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5 Lessons from 5 Months of Consistent Daily Journaling

For wisdom is better than pearls; nothing you want can compare with her. Proverbs 8:11

Less than five days until I officially start Grad School! WooHoo!! Amazingly and without any planning, Monday will also be the last day of my experiment with daily journaling for 150 days.

Here are the TOP 5 THINGS I’VE LEARNED from focused, micro-journaling every day for the last five months….

1.) Journaling takes time.

This may seem obvious, but there is a world of difference between journaling occasionally when you happen to think of it and journaling every day like brushing your teeth. Much like exercise, you don’t see the benefits if you don’t set aside the time to do it consistently.

2.) Gratitude isn’t enough.

A lot has been said on gratitude and the benefits of documenting it daily, but gratitude alone will not make a significant enough difference. Prior to this experiment, I had written a gratitude journal for years, but now I see the difference. Gratitude without context and self-reflection is a list of positive things in your life. It is definitely important, but incomplete. True perspective, the kind that transforms lives, comes from looking at life both more closely and more broadly on a consistent basis.

3.) Healthy living depends on healthy spiritual practices.

Each of us arrives in the world as a beautiful blend of mind, body, and spirit. We know that growing healthy minds and bodies require healthy nourishment, challenges, and habits on a consistent basis. Yet for some silly reason we expect to grow a healthy spirit out of a once-a-week religious service or an occasional “I’m praying for you” on Facebook. Or maybe, like me, we just get lazy. Daily reading and prayer (whatever that looks like for you) to soulfully connect with a power greater than ourselves builds a strong, flexible, healthy spirit. It makes a mountain of difference. Daily journaling is an excellent way to stay on track, and keep track, of an intentional spiritual practice.

4.) Not everything belongs in your journal.

Many years ago, on an Ash Wednesday, I burned a small stack of journals that mostly contained angry “venting” thoughts. Ranting doesn’t make us feel better; it only makes us feel more self-righteous. Anyhow, I thought I understood pretty well the lesson that not everything belongs in a journal. Nope. There is always more to learn. The truth is that my diet and exercise habits don’t belong in a journal. I have other, better tools for that and trying to track it in my daily journal just takes more time (see #1) and mostly frustrates me. Having a prescribed set of prompts that you consistently answer is great, but don’t be afraid to experiment, evaluate,  and change what isn’t working.

5.) Consistency. Consistency. Consistency.

Maybe you’ve noticed me using the word CONSISTENCY a lot. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever done anything this positive this consistently for this long. (I’ve done a lot of stupid things consistently, but let’s not talk about that.) The world shouts a million distractions at us every day, all day. Wisdom whispers. That still, small voice does not demand our attention. Instead, she will wait patiently until we decide to show up ready to listen. That won’t happen on the first day of journaling and maybe not on the 30th. No one can really say when wisdom will speak to us, but if we don’t show up ready for the conversation we will never find out. Transformative journaling – much like being a good conversationalist – is a skill, developed through consistent, intentional practice over time. The better we get at it, the more deeply Wisdom reveals truth to us. No question, it is absolutely worth the small daily effort.

If forming new habits was easy, everyone would be thin, rich, and chill as the Dalai Lama.

Obviously, not so easy. Maybe you don’t have a daily journaling habit, but you would like to. Last night, I listened to the Hidden Brain podcast episode titled “A Creature of Habit.” The featured guest relatably debunks the necessity of superhuman willpower and gives insight into exactly how to form new habits. One caveat, ignore the opening about the building. As a wheelchair user and advocate for disability inclusion, my head was exploding a bit. Other than that, great stuff.  You can find Hidden Brain on the web or your favorite podcast platform.

May 2021 bring kinder, gentler times to our world and – no matter what lies ahead – may each of us receive wisdom, know love, and radiate compassion for our fellow humans. Happy New Year!

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