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.

This is what really happens when you share your story

A few months ago, I wrote a piece in which I opened up about my struggles with body image and ultimately how I found peace through my yoga practice.  It’s an issue many seem to grapple with, yet we don’t talk about it.  I definitely felt embarrassed and ashamed about my messed up self image and food issues.

Talking about it was out of the question especially since the women around me seemed normal and sane.  That’s the true result of not talking about our personal struggles: everyone else seems to be fine – at least on the outside.

When I opened up about my own journey toward body peace, I knew that at least a few people would read it.  I just didn’t realize how many!  It ended up garnering quite a bit of attention both on the web and among people in my life.  I’ll admit that I panicked a bit when I realized the sheer volume of readers that were privy to intimate details about my inner struggles.

I questioned whether I should have put my story out into the world at all.  As I thought about it more and had time to process, I started to realize it was the best action I could have taken for myself and other people.

In putting my own narrative into words and including raw honesty about how I’d never felt good enough, I was able to process emotions I had long ignored.  There was a lightness in my chest when I realized that the emotion surrounding my body was no longer negative or a secret.  It just was.  

The most wonderful result of taking my own leap was the outpouring of support from people around me.  Everyone has a story to share.  In publishing mine, others felt compelled to tell me theirs.

A girl from my high school who I hadn’t seen in years texted me out of the blue telling me how much the article had resonated with her.  We were able to reconnect over vegan tomato soup and had the best time chatting and laughing.

My aunt who lives across the country wanted to chat on the phone after reading my piece.  It turned out she has always wanted to write and loved that I had simply made it happen.  I felt humbled indeed to have a relative find me a source of inspiration.

A guy from my university that I didn’t know well at all messaged me on Facebook about his own challenges.  We had a powerful dialogue about cultural expectations surrounding appearances both for men and women.

When we give ourselves permission to open up despite being scared, amazing things happen.

Yes, it can be terrifying to allow yourself to be raw and vulnerable.  It totally was!  It helps to realize that this fear keeps us from sharing our stories and connecting authentically with those around us.  We limit ourselves from finding others like us or being a source of empowerment to someone else because we’re paralyzed by the idea that someone will laugh at us.  Maybe they will, but there will be many more who are inspired and supportive.

My short piece sparked a larger conversation around me and among people who I may never meet.  People want to discuss body image and their struggles but are often too afraid to do so.

When you share your own journey, you empower others to do the same.  They continue talking about it with their own circle of humans and the cycle of authentic conversations and growth continues.  It’s scary to take the leap, but you have the ability to make an impact that resonates far beyond just you.  That’s true strength!

I shared my story and it resulted in a positive chain reaction I never could have imagined.  I challenge you to share yours.  What kind of impact will you have?

This post originally appeared on Thought Catalog.

3 Reasons to Keep Writing (Even When You Feel Like No One is Reading)

girl writing in sweater with coffee and notebook

It’s easy to get discouraged sometimes about writing.  Whether you’re blogging or attempting to get published, it can be a challenge to stay motivated – especially when you don’t feel like you have anything to show for your effort.

J.K. Rowling received not one, not two, but twelve rejection letters before she published the first Harry Potter.  And we all know how that turned out…

Here are 3 reasons why you should keep writing (even when you feel like no one is reading)

To gain new insights

The act of writing allows you to sort out your thoughts and see things in a new light.  When I write about something, it forces me to think about the issue or concept in more depth.  The exercise can result in new insight and understanding.

To improve

The only way to get better is to practice.  Even when it’s boring and putting words on the page feels like you’re fighting an uphill battle, you’re still learning a ton.  Consistency and showing up are key to improving your skill as a writer.  It’s one of the main reasons I started writing in the first place!

To establish a foundation

This somewhat builds off the previous point.  As your writing improves, it’s likely that more people will end up reading it.  You want to have an established backlog of essays and posts to keep your readers interested.  The foundation you work to build early on can also serve as inspiration for later work: a storyline or post idea might be sparked by something you previously wrote about!

3 reasons to keep writing

Keep on doing your thing and writing!  Readers will come with time, patience, and passionate work.

Why do you continue to write?  Any tips on staying motivated?

So you want to be a writer

Well hey, welcome to the club!  I’ve stressed for too long about how to write good content to the point where I simply didn’t write at all – exactly the opposite of what I was going for.

It’s so easy to look at well-established blogs with their beautiful layouts and awesome posts with hundreds of comments and feel like you have nothing to contribute.  NEWS FLASH: you do!  Every single one of us has a unique perspective to offer – we just have to be willing to do so.

It’s kind of fun to go to your favorite blogs and go wayyy back in their archives to find their oldest, very first posts.  You’ll be amazed by how, shall we say, unpolished? they seem compared to what you’re used to on their site.  But everyone’s gotta start somewhere!

You can too.  All you have to do is….

  1. Start.  Literally just write.  SHOW UP.
  2. Commit to posting or journaling or something on a scheduled basis (make this feasible for your schedule) and stick with it.  Some days it might be total crap but do it anyway.  It’ll pay off!  We all know about Malcolm Gladwell’s rule of 10,000 hours (yeesh so much time) but chip away at it with consistency and the power of compounding will improve your writing dramatically over time.
  3. Read a lot, as often as you can, anything and everything that strikes your interest.  I truly believe that reading makes you a better writer!  It can spark ideas, increase your knowledge and creativity, and is way better for your brain than Netflix (I still love you Netflix).  Seriously, though.  Dorky as it is, check out your local library too.  Much as I love reading on my iPad, sometimes nothing beats the feeling of a solid book in your hands.