As you move along the path to becoming a parent who glows, you’ll end up doing a lot of inner work in the process. Some of that will involve working out how you feel about the things in your life. You’ll also be making plans, setting goals, and building the kind of future – and family! – that you dream of.
Hopefully, you’ll also set up positive support circles to assist you in consistently moving in the direction you want to go. But along with those, you’ll also want to have a support tool that will help you navigate the day-to-day of becoming the person you truly want to be.
A journal can be that support tool for you – a little book that helps make big dreams possible. But many people don’t use a journal because they associate it with being a simple diary. Just a place to write down the events of the day, and maybe how you felt about them, too.
A journal can be so much more than that. And it can speed up your progress towards everything that’s important to you.
Let me walk you through some of the benefits of journaling, so you can see exactly why it can make such a difference in the direction your life goes moving forward.
You need a place to process.
You may not know this, but the act of writing by hand uses a different part of your brain than thinking alone. Have you ever noticed those times you’ve been trying to describe a sticky problem to someone, and by the time you’ve finished laying it out there, you’ve already solved it on your own?
One reason that happens is because when we’re explaining something, we are forced to describe things linearly and logically. When we just think about it, our brain can spin off into other thoughts and directions, and loop back to the same thought over and over again. So thinking alone can keep us in a tailspin.
But when we’re writing, we have to decide what words to write on purpose, rather than reflexively. We have to put details and facts and thoughts in a more linear order, and that part of our brain (the frontal lobe) that is best suited for problem solving, organization and judgement is fully engaged.
There’s so much happening in our lives – both in the external world and the internal world of our thoughts – that we need to use the best tools possible to make sense of everything. Writing things down simply helps us process things more effectively, whether it’s a sticky life problem or a shopping list.
The more processing you can do, the more you’ll lower your cortisol levels, close mental loops and support your ability to be fully present and engaged in the moment. Journaling gives you the ultimate win-win scenario.
You need a place to plan and dream.
As you move along your journey to becoming a parent who glows, you’re going to set goals and dream up the kinds of things you want to have in your life. Your journal is your private oasis, a shady spot away from the world where you can let your hopes, dreams, and aspirations begin to develop.
In the privacy of your journal, you can reinforce what you want to create in your future, connecting with the feelings that will motivate you to move forward in the direction of your dreams.
This was huge for me, personally – when I write about my dreams and goals I can really get into imagining what it will be like to experience them. I can get a taste of why it’s worth going for it. I can stay motivated to act, evolve, and achieve.
And achieve I did – from meeting my soulmate (to marrying him in my dream wedding), to backpacking around the world for 18 months, to birthing two children naturally, from the comfort of home – I’ve shaped and sculpted my life with the support of my journal to help me develop my thoughts.
The world is so distracting, and can mess with your thoughts and mindset, and you need an anchor to keep you grounded. Your journal can provide that for you. It can help you stay focused on the future experiences you’re working to create for yourself – and the people you care about.
You need a place to keep track of things.
Journaling isn’t all about writing down a narrative – your journal can also be used as a place to keep track of the various things you do in your life.
I frequently use my journal to make packing lists, to-do lists, mark my progress on certain goals and write down other important information. It’s a great way to free yourself from the tyranny of little bits of paper everywhere that invariably get lost.
My journal was an essential tool for track details and progress on different things I was working on, especially when I was starting out with elimination communication (EC). As I trained my children towards potty independence, I was tracking each pee and poo, how long it took from feeding to going to the potty, and how often.
I also wrote out observations like potential signals my daughter might be doing to communicate that she needed to use the potty. So while intuition played a bigger role in helping with elimination communication, my journal notes supported me by helping me notice and remember critical details.
Using your journal as a to-do list or a place to track little details can also help you open it more frequently. This alone will get you using it more, which means you will often find yourself writing down a list of groceries, then taking another moment to jot down an affirmation, record what you’re grateful for today, or develop a thought about one of your goals.
Once you get started, you’ll be floored by how many ways you can use your journal as you move through your days, weeks, and months.
What the early phase of journaling looks like
If it feels awkward and clunky to get started journaling, don’t be surprised – it’s probably going to be. You have to play around with different approaches before you figure out what you want, and what works for you. So it’s more trial-and-error, rather than a grand master plan.
When I started journaling, I didn’t know what I should write about. So I began just writing down adjectives to describe how I felt – and how I wanted to feel. I moved on to writing down the names of people, places and events, and attaching them to those feelings. It was just a lot of processing and getting things out of my head.
Sometimes I would write the same sentence, paragraph, or list over and over again simply to keep going until I could think of more things I wanted to create in my life. I’d develop those thoughts, changing details, refining dreams, playing with possibilities.
(“Possibilities” is an important word – just because you write it down doesn’t mean you have to follow through on it. You could just play around with ideas and develop them.)
Those baby steps were how I got into the groove of journaling for myself – just letting it take its own course and finding out how I liked to use it in ways that matched my own personality, temperament and ambitions.
Your journal will be like that, too – an evolving work-in-progress that you use for different purposes at different times. There’s no one way to do it right. But if you start building the habit of using your journal, you’ll make it a custom tool that helps you move towards everything that’s important to you.
How to get started on your journaling habit
To get started all you need to do are three things.
First, go pick out a journal that you truly like the look and feel of. It should be something that triggers an impulse to want to open it up and write. Ideally, you want to feel genuinely good when you see that little book sitting there waiting for you.
(And it’s okay to spend a little extra on a journal you fall in love with – consider it one of the good things you’re treating yourself to.)
Next, pick a place to keep it that will always be visible to you. Building the journaling habit will be much easier if you choose a dedicated place for your journal to live, one that sticks out and reminds you that it’s there.
Finally, practice making one little change – at least once per day, when you have the impulse to pick up your smartphone or laptop, grab the journal instead. Even if you only write in it for a minute, that action will start cementing the habit, so it will get easier and easier to do.
And if you don’t know what to write at first, I recommend starting with “Wouldn’t it be nice…” and go from there.
I’d love to hear about your experiences getting started with journaling, too – please drop into the comments and let me know how it’s going for you!