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Your Guide To Journaling
Jun. 17, 2022
Four minutes a day, four times a week, for four weeks is all it takes to get you hooked on this super-healthy habit.
I founded AllSwell Creative, a journaling products and experience company, eight years ago with a simple mission: to address the PR problem journaling had in our culture. The unfortunate truth is that journaling has typically been relegated to the self-care reject aisle along with overly scented candles and bath bombs. Historically, it’s been more closely associated with teen angst scribblings than as a legitimate modality to address mental, emotional, and even physiological well-being.
Journaling is scientifically proven to offer a wide range of benefits (boosting the immune system, improving mood, reducing blood pressure, etc.), in addition to being easily accessible and user-friendly. It is one of the easiest elements you can add to your positive habit-stacking routines. You don’t need a special outfit or an appointment and there’s no audience. Crack open a notebook, pick up a pen and there you are. Over the course of these eight years, it’s been incredibly rewarding to see the zeitgeist embrace the act of putting pen to paper. We’re all better for it.
So, when Phenology reached out to me to put together a journaling experience for its launch event in New York City a few months ago, it was an intuitive fit. Menopause is another topic with a PR problem that is rife for validation through introspection. The page is a great place to start doing that, particularly between two covers where all the contents therein are for your eyes only.
How can journaling help during the menopause transition?
A journal also serves as a way of paying attention to our bodies as sources of intelligence and information. A tool for tracking information and bearing witness to one’s own experience in what is often an unnamed or minimized phase of a woman’s life. As with any sea-change, the menopausal passage can prove to be a rich source of inspiration and creativity—if you take the time to tune in.
In my discussions on the topic with Phenology’s Chief Medical Advisor Kourtney Sims, M.D., she wisely commented, “Menopause is one of the major hormonal transitions in a woman's life where she is literally changing from the inside out. Those changes can trigger her to examine some areas that need work that were previously neglected, ignored or overlooked. Journaling to work through these unresolved issues can be helpful: When women focus on the honesty that can be revealed as a result of the hormonal transition, some amazing life insights can be had.”
How to start journaling, the easy way
But where to start? I understand that the blank page can be intimidating for some. I often hear from my creative coaching clients and workshop participants that they don’t know how to journal, or they think they’re doing it incorrectly. So, I came up with an approachable, sane guideline: 4 x 4 x 4. Here’s how it works:
• Journal for four minutes a day.
• Do it four times a week.
• Stick with it for four consecutive weeks.
Simple. Even the busiest people I know can manage four minutes a day. It’s a low bar for a reason. The more you journal, the greater the benefit. You’re creating a consistent habit that will serve you far better than a random 25-minute session every few months or so laden with the acute pressure to sound like Joan Didion.
4 tips to effectively journal
Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to get the most out of your 4 x 4 x 4:
1. Set a timer, put your phone on airplane mode and go for it. Fill the entire four minutes. Get a good flow going and try to not pick your pen up off the page.
2. What do you write about? It doesn’t matter. The point is to write and let whatever needs to come to the surface have a place to show up.
3. Run out of things to say? Write about not having anything to write about; it can actually be a rich vein to tap.
4. Want more time to express yourself? Roll right past the four-minute mark and keep going till you feel “complete” with the process, and you’re ready to move on with your day.
This can be done anywhere, nearly any time. One client of mine does her four minutes leaning against the steering wheel in her car after dropping her kids off at school. Experiment with time and location, see how a morning session may differ from journaling in bed before you turn off the lights. Outside versus inside, kitchen table versus park bench.
Journaling prompts to get started
If the blank page is intimidating, try out one of these relevant journaling prompts:
On Second Blooming:
“I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming...suddenly you find—at the age of 50, say—that a whole new life has opened before you.” —Agatha Christie
Using this phrase as our north star, what could a “Second Blooming” look like for you? What do you want it to mean at this point in your life?
A Letter from Your Body
Embody your body and ask it to write a letter to you:
• What does it have to say? What does it need to tell you?
• It may be a letter of gratitude or one of inquiry or it may meander.
• What does it have to say to you?
• What does it need? More rest? More play?
Remember, there’s no third-party audience. You’re not writing for posterity. If you get really hung up about someone reading the pages of your journal, then simply rip them up when you’re done and throw them out. That can be a cathartic experience in and of itself. And please, do not use journaling as a means for making yourself feel bad. No journaling guilt needed. If you fall off the wagon, it’s okay. You don’t have to start all over. Just bring your attention and intention back to the practice and keep going.
Moreover, I hope you will come to enjoy the experience of meeting yourself on the page as part of your supportive wellness practices. Bear witness to your own experience, name and claim how you feel amidst these brackish, menopausal waters. Collectively, as women in this time, we have a remarkable opportunity to reposition this life change, birthing new attitudes and archetypes. It isn’t merely a time of things falling away, it’s also a kind of second blooming, a new “becoming.” As David Bowie famously (and smartly!) said, “Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.”
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