How just 5 minutes of journaling a day helps me make sense of myself

The only time I ever made sense to myself was when I was journaling twice a day.

I’d wake up and immediately seat myself at my desk, bathed in morning light. In the evening, before drifting off to sleep, I’d write at least a few sentences, no matter how heavy my eyelids were.

I’m a person who lives in my own head. Putting a pen to paper gives me an outlet for my thoughts that no amount of discussion or meditation can. It takes time, and my handwriting can be atrocious, but the act itself serves to calm and center me.

These past few years have been hectic and stressful. They’ve been punctuated by anxiety and a lack of self-care.

I’ve felt adrift, as though I’ve lost sight of who I really am and can’t seem to find my way back.

When I think back to a time when I felt truly comfortable in my own skin, the period when I committed to journaling is at the forefront of my mind. Why did I ever stop?

Writing things down doesn’t change the situation or make it go away. However, it does grant an opportunity to see things in a different light. It offers acceptance of what is and the mindfulness that comes from being present.

So here I am, starting to write again. It’s mostly for myself, but the truth is that when I write, I’m more pleasant to be around as well. Being present and content in the moment translates to being a better daughter, sister, friend and human being. No longer at war with myself, I’m happy with who I am. That’s a goal we can all get behind.

For those new to journaling or easing back into it, I recommend writing for five minutes upon waking up—that means before looking at your phone! The moments just after we awake from sleep are when we are most attuned to our higher selves without the influence of worldly distractions. Writing our thoughts during this time can help us connect to who we really are and offer a glimpse at our innermost aspirations.

Journaling immediately before going to sleep can also be helpful to share positive messages with our subconscious.  Processing the events of the day on paper allows us to fall asleep with ease since our mind is no longer cluttered with unfinished business. The most important thing is to pick a time that works for us and consistently write in order to create a habit.

We don’t have to write for an hour—and honestly, depending on the day—we might not feel like it at all. If we commit to jotting down even one sentence, we’ll be surprised by the positive effects. Soon enough, we’ll find ourselves filling pages.

If we aren’t sure what to write, we can start off with “I don’t know what I’m writing, and….” Breathe—it really doesn’t matter what we put down on the page. Besides, who’s going to read it? The act itself is cathartic and is an opportunity to clear the cobwebs of the mind.

Affirmations are another wonderful way to start the day on a positive note and can help at times when we feel at a loss for words. Journaling can serve as a type of visualization by imagining events going our way and people being kind.

For example, when I’m feeling nervous before a presentation, I’ll write down positive thoughts about how I see it going. It may be something like, “My presentation is incredible and every single person in the room is completely engaged with what I’m saying. They laugh at my jokes and ask great questions that I respond to with competence and grace. I am a naturally talented speaker and my confidence radiates through in every word I speak.”

Alternatively, we can focus on self-love and acceptance by writing affirmations such as, “I love and accept myself in this moment,” or “My life is incredible and I am happy to be me.” It may seem cheesy or silly, but it works.

Write what you most desire into existence. Process your day to sleep better. Connect with the person you truly are and who you want to become.  

This post originally appeared on Elephant Journal.

It’s okay to not know what you want

An object in motion stays in motion.  That’s one of the few things I retained from my high school physics class.  I’m fairly certain I was too busy flirting with the guy next to me to learn the rest of Newton’s laws, but at least I learned something.

Newton’s first law can be stated as:

An object in at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Couch potatoes tend to stay couch potatoes unless an unbalanced force comes around and shakes things up.  We’re creatures of habit and we like to coast, but it’s when we stretch ourselves that we start creating a life we enjoy.

You don’t have to know exactly where you’re going or what you want to do with the rest of your life.  With the exception of my cousin who has wanted to be a pediatric doctor since she was at least 9, very few of us have that kind of clarity.  (She recently graduated medical school and is absolutely incredible!)

For the rest of us lay people, it’s totally okay and normal to feel a little unsure about our general life path.  Just start moving in a certain direction, it doesn’t matter which one!  The important thing is to begin something, anything.  Put one metaphorical foot in front of the other and get going.

At the very least you’ll learn what you don’t want – a valuable lesson in itself.  Alternatively, you may stumble upon something wonderful you never knew existed, but only if you get off your couch and put yourself out there.

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about being devoted to inquisitiveness.

“Curiosity is accessible to everyone.  Passion can seem intimidatingly out of reach at times – a distant tower of flame, accessible only to geniuses and to those who are specially touched by God.  But curiosity is a milder, quieter, more welcoming, and more democratic entity.”

So ask yourself: What am I interested in?  It doesn’t have to be profound or the solution to world hunger, it just has to peak your interest.  

Go on a scavenger hunt and follow what makes you curious.  Take that dance class, plant a garden, start learning another language.  You do you.

What makes you curious?