Except for a declaration of love written in Sharpie during a fit of passion and currently (thankfully) covered by my great aunt’s china in my childhood closet, I have few written documents from my youth. I wasn’t much of a journaler, which isn’t to say I didn’t give it a half-assed attempt every few years. “Dear Diary,” I’d always begin, “I never keep these things, but I’m going to with this one.” Basically, I spent 1997-2010 lying to inanimate objects.
I also developed an improbable appetite for Psychology Today — not because of the aforementioned lying but because I spent an inordinate amount of time in doctors’ waiting rooms due to chronic strep throat. (It was either that or endless hours of Where’s Waldo/Parenting Magazine.) As such, I am the go-to girl for pop psychology trends, and 2015 has been the year of mindfulness. Ohm.
But let’s say you’re too neurotic to meditate. Or perhaps rather than sit with your thoughts, you need get them out of you. Journaling is the answer. I’m not advocating you re-tell your days in excruciating detail or address each page with “Dear.” Instead, make like a millennial at a grocery story and create lists. Number them. Allow for incomplete sentences. The easier you make it, the more likely you are to do it. A historically undedicated journaler who was self-conscious about the exercise (it felt a little too Advice By Oprah at first), I assure you that it’s worked for me.
Here’s the deal:
1) When you wake up, give yourself focus by writing down three goals for the day. If you make these goals easily achievable yet still significant then you’ve just given yourself a dope ass triumph. Yes, “only one dessert” is a triumph. Ditto for “make bed.”
2) Before you go to bed, write down three things you’re grateful for. Of course you should be grateful that you have a roof over your head and a brain to journal with, but the point of this exercise is to cultivate gratefulness when your impetus is to send out an emoji-laden mass text that says, “I’m bored.” The point is to find joy in the Sunday Scaries, to appreciate something about every day, to delve into the minutiae of your life and come up smiling.
…That’s it. That’s mindfulness.
When I really, honestly consider the finer details of the draggier parts of my day — both the one I’ve been through and the one that’s coming — things that make me anxious or annoyed tend to melt into manageable, sometimes even enjoyable, components.
Keeping a journal isn’t going to turn you into someone so at peace with the world that her periods are in sync with the tides nor will it prohibit a well-deserved “fuck!” on the subway at rush hour. But it will remind you that despite all the crap, there’s a lot of good in the world. Sometimes it’s a TLC song that appears on shuffle when you really need it, other times it’s finding a questionable yet nonetheless edible piece of gum at the bottom of your bag. It doesn’t matter if you feel self-conscious at first. Just be honest.
Collage by Krista Anna Lewis.