Journaling every day has changed my life. That may seem like a bold statement about something usually thought of as fairly innocuous. But when I think back to before I started journaling - that is writing down my inner thoughts once a day in my journal - I have experienced profound changes physically, emotionally, even spiritually. And doors have opened for me in my personal and professional life.
I've blogged about journaling and it's multiple benefits before. Greater self-awareness, an enhanced sense of empathy to those around you, experiencing gratitude for your life and your gifts on a daily basis, the list goes on. Journaling is awesome - try it for yourself.
However despite all these benefits, gained during three years of practice, I still felt there was something missing from my daily journal entries. Recently I've been relatively busy in my personal life (one reason being we moved into a house which needs a full renovation - but that's another story), and I've found that I was completing my journal entries by rote. I was still filling my journal out every day, but my entries were now taking less than 30 seconds. I was just tracking days lived, rather than thinking deeply about the course and direction of my life. I was thinking about whether I was spending my time on the right things, and even more importantly, reflecting on how I feel and how I make others around me feel.
Enter 'morning pages'. I read 'The Artist's Way', by Julia Cameron, a few years ago and was familiar with the concept of morning pages. The author suggests starting each day with an exercise in long hand writing. An outpouring of your mind, a stream of consciousness. Until you have filled three A4 pages. The objective is to clear your mind of the clutter and brush away the metaphorical cobwebs, before starting your day. To me, this seemed a possible solution to my current state of fugue around filling in my journal. But also a way to stay in touch with my writing when my life is so busy with stripping wallpaper, choosing paint colours and other house renovation-related activities. So it was time to get stuck in to my own morning pages.
And do you know what I found? Writing long hand hurts! We're not used to it in the digital age and I’m definitely out of practice. I want to write morning pages, but I want to do it in a way that’s comfortable for me. The solution was easy - write my morning pages on my laptop. But I also didn't want to use a blogging website or other word processor type software as those solutions are for sharing content and my morning pages are just for me. Then I came across the website 750words.com and here is where I found a home for my morning pages. 750 words is about the same amount as three A4 pages of long hand writing, and the 750 words website stores your musings privately. There are badges for completing X days in a row, and a cool metadata feature which allows you to use it for tracking certain lifestyle elements such as how happy you feel that day etc. All you have to do is enter your stream of consciousness and the website does the rest. Once you are finished you can also find some interesting statistics on your writing - for example this morning my 750 words showed I was mostly feeling affectionate, and mostly concerned about religion (who knew?!).
But the real benefit isn't in the data and stats. I've found that since I've started this new habit I am more in touch with my feelings, both physically and emotionally. Sometimes my 750 words is literally just my inner monologue that morning. Sometimes I’m having a conversation with myself about an issue I've been struggling with. And sometimes I'm just giving myself a pep talk before starting the day. Using these 750 words allows me to review my relationships with others too. One of my favourite books is ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius. Marcus was a Roman Emperor (CE 161-180), and every night he took time to write down his innermost thoughts and feelings in his journal. This was never meant for anyone other than himself, as a way to keep himself humble, and to remind himself of his obligations and responsibilities to live a virtuous life.
I guess I'm using my 750 words per day to create my own Meditations. It feels a little introspective, a little self-centred. But how can you expect to be a better person in the world if you don't make time to reflect and also plan? Getting your thoughts down on paper (or on the screen) starts your creative juices flowing. If you're looking for more out of life, or if you're experiencing some blockage or challenge, try writing your own morning pages, your own 750 words. And let them set you free.
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