Sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo is all about mindfulness, and journaling is a great way to get your thoughts in order.
You’ve heard you need to journal, but how often have you been left without a clue about what to journal about? Same. Thus, after much research and personal practice, I have compiled a 7 step guide to morning journaling – bringing you happiness, joy and presence in one swift swoop.
While the details are long, the journaling need not be – it can be smashed out in 5 minutes if necessary, however for best results, I recommend 10+ minutes.
I personally do this first thing after a 10 minute meditation, and my mornings have never been the same. And in case you were wondering, yes, this should be executed well before you check social media.
With respect to sleep, given that anxiety is one of the leading causes of sleeplessness, know this routine will reduce daily stresses, which then feeds into you getting your best night’s sleep too.
Enjoy guys – soon you’ll be loving mornings as much as I do.
Step 1: Check in with yourself – how am I feeling?
Before anything, check in with how you are. So often, we wake and it’s a flurry of thoughts: “Oh god, i’ve slept in / get up go go go gym time! / Ok, time to get my skates on. Kids need to be fed, beds made, work needs to be done”.
While these tasks are a priority sure, what’s more of a priority is YOU. How you are feeling is the number one thing you need to take care of daily – so start your morning by asking yourself the simple question: how am I today?
This sentiment of space, a reflection of self care and self nurturing, can help you feel heard and listened to, even if no one else is listening.
Step 2: Reflect on yesterday
Try writing down your:
After you’ve checked in, reflections from yesterday are key. James Clear, acclaimed author of bestselling book Atomic Habits, highlights that to keep us on track for success, we need to have space to reflect.
Without reflection space, how can we know if what we are doing is working? Is not working? How can we learn from our mistakes if we aren’t conscious of what we’ve been doing, and how effective it was?
Though it may be tempting to reflect on quantitative successes – e.g. I made X amount of calls / sales in my online biz – focus on the qualitative ones. Focus on how you were feeling. What made you feel great? What made you feel lousy? How can you course correct so you don’t repeat the same mistakes?
On a personal note, I’ve only recently introduced this to my morning journaling and it’s made a HUGE difference.
Step 3: Reflect on yesterday’s habits
Rather than reflect on your goals, reflect on your habits. Essentially, if you consistently execute your habits, you will reach your goals anyway, however by focusing on your daily habits it makes it actionable.
E.g. Rather than the goal: ‘be happy’, the habit may be ‘take 10 minutes of time for myself in the afternoon’. The goal is ambiguous, the habit is not.
This one takes a little bit to set up, but you’re probably doing half of the work already. Most of us have a value understanding of what our goals are – e.g. personal growth, health and fitness, intimate relationships, friends, family, career and financial. However, how many of us are aware how these goals translate into daily actionable steps, and further, are tracking our progress day after day?
This is something that I have only personally started recently and it’s, hand on heart, changed my life.
Not only does it keep me on track for achieving my goals, it makes me feel good during the process: each time I complete a habit, I get a star. Not only does the star give me a little dopamine hit, it also reminds me i’m on track for my long-term success.
Another cool thing I’ve introduced in my star chart is a reward system – should I amass a streak of 7, or have 21 stars in a 28 day period (which rounds down to 6/7 days for 4 weeks) I get a prize. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy – it may just be that I allow myself to outsource my cleaning, freeing me up to spend more time in the beautiful sunshine.
Step 4: Practice 3 gratitudes
Remembering that you don’t need to do anything, become anything or have anything more than you currently do to feel happy is a valuable lesson – and one I feel we all need to remind ourselves of daily.
I like focusing on the simple things that are within my locus of control: a great conversation, the sunrise, my cup of tea. By appreciating what is within my control, I don’t mind so much about the plethora of things outside of my control – e.g. lockdown and coronavirus.
Thus, irrespective of these circumstances, I remind myself I can still be happy – and I have evidence of it on a daily basis.
I credit my daily practice of gratitude for making me less anxious about whats to come, more present and content in the moment of now.
Step 5: Pick a top value
Focusing on the top value you are practicing reminds you of a very important fact: your primary purpose is not to achieve external goals (e.g. those on your habit chart), but rather, be in a positive state whilst doing those activities.
Anyone familiar with Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now would appreciate this sentiment.
It’s all well and good to achieve your goals and get your stars on your habit tracker, however, if you are miserable, anxious and stressed in the process, is it really worth it?
Are you prepared to sacrifice your mental wellbeing for the sake of earning a little more, or saying yes to one more project? Really? This should never be a question – you are more important, and as mentioned, that is a fact.
My top value recently has consistently been presence – and by writing it each morning, I’m more aware of when I’m being mindless, and then endeavour to rein it in. After all, I wouldn’t want to act out of alignment with my values.
Step 6: The affirmation I need to hear today
Affirmations are wonderful – but we don’t necessarily need to hear all of them each day. Further to that, it can be challenging to be happy, present, grateful – or whatever other top value you’ve picked, without a little support from the universe.
Thus, your affirmation gives you that little boost that you may need – in whatever sector of your life it appears. I personally have Louise Hay’s Power Thought cards, and draw upon them for inspiration.
Step 7: What’s one thing that will bring joy into my day today?
This one needs to be last, and for good reason.
While the above is all relevant, and yes, it’s important to track our habits and check in on ourselves, it’s also critical to know that at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to get by and live our best lives.
All we want is to be happy, and that’s what you’ll remember. Thus, reflect, analyse and work towards being your best, however, also be cognizant that if all else fails, do this one thing, and embrace the joy that comes with it.