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I have been journalling on and off over the years, not always every day, but at times when I have felt the need to process my thoughts and feelings or reflect on situations I find myself in. Over the last year it has been more regular and I have been getting so much more benefit from journalling as a daily practice. 

There is no right or wrong way to journal. You may like to write a stream of consciousness, you can ask yourself questions, write letters to yourself and add doodles, artwork, cut out images or do whatever feels right for you.

Consistency is key though. Life can be a bit hectic, so sometimes it just feels too much to fit in. Yet, it really does only take 5 minutes. The old Zen saying about meditation comes to mind here. ‘You should meditate for 20 minutes everyday, unless you are too busy, then you should meditate for an hour.’ We may find the most benefit when we are busy, especially when our minds feel too busy. At times like these, perhaps we need to think about why we can’t find 5 minutes to journal (or meditate). What are we blocking or hiding from. There’s no judgement here. I speak from experience!

What are the benefits?

Journalling is such a simple form of self care and can really help our mental and emotional wellbeing. You don’t need a lot of money to do it – a notebook and a pen is a good start (I’ll get on to expensive journals in a minute!)

If you are an overthinker (like me), it can provide a non-judgemental place to process our thoughts. If you want to have a rant this is a healthy place to do it. I have vented my spleen in many places in my journal! Its not always deep and reflective words of wisdom and beautiful prose (although that can happen too!)

By writing down what can sometimes feel like muddled thoughts and feelings, we can begin to see patterns and discover where certain emotions or behaviours keep cropping up. For example on day 24 of my cycle I have a day of ‘doom’ where everything feels too much, I tell myself some pretty negative things and then I realise that it is ‘day 24’ and that it will pass tomorrow. And it does – it’s like clockwork! Good to know!

Your journal is your safe space and you can express all the things that you may not feel able to speak of elsewhere. You have a voice and your journal is listening. No-one will laugh at you or judge you for speaking your truth. 

Journalling doesn’t mean that all your troubles will go away, but it can help reduce stress and anxiety levels and bring you greater self-awareness. Its not easy to discover who you are amongst all the layers of conditioning and habits we have formed throughout our lives. Journalling can help you to peel back the layers and help you to find yourself again. We are all here to learn – what have you come to lean and understand about yourself?

Journalling during pregnancy (and parenting)

Pregnancy and birth is a transformational journey and one of our biggest rites of passage in life. Like any initiation there are going to be physical, emotional, mental, perhaps even spiritual challenges that we need to overcome. We are going to be presented with situations that we need to learn and grow from – and that isn’t just during labour, it is the whole journey from pregnancy right through our post-partum period.

In the most basic sense a pregnancy journal will be a keepsake of the journey you have made and can be a way to track our experiences, the good, the not so good and the aha moments.

We may have lots of questions about pregnancy, birth and parenting. We might wonder whether we will be good parents, whether we will cope with birth or if our babies will be healthy. As Pam England (Birthing from Within) says, ‘worry is the work of pregnancy’. No worry is too silly. Journalling can be a great place to explore your hopes and fears around pregnancy and parenting and perhaps help you to find some of the answers within you (you are the expert on you afterall!) It can also help you to shed light on the parts of yourself that might need a little extra compassion and care.

We spend so much time collecting external information when we are pregnant and don’t spend enough time focusing on the inner journey that we are making. Tuning into and being guided by our intuition is also an important part of the journey as is fostering trust and faith in our bodies and babies. Journalling will provide you with a means of increasing self-awareness and an opportunity to deepen your inner knowing.

Journalling can also help you to connect to your wise baby. We often talk to our baby in the womb when we are pregnant as a way of bonding, but have you ever tuned in and asked what your baby needs?

Journalling Tips

Its helpful if you are regular, but don’t put pressure on yourself. If you miss a day, no-one is going to know. You won’t get in trouble for not doing your homework!

Try and write during the times that feel too much or when you are overwhelmed and feel too busy. Perhaps there are feelings that you are finding hard to acknowledge. Those are the times that I find most helpful to journal.

Take it from me, a simple notebook works just as well as a beautiful journal. This actually works better for me as it takes the pressure off feeling the need to write neatly or coherently. A notebook feels less demanding than a diary as if you do miss a there are no blank pages glaring back at you.

You don’t have to write beautiful prose, just ditch that idea before you start. No-one is looking over your shoulder checking your work making sure it is word perfect. That was something I had to let go of myself! You may find that some parts flow beautifully and others are just clunky and hard to read. That’s OK.

If you can set aside some quiet time for yourself, even if it is just 5 or 10 minutes, perhaps mark that space by lighting a candle.

You can start the day by asking yourself specific questions if that helps with the flow. I have three that I ask myself each day.

  • What is spirit telling me?
  • What is my mind telling me?
  • What is my body telling me?

I just close my eyes and listen for the answers. Sometimes this doesn’t happen right away, usually when I start thinking about all the things I need to do that day, but if I bring myself back to the questions something will come through.

During pregnancy these questions will also work, but perhaps when tuning into your body you can also ask what your baby is telling you.

When spirit, mind and body are aligned then things start to flow more and everything feels more balanced and manageable.

Why not have a try yourself? There are lots of journalling resources around. Maternal Journal is a great resource for the whole of your mothering journey. You may even find a group near you.

Or why not join me for one of my online journalling courses where each week we will focus on your inner pregnancy journey with carefully considered journalling prompts and guided meditation.

Jo is a birth and postnatal doula and Birthing from Within childbirth educator and is passionate about supporting families on their birth and parenting journeys. She is a mother of three children and lives in Cornwall with her family and Apple the cat. You can find out more about Jo and her work here.

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