When I was growing up I kept a pretty, pink diary hidden under my mattress. And of course, it had a lock on it. OMG, I would’ve died if anyone read my deepest thoughts, dreams, and worries. And I’m sure there were some secret crushes in there that absolutely had to remain secret.
Keeping that diary was so good for me and I wish I would have never stopped “paper-thinking” – or today it’s called journaling.
The last few years have taken its toll on me (and I’m sure you can relate) so I started journaling and it’s brought me so much clarity, and reduced my stress and anxiety.
So I want to share with you the 5 Step Technique that makes journaling easy – that won’t leave you staring at a blank page.
All of my fellow journalers already know this.
Getting your thoughts out of your brain and onto a piece of paper is often all the relief you need. Thinking about what you are thinking about on paper is sometimes just enough to allow you to stop the spinning thoughts in your head.
Now, you might think that journaling is just figuring out the garbage that you are thinking about during the day. Yes, that is one way to journal. But there’s more.
Journaling can basically be broken down into 7 categories.
- Your past
- Other people
- Things in the world
- Your future
All of these are things you can journal and write about.
So many of us sit around thinking all kinds of garbage about journaling. When you hear, “you need to journal,” do you think…
Ugh, journaling takes too long,
I don’t know what to write about,
This aint gonna help me do the darn thing,
I’m scared of what I might uncover,
I’m so ashamed of what I think so I’d rather not do it,
I don’t seem to go deep enough?
Here’s the problem. If you don’t change your attitude about journaling, you’ll be denying yourself major breakthroughs, a path to finally doing the things you’ve been too afraid to do.
We all got mental baggage that we can’t see throughout the day. But, the problem isn’t the baggage. The problem is leaving our baggage unchecked and unsupervised each day.
When you don’t see your default thinking on paper that means you get to see your default thinking coming true in your life in the form of self-sabotage, overthinking, or worrying.
And when I say paper, I mean actual paper that you write on with a pen or pencil. I don’t want you to type on your computer. I want you to write it with your hand. I mean, call me old school, but there is something powerful about sitting in a quiet room with a notebook on your lap and physically writing it down. Studies have shown your are having a deeper experience than when you’re just typing it. I’m not going to quote the studies, but I promise they’re out there.
So, here’s how I set up my routine. It’s very simple. I’m committed to ten minutes of journaling 3-4 days a week. I’m working up to 5 days. Yes, I absolutely could do longer than 10 minutes, and sometimes I do. But you have to set yourself up for success. So for me, 10 minutes is something I know I can do and a short-enough period of time that I will not let myself make any excuses not to do it.
Here’s the 5-Step Journaling Technique I use.
Step 1: Observe
The whole point of journaling is to just notice what you’re thinking about in any give situation. You want to ask questions that will get your brain willing to respond, like;
What problem am I trying to solve? What are the things I’m worried about today?
Another great way to get your thoughts going and get words on the page is to make a gratitude list because you want to explore some of the great things that are happening in your life, too.
You could also start with your to-do list for the day. Then ask yourself, “What are my thoughts about getting this done today? What are the easiest things to do? What are the most important things I could do from this list?
Remember, journaling for today can literally be three sentences about what you’re thinking. You just want to notice what’s coming up for you.
Step 2: Accept
A lot of people are judgmental of their thinking. I am one of them. When they observe their own thoughts, they start saying judgmental things to themselves like, “I’m ridiculous,” or “What’s wrong with me?” “Okay, listen. This is terrible. But I was thinking…”
Listen here. It’s not terrible.
Everyone has thoughts that don’t necessarily serve them. It’s not weird and it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Give yourself some grace. And when you do this, it takes the pressure off of journaling, meaning no thought is “bad”, anything goes, and it allows you to start taking some authority over this process of getting your thoughts and feelings onto paper.
Step 3: Neutralize
This is when you take all the inflammatory language out of your thoughts.
Instead of thinking and writing.
“Ill never be able to grow my business,” you instead want to write something like, “I’m in the process of trying to grow my business.”
You want to take everything down a notch. Take a look at the thoughts that you have that are highly charged with emotion and highly triggering.
I’ll go over my notes at the end. I’ll look for adjectives and adverbs and descriptors, and literally cross them out.
The goal is to strip your thinking down to a neutral place because it allows you to see more of the facts.
When the emotional charge is removed, you’re able to start thinking from a clean slate, which is way more productive and so much better for your mental health.
Step 4: Recalibrate
Ask yourself, “What’s my next best thought?“
If you’re thinking something like, “I’ll never be able to build my business,” and then you neutralize that to “I’m building a business,” your next best thought might be, “I am doing all the things I need to do to build my business right now.” So your next best thought is, “I’m in it. I’m doing it. This is happening.”
Step 5: Activate
Ask yourself, “What’s the next move I can make?”
It could be, to just let it go and stop worrying about things you can’t control. Or it could be, I’m going to call that person I’ve always wanted to collaborate with for my business.
Answer it. No excuses. And do it!
Your Next Steps
That’s it, friend!
I don’t want you to get to the end of your journaling practice where you just feel bad. I’ve been there. It’s like I just literally threw up on the page and I’m journaling all the challenges I’m worried and frustrated about. I don’t feel like it was cathartic. I feel like I just complained for ten minutes.
That’s why I make sure I do this 5-Step Technique, especially when I’m having a really hard time, and I put a lot of negativity on the page. I know I’m going to gently massage these thoughts into something factual, honest, and actionable.
If journaling isn’t part of your daily practice right now, I want you to look at your calendar and schedule 10 minutes – that’s it – 10 minutes to work through the process.
It takes some time to get used to, and you don’t have to do it for every journaling session. But I really do believe that it makes a huge difference.
Now, there is one final thing I’d love for you to do, whether you’re new to journaling or not. Take out your journal and write down the 5 steps on the inside cover or somewhere so you’ll see them. (Observe, Accept, Neutralize, Recalibrate, and Activate)