By Jessica Rankin
It’s 6 a.m., and the house is quiet and still. The dog is snoring while happily dreaming of, well … whatever dogs dream of. I am awake and busily drafting the beginning line of my daily journal entry: “This is the day you have made; I will be joyful and glad in it. I give you my life today Lord, lead me to your purpose for my life today.” Every morning, I strive to begin my days this way, writing for about 30 minutes.
My journey with journaling began in 2010 when my husband and I learned we were pregnant with our first child. I began writing to chronicle our journey in hopes that I could share my thoughts with our child when he or she was grown. Unfortunately, in my eighth month of pregnancy, our son was born still. After that, my journal became my place of refuge to work through the grief of losing him.
Since those quiet mornings in 2010 that I spent journaling, dreaming of our future with the life of our first child growing inside of me, my morning quiet time has become a lifelong routine of dedicated “me time” to write, pray and read my Bible. I use the time to sit at the feet of Jesus and talk with him about what is on my heart, read my Bible, read a devotional, work through any mental battles and look over my schedule for the day — a kind of mental warmup, if you will.
Are you implementing any daily mental warmup routines?
If you aren’t, you are not alone. Plenty of people are not in the habit of journaling or spending quiet time to mentally warm up for the day. The good news is that this is a habit, and like any other habit, with some dedication and consistency, it can be a beneficial addition to your routine. Here are some tips to get the habit going:
1) Buy yourself a journal. That seems kind of obvious, doesn’t it, but stick with me here. Buy one that suits you. You could buy a composition book or a spiral notebook, which will work fine, but I find that if I enjoy actually writing in a book, I tend to journal better. So, buy one that tickles your fancy. There are many options that range in price. Target carries my favorite brand, Mara-Mi, and each book costs about $8 each — a small investment for something I use every day.
2) Buy yourself some nice writing utensils. I purchase nice writing pens that I specifically use to journal. They are smooth, and I enjoy writing with them, which is the key. This item also ranges in price and quality. I buy a pack of gel pens for about $5, and they last me several months. Again, a relatively small investment.
3) Most importantly, set an alarm. You must get up early and schedule time before you start your day. I admit, there are plenty of mornings I want to sleep in, but I usually I regret it if I do. My day is much more overwhelming if I don’t have my warmup time.
Now that you are all set to begin here are a few things to remember that will make your journaling experience much more enjoyable — and therefore an easier habit to establish.
1) This is yours. Say all the selfish, silly and taboo things that come to mind that you don’t want to tell others. This is your space to work through some of those things. If you are using the time to talk to God, don’t worry about saying something embarrassing. He already knew it anyway.
2) Don’t worry about length. Some days I use one page, and others, I use three.
3) Don’t confine yourself to a paragraph format. Plenty of days, I don’t feel like writing in a structured way. Sometimes, I may do a brain dump and draw diagrams, linking thoughts together. Occasionally, I’ll write in a different direction, and several times, I’ve written in a circle — starting in the middle and spinning my journal as I wrote.
4) Add some color. Get those colored pencils out, and draw something over your writing — the bigger, the better. Get creative and enjoy yourself.
Lastly, remember that your journal is about self-care. It’s about allowing yourself the space to mentally warm up for your day. My journal began as a joy-filled baby book, which turned into a space for grief, and finally reflection. Having these journals that essentially chronicle my life has been a blessing in unexpected ways. This year, I was able to use my journal entries dating back to 2010 to write a book about my grief journey when we lost our son titled, “Mommy, Be Healed.” Who knows where spending quiet time listening to the dog snore will take you.
So set an alarm, grab a pen and paper and enjoy the quiet time. Maybe write about what you think the dog is dreaming about. It might make a neat children’s book…. I would read that.
Jessica Rankin is a wife, mother, author, speaker and owner of Safe Food Culture LLC, a training and consulting company. Reach her through her website: mommybehealed.com.