Journaling to just feel better

Journaling is more about one’s inner life than outer life but you can’t dismiss that our outer life has a lot of impact on our inner life. So when your life, in general, feels difficult, or just too busy, too stressed, too anything – journaling can help.

Today, I am feeling super gloomy. There is no particular reason. Perhaps a multitude of small reasons. I have also been having such a packed summer that I am quite worn out. Yet, there is still no time to just be because of prior commitments. So I turn to my journal. I pour out the words, feelings, sometimes irrational feelings but worth mentioning nonetheless. It’s better than keeping it all in, because if I keep it in, it churns around in my mind, exploding into a bigger thing. It’s better than constantly barraging people in your life with your moaning because really, there is enough gloom around.

So today, I am journaling, just to feel better. There doesn’t have to be anything worthwhile written in there. There doesn’t have to be a stroke of brilliance or great writing skill. It’s not poetry. It’s not literature. It just is. It reflects my mood today, what’s on my mind, and it makes me feel better as I get those words out. 

Your journal can do that for you. It can’t fix everything. It can’t offer you a permanent solution for all your problems. But it can sometimes bring that temporary relief. And sometimes that’s enough to just get you going. 

It’s important to value our feelings. To acknowledge how we feel. Our society is so used to giving the standard answer “I’m fine” that we start doing it even to ourselves. We tell ourselves we are fine. Except that we are not. Lying about how fine we are, only leads to bitterness, which actually makes you less appreciative of the good things you do have. So instead, acknowledge that some days you are not fine. Some days you are just angry, hurt, sad, bitchy, gloomy etc. And get those feelings out. Process them. Give them room to make themselves known in the privacy of your journal, which is your safe space. By doing that, you may also just get to know yourself a bit better. 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Pick up that pen, get your journal, and write your heart out. 

 

Sometimes you need a break…and it’s okay.

 

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Have you ever felt like simply not doing something even though you wanted to? Have you felt lack of motivation, or lack of ideas, or lack of energy? Have you decided at times that you can’t be bothered?

You are not alone. It happens to all of us, and for the most part, it’s okay. Sometimes you just need a break.

It’s been a while since I wrote here. At least couple of times a week I thought about writing a new article here. It wasn’t the shortage of ideas. It wasn’t the shortage of belief in the power of journaling. But for some reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to write anything here. I felt I was being lazy, not good to my readers, that maybe I had nothing left to offer. But at the same time, I knew it wasn’t true because I’ve tons of drafts and ideas, and I am still going on about journaling to anyone who would listen.

I still journal, still see the benefits of it and still miss it when I haven’t done it for a while. But something wasn’t right.

I felt that there were too many things on my must-do list. Too many things I was trying to achieve at the same time. That is probably never going to change, but from time to time, you just have to take a step back and reassess your priorities. That’s what happened to the blog. There were too many admin issues going on that were taking up my time and energy, so I decided to shut down Kaizen Reading. I decided that I didn’t need to have a separate blog about reading and its advantages and that I could consolidate it with my writer blog at dollygarland.com. But journaling still needed to be expressed. This helps people. This brings us journalers together. And besides, Kaizen Journaling means way too much to me, and I’ve put so much effort into this, that I knew I couldn’t stop doing it. But a break – even unplanned one – was okay.

Because sometimes, you just can’t be bothered to do something. I didn’t want to force this. This is what I love. Yes, sometimes when you lovely people buy my courses or books, it earns me a little money – but for the most part, this is a labour of love. And I want it to continue to be so.

It was good to have the break, to get some perspective, and to decide how I see Kaizen Journaling now and in future. Because talking about journaling here is kind of like my own journaling. Sometimes, I may take a break but I will always come back.

I hope you give yourself a chance to have a break when you need it too. Even if what you need a break from is important to you.

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Decide if you need to take a break from something to gain some perspective. Or journal if you have taken a break, and how did that work out for you?

 

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas

Hello Kaizen Warriors,

I hope you are all doing well. For me, this year has just flown by, and it feels like it has been full of challenges – more than usual. Journaling, therefore, has often been an immensely valuable practice. The only thing to clear my mind. I hope you are journaling too, whatever your reasons, and finding value in it. I know this year, posts have been infrequent. My apologies. Next year, I hope to get back to some semblance of normalcy. I hope. 

But my notebooks are still being filled. Hundreds of pages. Keep filling your pages too. Whether it’s to record your life, to clear your mind, or to find your way out of a jumble…all of that is available with a pen and a notebook. 

I wish all of you the best during this holiday season, and for the new year. 

Thank you for being here. 

Happy Christmas,

Dolly. 

