Did you write a diary as a teenager? I did. It was full of the ups and downs of school life, family, friendships, and romance. Life seemed complicated back then, but compared with midlife, being a teenager was a breeze!
In my forties I went freelance, changed career direction, moved to a new part of the UK, left what I thought was to be my ‘forever relationship’, took one final look at whether I wanted children or not, began my journey to menopause, learned to make friends with aging process, let go of the guilt of living five hours away from my octogenarian parents, and invested heavily in self-love.
Accompanying all these transitions were also, what I call, the big midlife questions:
- Who am I now?
- What do I really want?
- How do I want to spend my time?
- Who do I want to spent it with?
- What has meaning for me now?
- What is my legacy?
None of which were easy to answer, but one of the most transformative rituals that helped me find my way forward was to journal.
No matter our age, writing down our thoughts and feelings, helps us achieve clarity, perspective, and direction.
Journaling is also an opportunity for self-reflection, self-discovery, and personal growth, for relaxation, visualisation, and manifestation. It’s an opportunity to slow down, reconnect with our true selves, reflect on what’s important to us and in the stillness of our minds, discover what is in our hearts.
HOW TO START TO JOURNAL
Learning how to start journaling is the easy part, you simply pick up a pen and paper and start writing. Making journaling a habit is what takes self-discipline. But if you make a commitment to yourself and stick at it, you’ll not only start to see the positive outcomes of journaling in your life, but you’ll also find that journaling moves from being a habit to being a ritual – a habit with meaning; an activity that is carried out mindfully and where you are focused on the why rather than the what.
Here are some ideas to get you thinking about how you might want to use your own journal and what to write in it:
- Personal or career goals
- What you are grateful for
- Quotes that inspire or motivate you
- Reflections or revelations
- Questions you’d like to answer
- Things you want to improve
- Your journey through perimenopause to menopause
- Compliments to yourself
- A long-term vision of where you want to be
- Your activities and what you’ve done and experienced
- Blockers or frustrations you’re struggling to overcome
- What you eat in a day and how you feel afterward
And here are 6 questions if you want to dive in a little deeper:
- Write about a memory from the last year that made you feel alive, engaged, & your best self.
- What are the 3 things you are most proud of having done in the last few months and why? Who benefited from them?
- What is taking most of your attention right now? How is it making you feel?
- What are you neglecting?
- Who is your support system? Who do you support?
- What is your “why?” What gets you out of bed in the morning?
And when you are ready, start to explore your big midlife questions. Finding the answers to these questions may take time … in my own experience some took years! But the journey to finding those answers was as important as the answers themselves. Enjoy the ride.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF JOURNALS
As I alluded to earlier, the first journal I ever kept was a teenage diary. Since then, I’ve kept travel journals, gratitude journals, a free writing journal, a journal to get me through some tough times, and, having completed a writing course some years ago with Julia Cameron, author of ‘The Artist’s Way’, I’ve also practiced Morning Pages.
Here’s a summary of a few types of journaling to try:
Gratitude Journal. Keeping a gratitude journal is an effective way to feel happier and more motivated in your day-to-day life. Regular attention to this journal will encourage you to focus more on the things that inspire and enrich you and less on things that drain your energy and resources.
You can create this habit at night and write down the things that you’re thankful for that happened that day. A list is enough. If you’re trying to develop a positive habit, this is a great one to do.
Prompt Journal. If you are new to journaling or sometimes you just don’t know what to write, journaling prompts are perfect for this. They are questions or suggestions of what to write about that day. There are numerous websites and journaling apps (journaling can be digital too!) offering journaling prompts, along with printed journals you can buy online or find in bookshops. But a few of my favourites are:
- What is it that I need most right now?
- What is in my highest good?
- What do I need to let go of?
Travel Journal. Whilst posting about your travels on social media is one way to record your adventures, if you really want to capture the moments, the places, the people, your feelings and your thoughts, a travel journal is the way to go. You can bring it even more to life by sticking in tickets, photos, maps, postcards, and other memorabilia, and create more of a scrap book that you’ll treasure forever.
Bullet Journal. This journal is for the minimalists amongst us or those short on time. The objective here is to keep things short and sweet. For example, summarise your day in five lines, or bullet your ‘to do’s’ for tomorrow, complete this sentence, ‘My intention for today is …’, or ask yourself ‘How am I feeling right now?’, answering in a short and succinct way.
Free Writing Journal. This is an approach I use often. There’s no real format, I just start writing and let my thoughts wander freely and put them on paper as I go. It can be very useful when you feel overwhelmed by too many thoughts, or don’t really know what you want to write about. It’s also amazing to see where it can take you … often I find I end up with an idea, an a-ha moment or simply leave the page feeling lighter.
Morning Pages. This method was created by Julia Cameron, author of the book, ‘The Artist’s Way’. Designed originally for writers, but now used by a much wider audience, the main objective is to unleash your creativity by opening your journal right after waking up and writing down about 3 pages of whatever comes to mind.
Niche Journals. Niche journals focus on a particular focus, interest or hobby or experience in your life, such as a pregnancy journal, a food journal or a self-care journal – basically anything you can think of and want to document through journaling.
But which type of journal is the right type for you?
For me, it is less about the type of journal, or method employed, and more about the act of writing. So, in answer to the question of which type of journal is the right type, I would say try the one that appeals to you most or best meets your needs right now or tailor your journaling to your mood.
If you’ve only a few minutes, bullet your thoughts or summarise your day in one sentence or just three words. If you’re trying to figure something out, take yourself on a journaling date and give yourself the gift of time and space. If you’re feeling creative, add in some doodles, pictures from magazines or photos. And if you are feeling a little meh or not your best self, try writing down ten things you are grateful for.
You can also combine the different approaches. For example, writing morning pages and adding your at the end. And if none of these formats work for you, create your own! Something I started to add to the end of my journaling was three things I was proud of for having done that day.
In short, the right way, is your way. Journaling is a creative task, and the most important thing is that you enjoy it.
If you are grappling with midlife, I invite you to grab a pen and paper and just start writing!