Three ways to journal for a happy life

I love me some tasty journalling. Writing has always been my thing so I know this is one of the greatest ways to get myself out of a spiral when my head and heart are feeling all tangled up.

While journalling can and should be done in your own personal style, I definitely find that I look to different ways when I'm looking to solve different problems.

1. Go big and sketch it out

When I'm feeling really low or that I'm a bit lost, I take out a piece of A3 paper and in the middle of the blank sheet I write down a question or a theme for what I'm hoping to understand. In my life, I've been very unhappy in my career (part of the reason it has been so important for me to find my passion, and create this space for sharing ideas) and so an example of something I might have journalled would be a question like "How the hell do I get myself out of my stupidly horrid job?" I like to think a bit of humour mixed with a dose of desperation really drives home the message! From this central question I then start to brainstorm outward. I put down words or lists of things related, so in this example I might write down a bunch of alternate careers or jobs to see if anything else jumps out at me. If so, then I explore that further by brainstorming what it would take to start a new career. I might write down all the options for how to leave the job or make it better, however grandiose the suggestion ("just quit!" has been a recurring favourite over the years), again looking for ways to tease out these options. I do this until the page is full or until I'm feeling much more relaxed as now I have had a vent as well as hopefully written out a map of what to do next. Works like a charm.

2. Back to basics

Old-school-journal style has been my preferred method of late. I think this may be due to the type of delving and reflection I've been undertaking when it comes to intentionally creating a purposeful, engaged life. When I'm feeling stuck or mentally jammed I get out my journal, my favourite pencil and just write the first thing that comes into my mind. Then I keep going until it feels right to stop. I also love some deep journalling while travelling and find I can't get enough of writing down my thoughts. Rather than writing about where I've been and what I've seen, journalling while travelling gives me the best opportunity to really listen to my thoughts and uncover what is most important to me, and to come up with ideas and ways to improve my happiness. For me, being away from home quiets all the usual noise and I'm tuned straight into what is true in my life. Pretty powerful stuff, right? Writing this all down in my journal is the best way I know to get it all down.

3. Say it loud and say it proud!

If I am in a hurry or as I'm falling asleep, it's not always the easiest to access a journal or jumbo piece of paper, so this is where an old fashioned dictaphone comes in handy. Well, these days it's not so old fashioned as most phones have some sort of voice recording functionality. Many is the time where I've mumbled something semi-coherent into my phone at 2:00 in the morning to make sure I don't forget a good idea or to remind myself to do something the next day. Indeed sometimes saying something can work even better than writing as speaking is a lot quicker than writing. Just get it down!

The important thing for me is to tune into my thoughts as I know that deep down, I know what it is that will help me be happier - I just need to listen. And then write all that gold down, or it'll be lost.

These are some of my favourite ways to vent frustrations or explore new ideas, and it can also be rewarding and enlightening to read or listen back to these brainstorms when facing a similar problem or looking for ways to tackle life. You already have the answers. You just need to look a bit more clearly.

How about you? Do you enjoy journalling? If so, what are your tried and tested ways? I am always looking to learn more about peoples' processes so please let me know in the comments below.

Life lessons from the Natural History Museum

In June/July 2013 I travelled through the United States for a few weeks on my own. At the time I wrote posts about my experiences and published them on another blog, but want to share some of them with you over the next few weeks. The first comes from my visit to New York City. I hope you enjoy.


Today I visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and it gave me a lot to think about for many reasons. Aside from the obvious exhibitions, which were great, I thought a lot about how history shapes our lives. I’m not talking so much about history in a world context (although that certainly impacts our lives greatly and is worth further discussion), but more specifically about how our own life history provides a filter through which we view the world, including how we live presently and in the future.

The kind of life we plan or imagine for ourselves can be skewed by previous experiences and the actions we take can fit within a ‘safe’ framework built up over our lives. For example, if we were told we couldn’t sing or had an experience where we were afraid of flying then these become the facts of our lives, and a filter through which we see the world.

The thing is, maybe we can’t sing like a rock god but that shouldn’t diminish the enjoyment we still get from belting out our favourite tune in the shower! Not singing would be to let our past experiences shadow how we live presently. The same could be said if we let one bad experience with flying impact our dreams to live in Italy for a year. See how this second example of a previous event has a really profound impact on the future? Unless you live in Europe and can catch a train, you become faced with a dilemma about how to make your Italian dream a reality. Do you continue to dream but know you can’t do it because you will never get on a plane? It would be so easy, and totally flippant, to suggest we could just decide we don’t have a problem with flying anymore and jet off to Italy, but the truth is we genuinely have feelings associated between our history and future actions. Rather than being able to just remove the fear from the situation we can at least look at how much our history informs our future so that our decisions are considered in a bigger view.

It is important to learn from the past and much of our growth can be attributed to what we’ve learned up until this point, but perhaps the more critical thing to consider is how we can strike a balance between valuable lessons learned in life, and identifying the old beliefs which now hold us back from trying to live the life we want to live.

As with exhibits in a museum, what happens in the past is history. How we look at the past when considering the future is the one of the greatest gifts history can give.

Thanks for reading this article. Please let me know in the comments section below if there is something in your past currently impacting your future. I’d love to hear some individual experiences.