 

Handwriting evolution in my journals

Handwriting is an incredible thing. So much of an individual’s personality is infused in it. If you are a regular reader of Kaizen Journaling, you know that I am a big advocate of handwritten journaling. Recently, I was talking to a friend who also journals and we were talking about handwriting and how it’s evolved over time. 

So out of curiosity, I dug out my first journal. I started journaling in 2000, but my first journal lasted a while. 

The first picture is from September 1, 2002.
The second picture is from September 11, 2017.

I found the evolution of my handwriting interesting. The fact that it has kept its neatness, but it is distinctly different. I seemed to have shaded all the flourish and go for far more straight-up efficiency now. And probably gotten stingier with old age, as my handwriting is far smaller :-D

How about you? How has your journaling changed over time? 

 

How to take emotional inventory in 7 Days

How often do you react in a certain way and then regret it?

How often do you say things in annoyance or anger and then wish you hadn’t? 

Perhaps you don’t even realise it. Perhaps you think it’s perfectly fine to be often annoyed, irritated, or angry. Now think about it – is that really how you want to spend a large part of your day?

Our emotions, our actions, and our emotions tend to be cyclical. If you feel annoyed, you act annoyed. The fact that you act annoyed, actually just feeds that annoyance, making you feel even more annoyed. Instead, if you choose to smile, choose to surround yourself with positive things that make you happy, then the chances of you feeling better are much higher. 

However, most people like to hold onto their annoyance. When they are feeling negative emotions, they don’t want to replace them with positive emotions. 

Most people claim that it’s because they are upset and so cannot feel happy. 

However, exactly the opposite is true. You cannot feel happy because you choose to hold onto your negative feelings. 

I’m not saying that it’s a blanket solution, or that you can be perpetually happy. However, most of the time, at least for day to day small irritations you have a choice of whether to let them get to you or not. It’s easy to let them get to you. It takes some effort, at least in the beginning, to not let them get to you. But the effort is definitely worth it. 

So if you want to start filling your days with a generally positive vibe, then this exercise will be of use. 

Take your emotional inventory

Over a week write down all emotions you feel

Make two columns: Negative emotions and Positive emotions. 

Keep that with you. And throughout the day, whenever you feel one emotion or other, write it down. It doesn’t have to be a long entry, a paragraph, or even a sentence. Just jot brief notes that will remind you of your emotion. 

For example, a man on the train joked = funny / a man pushed me rudely on the train = annoyed 

Just keep a log for a whole week. From the time you wake up until you go to bed.

The following week, have a look at those collected notes: 

What do they tell you? Do they show you a pattern? Do they tell a story of how emotions control your day? Are some days more positive than others? Why? Do you tend to be more positive or more negative? What are your thoughts on this? What can you change? What can you do differently? What can you do more of? 

 

Where does your motivation come from?

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Recently, I seem to be surrounded by personal challenges. But I also come across many people who are surrounded by their own challenges. Conversations with them, listening to or reading various personal development material, either confirms what you know or gives you insight into how different minds work.

However, one thing is certain – the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. When you are motivated by things outside of yourself, it’s much harder to face challenges. Whereas if your motivation comes from within you, then no matter how hard the road, you can continue on the path, looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. 

So what does it mean?

Extrinsic motivation comes from outside you. For example, when you want to lose weight because of how other people may perceive you. Or when you pick a career you hate, just because it pays good money. It could be things like signing up to do something because of peer pressure, or because you think you should. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be good at those things. Many people are. But it will almost certainly mean that you won’t be content doing those things, and when they become difficult, it will be much harder to rise to the challenges with a positive attitude, because you didn’t really want those things in the first place.

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is what drives you, regardless of results. I write, for example, because I must. Sure, I hope that I can make a career out of it, but even when it doesn’t earn me anything, I write. When you exercise, because you want to feel good from the inside, because you want to feel the vitality and health pulsing through you, that’s intrinsic. When you strive on to save a marriage, be there for your kids, or your friends because you value those relationships, that is inner motivation. When we are driven by intrinsic motivation, while the road isn’t any easier, it’s certainly more bearable. Because you know why you are doing what you are doing. You know why you are putting in the effort or waiting for the right time. You know why whatever pain you are going through may be worth it. Intrinsic motivation makes the struggle less gloomy. 

As I’ve been going through challenges, often feeling very down, stressing out enough that it gave me a bit of insomnia, I never lost sight of it being the right thing. I had to go through this phase, in order to grow. I had to face challenges so that I would be out of the rut I was in. And I had to rise to these challenges so that I can take that one more step towards fulfilling my potential. Because our potential isn’t finite either. It can grow or shrink to accommodate our ambitions and drive. Intrinsic motivation can be that all-important glimmer of hope. When nothing seems to work, that’s what you can hold on to. You can keep telling yourself, to keep moving, one step at a time, because you know you are moving in the right direction. It may work, or it may not, but the journey – when fueled by the right motivation – will give its own rewards. You learn and you grow, and when you come out on the other side, your potential will have grown that little bit more.

