We can do many things to boost our physical and mental health: eat well, stay active and practice mindfulness. But there may be one self-care activity you haven't yet tried: writing in a journal.
Journaling is a unique way to relieve stress and spark creativity. You can write about your feelings, capture memories or keep track of inspirational ideas. This quiet, reflective activity can be done anywhere — all you need is a notebook, pen and willingness to experiment.
Ready to give it a try? Here are a dozen tips to get you started.
Any kind of notebook will do the trick, but you're more likely to reach for one that brings a smile to your face. Whether you're partial to the great outdoors, flowers, birds or nautical themes, there are plenty of journals with decorative covers to choose from. You can even splurge on a distinctive leather-bound journal that can make writing a special occasion.
Keep a pen with your journal so you're not hunting around for something to write with when inspiration strikes. A set of colored pens is ideal for fueling creativity, but any pen is fine as long as it doesn't distract you by scratching the page and leaving blots of ink.
The beauty of journaling is that it doesn't take a lot of space. You can pull out your notebook when you're out enjoying the abundance of nature we're blessed to have in Fort Collins, Colorado. If you want to stay closer to our senior community, find a spot in Collinwood's landscaped gardens or settle in a chair in the comfort of your assisted living apartment.
Pick up your pen whenever the urge strikes, but try to establish a regular journaling habit so that it becomes part of your routine. Some people prefer writing when they first wake up to get into a positive mindset for the day. Others write just before bed to calm their mind and sleep better.
There are no rules when it comes to journaling. Remember that you're not writing for anyone except yourself. Don't worry about how the words sound or whether your grammar is correct. Try to express your true feelings.
When it's time to write, concentrate on pulling your thoughts and feelings out of your head and onto paper. Your writing can take any form depending how you feel on a particular day. You may want to write about:
• Someone that's on your mind
• Places you've lived
• Favorite vacations
• Things that make you happy
• Books you enjoy
• People you admire
• A memento or an object that has special meaning
You might be surprised at what you conjure up.
Just because your journal has lined pages doesn't mean you have to follow them. Experimenting with form can help stir your imagination.
• Let your words wander on the page or curve into a spiral.
• Try writing all lower case or changing the style of your script.
• Flip the journal upside down or sideways for a new perspective.
• Write in different colors or throw some doodles in.
A journal with blank pages instead of lines can help inspire creativity.
Sometimes we need to slow down and appreciate what's around us. Every so often, write about things you're grateful for. It can make it easier to see the small blessings in your life.
Before you write, take a few deep breaths. Use your journaling time as a way to be mindful. Focus on your senses — what do you see, hear and smell? Describe the scent of freshly fallen rain, the sound of birds in the garden or the fluffy white clouds in the sky. Start writing and see what else comes to mind.
Did something make you laugh? Did a friend go out of their way to make a difference in your day? Did you come across a memorable quote? Journaling is about capturing those small moments that make your life full. Your journal can also double as a scrapbook — add in mementos such as postcards, letters and photos.
If you're preoccupied or worried, put your thoughts onto paper, the same way you chat with a friend. Translating your feelings into language can help you better understand them. If it's hard to put words to your emotions, try drawing how you feel.
Sometimes, the hardest part is getting started. If you're not sure what to write about, search online for ideas. There are plenty of websites with journal and faith-based writing prompts.
Guided journals are another option. Simply open the journal and follow the suggestion on the page. Here are some to try:
• 300 Writing Prompts by Piccadilly Books
• Start With Gratitude by Meera Lee Patel
• The 5-Minute Gratitude Journal by Sophia Godkin
• Come, Follow Me Devotional Journal by Matt Koecich
Soon, the pages of your journal will begin to fill up. Every so often, look back on what you've written. You might be pleasantly surprised to revisit moments and memories in your life.
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