Posted: 23.04.20 at 19:57 by Andrew Williams
There seems to be little sign of the current lock down restrictions being lifted any time soon and after the initial few weeks of adjustment, wrapping our heads around the changes to our daily lives, many of us will be experiencing feelings of isolation, loss of control and frustration.
While technology has enabled us to keep in touch with others and share our feelings, this may also be a good time to communicate with ourselves. Creative journalling is an ideal way to maintain good mental health during this time and all you need is a pen, a notebook, less than 30 minutes per day to write and your imagination.
The days are blending into one, the car battery is flat due to lack of use and it’s something unlabelled from the back of the freezer for dinner again. It’s a very strange time for all of us. It can be all too easy to go from screen to screen during the current lock down: work, television, mobile phones, apps, games, consoles, online shopping, social media sites...
The list is endless and it is all-too-easy to drift from one to another throughout the course of a day. These are of course, all completely legitimate forms of communication and just happen to be easily accessible to most people today.
They have also kept a lot of us sane over the past few weeks.
Are you now looking for a break from digital devices? Are you looking for something that gives you some breathing space from those you are confined with?
Do you need a place to express how you feel about the changes to your daily life? Do you have things on your mind that you find hard to share with others?
Creative journalling may be the answer you are looking for. You don’t need to be a great writer, it can help you come to terms with the current situation and other personal issues, but best of all, there are no rules!
Creative journals are a way to record your hopes, dreams, ideas and feelings, an avenue for self-expression and self-discovery. Not only do they give a snapshot of you at a moment in time, they give you the opportunity to read back, reflect and act.
It’s a way to declutter your mind from negative thoughts and create a positive mindset. Creative journalling encourages you to be more observant and to think about what you are grateful for, what makes you happy and to set goals for the future.
Many journal writers find that they begin to focus on the positive aspects of life and plan more for the future, even though they may have begun their journal at a time when things were not so good.
As you journal you will start to understand much more about yourself, for example, situations that make you uncomfortable; character traits that annoy you and how you see yourself.
Reflecting on these issues can give you the chance to fix them, thus improving your mental health and your view of yourself. In turn, this naturally encourages your outlook on life to generally be more positive.
Your journal can be the companion that supports but doesn't judge, a place of discovery and a creative playground where there are no rules. Proven benefits of journal writing include reduced stress and anxiety, increased self-awareness and sharpened mental skills. NASA has found that keeping a journal has been of enormous benefit after spending decades researching the effects of isolation on people.
The very act of putting your thoughts on paper makes you slow down and focus on the specific topic that needs to be processed. Slowing down gives you a chance to feel in control of a situation, your emotions and yourself. Remember though, for a journal to be effective you need to be totally honest with yourself.
Don’t be tempted to hide behind your feelings or words. If you aren’t completely honest when you journal you create a false perspective that can be detrimental to your mental health.
Possibly the greatest thing about this form of journalling is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. That means it is something achievable by everyone. How you keep your creative journal is totally up to you and is as individual as you are.
Keep the following in mind to help you successfully journal your way through lock down:
• Don’t sweat over grammar and spelling;
• Crossings out and scribbles are all part of the creative process, leave them in;
• Use images, photographs, illustrations and collage;
• Try writing poetry;
• Write in different colour pens;
• Mind maps and diagrams are very useful for working through a process;
• Ideas can be organised or ‘fluid’, whichever way suits you;
• Use your imagination, it’s your only restraint.
You don’t need to be a great artist, you don’t need to have beautiful handwriting, you don’t need to be a great poet; the content of your journal is for you and for you alone. The creative side of this style of journalling comes through its presentation and its uniqueness. Experimenting with the presentation of your journal can be a liberating experience in itself.
There are different types of creative journal too. You may want to focus on one area of your life at the moment rather than keep a more general day-to-day journal. Food, bullet, art, gratitude are just some of the areas you can develop your journal around. Again, this is entirely up to you and you can have as many foci as you like for your journal.
We all have something to say, we all have emotions to work through and we all have valuable ideas. Creative journals allow you a space to put all this in one place.
Feeling inspired? Get yourself a notebook and a pen and start journalling.
For more information about creative journalling including online workshops and other life-writing skills visit: www.writetoremember.co.uk and sign up for our newsletter or email us at [email protected] to find out about our forthcoming online events.
* Andrew Williams is a Shotley-based educator, and holds creative journalling courses at Shotley Village Hall, when open.