Journal Your Way Into the New Year

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I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but one habit that seems very new year’s resolution-y that I can get behind for any overly-busy mom (read: you) is to start a journal. You mean add something else to my to-do list? Girl, you’re crazy! Well, yes, BUT, stay with me because I promise that beginning a daily journaling practice will not knock you off of your schedule. Journaling, also considered by some mental health professionals as writing therapy, can, in fact, keep you more centered and focused on the rest of your to-do game the rest of the day. Lower your skeptical and stressed out eyebrows, and I’ll explain the whys and hows of starting to journal your way into 2022.

The Why

First, journaling is time for yourself to think, express, and reflect on yourself and your thoughts. How much time in the day do you currently allot for that kind of self-care? Second, journaling is a proven way to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, according to a recent article in Psychology Today that lists 83 (yes, 83!) benefits of journaling. If you’re like me, you welcome ANY tool to help boost your sanity-state, and for a few months, I really tried to get on the meditation train. But, meditating didn’t bring me any closer to Zen, and if the thought of meditating makes you want to, well, not meditate too, then journaling might be the trick.

That said, for those of you unicorn moms who already have achieved Zen among the crazy, some other awesome results from writing therapy include: Boosting self-confidence and communication skills; gaining clarity and improving creativity. Writing therapy has also been shown to aid in the healing process for patients after sickness or surgery, and boosting immunity to prevent sneezes and sniffles in the first place. Amazing, right? 

The How

Buy supplies: You probably don’t need me to twist your arm to take a trip to Target (#imeanitsTarget), and head to the calendar and journal aisle. Pick up and page through all the notebooks that catch your eye. I know it sounds silly, but the notebook you’re drawn to matters. The way the pages are formatted matters. I personally love these super inexpensive, college-ruled 70-pagers from Mead. Give me a two-subject wide ruled notebook and I’ll likely — politely— throw it back because nope, won’t work for me. I like 10 ½ X 11 pages but maybe you prefer a smaller journal. Test it out. 

Pens matter too. You likely won’t be surprised to learn that I have veryyyyy strong thoughts on pens. I don’t like gel pens, colored pens, ink pens that bleed through the pages, or those that don’t write super smoothly. I’ve tested sooooo many pens and am addicted to these PaperMate InkJoy pens. (PS if you’d rather type than physically write, don’t worry. Studies show that bloggers get similar stress-release effects even if they’re E-expressing their thoughts, if you will). 

Find a journaling spot. Do you have to have a specific journaling spot? Absolutely not. But, I do think there’s something Pavlovian-ly helpful about sitting down in the same place to do the same thing each day. For me, it’s the desk my husband uses for his office later on in the day. It’s set in an area far away from the kids’ rooms– which is key, in my humble opinion– and the desk faces the window, which I believe aids in getting into a reflective headspace. 

Make a journaling time. Just the same as a journaling spot, having a regularly set time to pen your thoughts will help you keep up the habit. I personally journal every morning before my kids get up, but they’re also out of the horrendous no-sleep phase, so I can regularly predict when their little bodies will rise. If, however, mid-morning or before bed sounds more feasible to you, try it! Research shows journaling for just 15 minutes or so three times a week will yield all the physical and mental health benefits journaling yields (again, read: lowering anxiety, stress, depression; improving memory and focus, boosting creativity and more)

Give yourself some structure and/or support. I actually have three journals–one for health, one for gratitude, and one for anything I need to write (sometimes, if I’m having a really stressful day, I’ll sneak away to dump my worries in it mid-day or at night ). But, don’t be intimidated! I started with one journal a few minutes a day and worked my way up to three journals that I now spend about 30 minutes a day writing in. If you want an easy resource for effective journaling check out the Center for Journal Therapy website and their WRITE acronym. And, if you’re jonesing to know other types of journals to potentially keep, look at this list.

One last tip: If you’re worried or get stuck about what to write, one quick Google search for “journal prompts” will yield TONSSSS of great suggestions. 

So, the next time you feel your holiday stress pushing you to the edge, or your toddler’s tantrum gets your blood pressure rising, consider picking up a pen and letting yourself go…on paper.

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After more than a decade in the Windy City--and a two-year stay in Dallas, TX-- Rachel Bronson is thrilled to be back in her native city to raise her three kids along with her best friend and husband of 11 years, Dan. Life with twin seven-year-old girls and a crazy three-year-old little man is always busy, but Rachel, a former journalist and middle school English teacher, loves to write and is passionate about empowering and helping fellow mamas embrace real and raw motherhood. A longtime anxiety warrior, Rachel is also passionate about sharing her struggles and how she fights anxiety and perfectionism with heavy doses of personal development, mindset work, and lots of sweating to home workouts! When she’s not writing, working out, or momming, Rachel can likely be found meal prepping, baking, reading, listening to another podcast, or watching the next episode of a binge-worthy Netflix show with her husband.

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