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY: 

For whatever challenges you are facing now, think about how you are dealing with them? Are you motivated to deal with them because of extrinsic or intrinsic motivation? What drives you? What is your light at the end of the tunnel? Let that sustain you with a positive outlook.

 

London to Brighton 2017, 100km (62.5 Miles) – pushing beyond your limits

As some of you may be aware I recently completed London to Brighton 100km challenge. About 2200 people were participating in this challenge. 500 of them were running/jogging it. Some were doing it over 2 days, but I – like many others – was doing it in one go. 100km walk/hike from London to Brighton.

It began on May 27, at 7 am, in Richmond Deer Park. I’d stayed over at my friend’s place close to Richmond since I live at the opposite end of the city. Slept badly the night before, and realized after talking to my teammates that I wasn’t the only one. Perhaps it’s the pre-challenge nerves. Even though I wasn’t really nervous. But the good night’s rest was not to be had. Still, I arrived bright and early at 6ish.

It was exciting. When you are surrounded by an event atmosphere, flags and banners, other participants, and the sheer energy of such a challenge, you get excited. Adrenaline starts pumping in. I was in high spirits. I was ready.

Why I Picked Action Challenge

I am a research person. So as soon I decided, in 2016, that I was going to do a 100km walk next year, I started researching it. Action Challenge was by far the best company. I wanted it organised, safe, and as convenient as possible. I paid good money to do this, and it was worth every penny.

The Naysayers: it is madness! Don’t do it.

As close as the week before the challenge, the naysayers were still going on about how I shouldn’t do this. The naysayers included everyone from strangers and casual acquaintances to close family. People said things like:

  • It’s crazy. Don’t do it.
  • You will injure yourself.
  • You haven’t trained your body from a young age. You can’t do this at your age. (I’m 34 BTW. Not exactly in my dotage)
  • You don’t need to be thin. You aren’t a super model. (This from presumption that I was doing this to lose weight)

There were several variations of this. They went on for months. I was always mindful of safety. I had no desire to do something stupid, or cause permanent damage. However, I also knew – having done proper research – that every year, thousands of people of all ages, including people much much older than me – do this and equivalent challenge. So if they can do it, why can’t I? I told the naysayers who were close to me (i.e. family) that don’t worry if it’s too much, I can just quit. Of course, I had no intention of quitting.

The Training

My intention, when I signed up in 2016 had been to train months in advance. That plan went awry when I got a shin split from running and had to rest. So I didn’t actually start training properly until March 2017. Two months of training. That’s not a lot. But then I tried to put in as much walking as possible. Weekends, I devoted to hikes as much as possible with the rest of the life still going on. As April drew, my aim was to do longer and longer hikes.

However, the longest I managed was 21 miles. Not even half of the challenge length. But I was reasonably fit, having done regular exercise up until December 2016 when I got the shin splint. And walking daily, even if it wasn’t long distance, had also made sure that I wasn’t unfit.

The Challenge

So on a beautiful, sunny morning, we started off. My teammates and I – the Ninja Walkers – were in good spirits. At 7 am it already felt warm, and we were hoping it wouldn’t be too hot. While we were still in Richmond, it rained and cooled the air. The first half of the challenge was beautiful and enjoyable. Daylight made it possible to enjoy our surroundings.

We arrived at the 50km mark, at exactly 7 pm. Precisely 12 hours after we started.

Then began the harder part of the journey. As the night fell, there were no beautiful surrounding to distract us. The weather got cooler. My feet were tired. But I focused on getting from one rest point to another. That was it. Just another stop to get to. I had never realised until that night how long a kilometre can feel.

At 67km one of my teammates had to drop out due to horrible blisters. She’d done amazingly well, continuing despite multiple blisters on both feet. But it just got too much. So the three of us carried on.

The night walk was paced by a marshal to ensure safety. We had to walk through the woods, with only head torch providing light, and glow-sticks placed at regular intervals. For a city girl, it was a bit scary. The first part of the night walk, ending at 67km, finished faster than I’d expected because of the relatively fast pace of the marshal.

The second part was harder. I was feeling fatigued. At one point, I even took a wrong turn and had gone only about 10 feet when I was saved by someone spotting me, and my teammate (who was equally fatigued) then hearing that person, called my name. That would have been a disaster, resulting in either in me having to call for rescue after getting lost in the woods, or walking extra and eventually finding my way back.

At 80km, another teammate had to drop out due to feeling really ill.

