their family and friends, but economic and financial concerns are also weighing heavily on people’s minds.
Many people describe feelings of what’s going on as ‘surreal’ or ‘it feels like we are in a movie’. That’s exactly how it feels to me at the moment. I’m in the UK where we are a little bit behind some of the countries worse hit by the virus, but there are growing fears for the imminent impact that the virus will have here, married with a reluctance from some of the British public to adopt the measures requested by the government.
I have young children and a wife, who is a health worker, and we’ve been in self-isolation for a week already, as my 10-year-old daughter had a fever last weekend.
I’m ensuring I keep myself and the rest of the family motivated and positive. We are trying to home school the kids with a daily structure. We are eating as healthy as we possibly can, considering the panic-shopping pandemonium currently going on in the UK, and trying to exercise in some form every day to help with physical and mental wellbeing.
The Power Of Keeping A Journal
There is one particular discipline though that is helping me more than anything, and that is my daily journaling. I’ve kept a journal on and off for over thirty years since I was 16 years old. For the last few years though, I have developed the habit of writing in my journal every day, and that discipline is really paying off for me in these challenging and difficult times.
For many people, the idea of journaling sounds daunting and even scary. Many people think they can’t write or they feel anxious writing down their thoughts and feelings, others feel stupid writing without a specific recipient in mind. Many of those fears are totally understandable but I would like to try and make journaling a bit more accessible, as I believe it is a habit worth cultivating, and one that could help you in many ways at this time.
Primarily, a journal entry doesn’t have to be written with any eloquence or even sophistication. A journal entry can be as simple as a sentence, a series of hyphenated notes or even a list. My philosophy is that I write to a future version of myself and so I write something each day that my future self would find of value, something that would potentially remind me of that day when I revisited it in the future.
When I come to write in my journal, somedays I might write down the events of that day, and possibly how I felt at times during the day. Other times I might make notes on a book I was reading, music I was listening to, tv programmes or films I’m watching, any online courses I’m taking. I might jot down a quote that I came across that I want to remember, or even scribble an overheard conversation between my kids that made me giggle. I might rip something that caught my eye out of a magazine and stick it in my journal. I often use my journal to track daily meditations, exercise and sometimes eating habits.
By doing this I am making each and every day important. It’s a part of the story of my life, a small piece of a puzzle that takes shape day by day. When I look back on the previous journal entries, I find that they help create a sense of greater purpose and meaning in my life. Often I discover patterns in my thinking that would have remained hidden to me had I not written them down and reflected upon them.
The healing power of writing your thoughts and feelings down has been well documented, getting things off your chest and out of your head is much healthier than letting them fester and grow. It can feel strange at first to write to yourself, you may notice you feel inhibited or even silly, but just like anything if you push through that barrier and persist with it you will eventually find your voice, your style, your humour even. Persistence and consistency is the key here. Habits and disciplines keep you on the path and focused when things around you are seemingly out of control.
I can’t encourage you enough though to actually physically write in a journal, rather than to use a digital journal. There is something really beautiful and powerful about having a physical book that you take the time to build and create. Ultimately though anything is better than nothing.
Austin Kleon, an artist and writer, who is a serial journaler, and someone well worth following, likes to think of his journals as ‘a good place to have bad ideas’. A journal isn’t about being neat and perfect, although that’s fine if that’s your style. A journal is simply a place for you to record the moments of your life in any way you wish to. It’s a place to help you tell your story one page at a time.
We are living in unprecedented times. We are living through an incredibly historic moment in time. This exact time now on planet Earth will be something that generations talk about for many future generations to come. You are living through a very poignant and important moment in the history of the human race. You are part of the story.
Tell your story.