I do not believe in making New Year’s resolutions. Why? Because most often we make grand, unrealistic goals that make us feel bad about ourselves when, naturally, we can’t possibly attain them. Besides, change is best achieved when we have a deep inner prompting or awareness of a challenge that needs positive action, rather than feeling pushed into a social obligation attached to an arbitrary date, such as the turning of a new year.
Having said that, I do believe that this “social obligation” can offer a gentle push to explore new activities or habits that can benefit us. So, I’d like to invite you to explore the wonderful personal tool of journaling!
As you know, I am an enthusiastic proponent of writing for self-care and personal discovery. But, I meet many people who are challenged by the process. They say, “Oh, I don’t know how to write.” And I say, “If you can think you can write. It is simply a matter of allowing thoughts to take the form of words on a page.” If that still feels daunting to you, then how about starting with list making?
Lists are a form of journaling that can be composed of single words, small phrases or short sentences. That’s it! Easy to do, they take only a few minutes to make but can hold powerful insights, plus provide a great tool for personal accountability.
I don’t know about you but I love making a to-do list and derive great satisfaction when I cross something off of it. The key is to enjoy what you cross off and move the undone tasks to high priority on a new list, daily or weekly. If a task gets moved forward several times and remains undone, this is a clue to evaluate it. Ask yourself ~ Am I avoiding this task? If so, why? If I decide I’m not avoiding it, why isn’t it getting done? In my experience, some tasks have Divine timing. Translation: If I had pushed to complete a certain task two weeks ago, it would have been done prematurely without all the information I needed to do it well. Such tasks get done exactly when they are supposed to. It comes down to the wise old saying, “Don’t push the river: it flows by itself.”
Here are some suggestions for lists you can use to help you start a journaling practice:
Gratefulness list ~ At some point in your day take a few moments to list 6 to 12 things you are grateful for. They may be events that occurred over the course of that particular day or offering thanks for family or friends (name each one!), health, a good sleep, the sound of a child’s laughter … the list is yours to make. Gratefulness shifts our mindset to an attitude of love and hope.
Accomplishment list ~ When you are particularly busy with many demands on you, taking time at the end of the day to list your accomplishments can be a great morale boost. For many the natural tendency is to focus on everything that didn’t get done. An accomplishment list helps you to focus on what did get done and leads to a sense of satisfaction.
Idea list ~ Have you ever had a great idea … then forgot what it was? Keeping a list of ideas for whatever interests you (work, play, writing, travel, etc.) gets them out of your head and on to a page where you can brainstorm, expand and plan how, when, where and with whom you might carry out your bright ideas.
Food list ~ Many people focus on dieting or eating healthier at this time of year. One of the keys to making changes in this area is paying attention to what you are eating right now. Keep a list of foods you are actually putting in your mouth for a day. Review it and choose one item to reduce or eliminate the next day. Your list helps bring greater awareness to your eating habits; awareness is the first step to issuing change.
Activity list ~ Similar to recording the foods you eat, making a list of your physical activities, such as making beds, climbing stairs, vacuuming, walking to work or the market, morning run, etc. helps you make choices about increasing or adding activities that can contribute to your well being as well as creating an added tool for realistic, incremental goal setting.
Take time each day to make any one or more of these lists and you are on the way to developing the reflective writing practice of journaling, the benefits of which are scientifically proven to support mind/body health. An investment of 10 to 20 minutes a day putting pen to paper can reap great rewards. Check out my book, Your Journal Companion, for more writing tools and information on the journaling process.
Happy New Year and Many Blessings!