So for the last 20km, it was just the two of us. My remaining teammate had developed a blister on the bottom of his foot, and I had intense pain in my left foot, which I later realised was from a bruised bone. We hobbled along. Not necessarily together, but not far apart. One of the things we realised is that when you are that tired, you just have to walk at your pace. Trying to keep the same pace as another person, whether faster or slower, is much harder and more tiring.

So both of us plodded along, usually only a few minutes apart.

I was in the lead getting to the end. As I passed kilometre signs, I wanted to stop the pain, to get there, but I was also always happy to be there. I had never imagined, until I started my fitness journey, that I would be able to do anything like this. It was exhilarating even while it was painful. 

The End 

Then I saw Brighton racecourse from the distance. Flags lined up to welcome the finishers. I moved, at times speeding up. Then eventually, I was there. Crossing the finish line. Lovely supporters cheered me on as I crossed the finish line. Someone draped a medal around my neck, another person handed me a glass of champagne, and someone else gave me a t-shirt. 

I’d done it. I had completed 100km London to Brighton. And the foremost thought on my mind was: next year, I am going to do another 100km.

I spent the next week hobbling, because of the bruised bone on my left foot. But the feeling of achievement, of knowing I’d pushed my physical and mental limits is there to stay. And that makes me wonder, what else can I do that I never thought possible?

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY

How would you like to challenge yourself? Is there something that you’ve wished you can do, but don’t believe you can? Grab your journal, and figure out what’s stopping you. Perhaps it’s not as impossible as you think. 

 

Journaling exercise: challenging your mindset in challenging times

I’ve been facing some personal challenges recently. Unexpected twists and turns that threw all my plans aside, forced me to shift priorities, and focus on things that I didn’t want to focus. That’s also one of the reasons why I haven’t been able to post here regularly, though that will hopefully change. I miss interacting with you guys, but also more importantly, regardless of what else is happening, I want to keep giving you journaling goodness, and inspiring your journaling journeys. 

Forced change is never pleasant, but it is what it is, and has to be dealt with accordingly. So today’s exercise reflects that: 

In your journal, answer this question: 

When was the last time you were forced into an unexpected, unwanted situation? What was it? What was your initial reaction? What did you then do to resolve it? How did you feel afterwards?

Do you believe now that whatever happened, happened for the best? Do you believe in that positive outlook that everything eventually turns out for the best? 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Do the above journaling exercise. Be honest with yourself. About your reactions to the situation, and about how you felt. Don’t sugarcoat anything.

 

Questioning one’s beliefs

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I like intelligent people. I like intelligent conversations. I dread being around boring people. I’ve always thought that I would prefer talking to an intelligent asshole, rather than boring nice people. But lately, I’ve come to realize that it’s not as black and white as I thought.

Here’s the thing – niceness is underrated. We don’t actually realize how pleasant it is to be around nice people until we come across people who are really unpleasant to be around.

Of course, like anything, it’s a spectrum. We can go from Sainthood to Absolutely Evil, and everything in-between. Most of us would fall in somewhere in-between. Most of us are also different, depending on where we are, who we are talking to, and what we are doing. What I’ve always preferred about intelligence is intellectual stimulation. You can have a fun conversation that engages your mind. Sense of humour can be sharp and subtle. You don’t need to dumb it down. It engages your brain. It touches, responds to, and engages your own intelligence.

But…

Niceness or lack thereof touches, responds to and engages your heart. And that’s where my realization comes in. When someone is incredibly selfish, or incredibly unpleasant, or just an asshole, it creates an emotional response in us. We can see all of their strengths, capabilities, and even admire them, but those are diminished because we don’t want to be around them. Because they don’t make us feel good about ourselves. They create negative emotions such as anger, sadness, disappointment, frustration.

Nice people, on the other hand, create positive emotions, such as joy, warmth, encouragement, faith in humanity. Emotions that make us want to be with them. That makes us like the idea of being with people.

I’m not implying that intelligence has ceased to matter, but rather than I find more and more as I grow older that there are less black and white things. I can see different sides of things than I did when I was younger. Some things still remain absolutes. Some moral codes, for example, should never be transgressed upon. But overall, I believe that what really one needs is a constant reflection and assessment of one’s beliefs. If they stand the test of time, all the good. But if they don’t, then it’s time for a change.

 

Journaling exercise: dissecting your nearest and dearest

Well if that title caught your attention, I don’t know what that says about you :-) But in this exercise, we are going to dissect people closest to you.
Not literally. 
Just on the page. 
Who are the 5 people closest to you? 
Why?
What makes them closest? 
Why do you trust them?
Why do respect them?
Why do you love them? If you do?
Is there a pecking order among these five people? Be honest if there is. You don’t need to feel bad or guilty about it. 
The purpose of this exercise is to understand those closest to you, and by doing so, you understand more about your self.