We know that everyone is saying it at the moment, but nevertheless it bears repeating: these are truly extraordinary times. With most of us now confined to our homes the majority of the time, it seems the passing weeks are all blurring into one – admit it, you’re not entirely sure what day it is! Without the structure of our usual schedules to keep us organised, it’s more important than ever that we’re setting aside time for self-care and self-reflection.
With proven benefits from reducing anxiety and stress, to improving memory and focus, there are countless reasons to keep a journal, and with all the extra pressures of today there’s never been a better time to start. This was the reason that Pen Heaven launched our #LoveYourLife campaign back in November, where we challenged a number of our blogger friends to keep a regular journal for 21 days, and take note of their findings. We think you’ll agree that the results speak for themselves!
Let’s face it, we’re all a little more anxious than usual at the moment. Yes, the Zoom parties and bread baking will help, but it’s very easy to feel trapped in your head as well as in your home. Keeping a journal is a bit like opening the pressure release valve, and just letting out some of that extra tension.
“I strongly recommend journaling when you have something big happening in your world as it can help make sense of things when you unravel them through writing,” wrote Lucy Moore from femalefirst.co.uk.
You don’t even have to write about what’s causing you stress to feel the benefit – in fact, you don’t have to write words at all! “Doodling in the journal is a great way of doing something that helps me to process things floating around in my head,” said Sonia Constant from mummyconstant.com. Amateur artists and would-be illustrators, take note.
Those of us now working from home are likely finding it harder than ever to differentiate between work-time and down-time, especially when both involve being sat in front of a screen.
“The #LoveYourLife journal challenge was a much needed excuse to step away from the screen and get back to basics and write with a pen and paper again,” said Sim from simslife.co.uk. “Life moves so quickly and so much of my life is spent typing, that writing with a pen can seem like a novelty.”
Lucy Moore agreed: “It’s certainly better for you than looking at your phone or iPad which I was guilty of before. Since journaling, I have found myself reaching for a book rather than my digital devices which has helped with my sleep patterns.” As confirmed evangelists of the humble pen and paper, we approve this message.
As the days turn into weeks, then months – surely it can’t be May?! – it’s common to feel that time is running away from us. One way to counter this is to set aside as little as 5 minutes before bed to pause, think, and write.
“I incorporated it in to a mindfulness programme I use which encourages you to write down three positive moments from each day,” wrote Nickie O’Hara from nickieohara.co.uk. “It was good to reflect on the day.”
What’s more, as hard as it might be to imagine ‘life as normal’, the day will come when you’ll struggle to even remember the day-to-day emotions and experiences of lockdown. So take the time to commit your thoughts to paper – a time capsule for you to rediscover at a later date. As Sim puts it: “One day we will be able to look back at this time of our lives, read our journals whilst enjoying a good brew, remembering possibly the craziest experience of our lives.”
We’re all adapting to a new way of life at the moment, and even the smallest things can have a huge impact on our health and wellbeing. It can take just a few minutes each day to write in your journal, something which every one of our bloggers found they were able to seamlessly incorporate into their life. “Adding a daily journal to my routine felt quite natural,” wrote Nickie O’Hara, adding that she has continued to journal daily past the end of the challenge.
Meanwhile, Sim found the experience “totally refreshing… There is a certain freedom when your words flow over paper.”
Crucially, though, there’s no singular correct approach. Lucy Moore says, “what I leaned through this experience is not to beat yourself up about missing a day or two... The reality is – sometimes you are too tired to write for five minutes before bed or the day hasn’t been that eventful. That’s life.” So cut yourself some slack, enjoy a night off, and get right back on it the next day.
Now more than ever it really feels like there’s pressure coming from all angles: whether it’s your family, your work, or just the constant stream of news and information beaming at you from endless screens, it’s no wonder we’re all a little rattled right now. It is vital, therefore, that we don’t let things get on top of us; that we’re taking time to look after ourselves and meet our needs, whatever they may be.
So if it all gets a little bit too much – stop, pick up your favourite pen, turn to a fresh page, and let your thoughts tumble freely out onto the paper.