A couple of days ago I suggested you keep a diary during these difficult times, something you can look back on in years to come when the pandemic has passed and life has settled down to whatever new normal the future brings. (And I do hold out hope for that future, that perhaps the change that is so painful now, heralds a new way of life, one that is kinder and simpler than the one we’ve been living lately. The group that is operating on our street to keep in touch and help each other out gives me so much hope.)
Perhaps you don’t currently keep a journal and don’t know where to start. Here’s some thoughts on where to start when bringing regular journal writing into your life. I will begin by saying that it can be therapeutic and clarifying to capture your thoughts on paper. A journal or a writing notebook provides you with a private space where you can do many things:
- collect ideas
- explore your thoughts
- unpack your feelings
- make to do lists
- rant about stuff
- revisit your memories and bury them if you need to
- experiment with ideas
- write stories and poem
- and you can hold a conversation with yourself when you need to – be your own cheerleader, tell yourself what you’re doing well under the circumstances.
Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Keep a gratitude journal: Each day write down three things for which you are grateful. Just a word, phrase or sentence is enough. They can be anything, mundane or sublime – it’s about paying attention to things that have enhanced your day in some way. At the end of the week you might like to look back at the last seven days and write for ten minutes beginning: When I read my gratitude lists for this week, I notice……
- Notice people: Write down the names of three people who are important to you – one is in your family, one is an acquaintance, one you have not met but you’d like to meet. Write about them: What is important to you about them? How do you know them? Where are they from? What do they do? When they speak, what do they say to you? What would you like to say to them? What gift would you like to give them if you could give them one? Right now, maybe that would be a big hug, write about that.
- Create a creative/ healing space: Where do you feel most content in your home? What kind of environment do you work best in? What do you need to allow your creative self to flourish? Write about this in your journal. Describe your idea of a perfect creative/ healing space. List the steps (however small or big) you need to take to create this out of your current environment with stuff you already have at home – some cushions, a blanket, a table by a window, some pictures of the people you love, pens, paper, candles – it will be personal to you. What could you do right now to get started?
- Explore the landscapes of your memory:Think about landscapes you like, perhaps the paces from your childhood/ past or maybe somewhere you went only last week and can’t visit now. Choose one which has a particular resonance for you and write about it. How old you were when you were last there? Who else was there? Use all your senses to evoke your experience – sights, smells, sounds etc. Write in the present tense, as if you are there now. Afterwards, write a few sentences of feedback e.g. When I read this I notice…..When I read this I feel….. Now consider, is there anything about that special place that you can recreate right where you are now? Could you stand barefoot in a corner of your garden and imagine yourself there? Is it a place you can visit online?
- Hold out some hope: What does hope mean to you? List the people with whom you share hope. Write a letter to someone who gave you hope when you were down. Think about the things you hope for in the future. Write an 8 line list poem, beginning each line ‘I hope….’
Whatever you write, take care of yourself. Even if you write through your grief or anxiety, facing your most difficult thoughts, try to finish your writing with one positive thing, even if it is just one sentence, one thought or one small thing that is good in your life right now. Hold on to that hope, to that one small, good thing.