From stargazing into the night sky drawing lines to join the stars, to joining the dots in a children’s playbook creating a face, a dinosaur or a house. We humans have an innate desire to express on the outside, what’s going on inside. Etched hieroglyphics in ancient caves were the first signs of communication in picture form and as we advanced as a species, we eventually ended up with geniuses like Michaelangelo in the Sistine chapel creating masterpieces. Fast forward and we learn to appreciate street artists like Banksy. What all these have in common is the need to get the thoughts in their heads out into the open. Expressed creativity.
Art is visual, art is written or spoken and is the staple of the human imagination. Art stimulates us and is a kind of built-in therapy. I will be looking at a creative tool briefly here that can help us to lighten the load of overthinking and alleviate some areas of stress. It is easy and can be used in several positive ways. That tool is journaling. There are of course many ways to ‘do’ journaling but for this article, I will condense these to just two. This can be a fantastic way for you to begin to unlock the artist in you. Whether it’s music, singing, painting or maybe knitting jumpers for Oxfam, it is still art.
You’ll be surprised once you get going how many people, places and things you are actually thankful for. Your mind has started already, hasn’t it? You have people that are fundamental to your life, they are indispensable. They add value and worth and life without them just would not be the same. Some of these are parents, spouses and children or close friends. They are irreplaceable and we are grateful.
Now let’s expand the circle a little wider and add in say NHS workers who we all clapped for in the pandemic, banging our pots and pans in appreciation for their courageous efforts to keep us well. Our health and the health of those near and dear to us is another thing we are thankful for. The list is endless and I do not mean for you to spend several hours a day notating it all but begin maybe to just jot down a few things each day.
Capture the moments of joy. It may be a shard of sunlight on a cold day that makes you smile. Jot it down. It may be a moment of peace, a moment of reassuring calm that you discover amid the frantic pace of your life. Jot it down. Or, even when the shadows of sadness cloud your life, let’s keep ourselves balanced and jot that down too. As these thoughts flow from your mind to your pen and paper, or your keyboard, you will begin to see a difference in your approach to everyday life.
Gratitude is a sure antidote to overthinking and over time, will help you have a clearer perspective on life. Be intentional with it and you will free yourself from negative and toxic thought patterns. Gratitude is an attitude. Purpose to wear it well.
This can be a mixture of traditional and digital journaling. Pen and paper still provide a satisfying sensory feel. For others, it will be their laptop synced to their phone. Personal entries may include your private thoughts, goals and aspirations. Poetry, songwriting and storytelling. Thoughts about what your interests are. You may want to create a vision board at the start of the year to inspire you. Use photos, quotes and specific words or numbers that you like. Photos of a best friend or your pet. Things that will make you smile. Create a list of your favourite songs, films or theatre shows. What is your colour of choice?
For those who have moved away from pen and paper and the traditional way of writing stuff down, there is the very versatile world of digital journaling. Lots of people now have a laptop, a phone and a smartwatch as extensions to their lives. Access to social media platforms is just a click away. They offer amazing tools to enrich your overall experience. There are video tools that can enhance the experience along with a host of apps both free and paid.
Most of all, journaling has to be fun. At the outset of this new year, reward yourself with a new notebook and pen or type away until your heart’s content, but most of all outsource your thoughts and uncover the artist in you.
Written by Chris O’Driscoll
For more ideas on journalling, click here.