Candace Aliké Smith — A Writer's Self Care Journal

“I’m going to make everything around me beautiful. That will be my life.”

Elsie de Wolfe

Journaling is my happy place.

I love the feeling of starting something new. I picked up a new journal at my local Barnes & Noble to track my progress with starting another stream of income. I wanted a black spiral journal that didn’t have any writing prompts or quotes. I loved this black and gold journal distributed by Fringe Studio, a stationery and gift brand based out of Culver City.  I wrote my first entry today.

I first started writing in journals over 20 years ago. I called it a diary then. It came naturally for me to sort out my thoughts on paper. I loved using journals to list my hopes and dreams and what I wanted to accomplish in school or sports. I’d write about my secret crushes or jot down what I wished would happen the next day in school. 

I don’t use journals to write full recaps of my day as I did when I was younger, but I do use them to track my progress toward goals or to air out any frustrations I’m experiencing. I use journals to extract the “good bits,” which keeps all the “bad stuff” in perspective. When my thoughts feel a bit too heavy, or I’m feeling stuck, I find it comforting to unload everything into the pages of my journal. I can say the things I want to say without fear or judgment. With journaling, I can tuck all of the day’s challenges away in a safe, private place. Sleep comes easier for me that way.

Journaling helps me prioritize my goals. It helps me turn big projects into small tasks. I write down a goal, turn it into a project, then break down that project into tasks that I can accomplish in an hour or two each day. This makes long-term goals achievable, even now that I am at the mercy of my 5-month-old’s schedule. Writing all of my goals down in one place helps me prioritize which goals will take longer, which require the help of other people, and which ones require the most energy (physical or mental). Committing my goals to paper helps me strategize a plan to achieve them. I keep one journal for mapping out all of my goals, and a separate journal or notebook for tracking progress for each.

Journaling keeps my brain space tidy. If I had to walk around with all the thoughts swirling around in my head, I would topple over. I keep a big “mind dump” journal for unloading anything about everything, and separate journals focused on specific topics, issues, or goals. 

Journaling gives me room to self-reflect. Yesterday I stumbled on a journal entry that I wrote 6 years and 5 months ago. In that entry, I listed all of the goals I hoped to accomplish and any potential roadblocks. I forgot I even wanted some of the things on the list, but I eventually accomplished all of the goals but one! I love being able to look back over my life and reflect on the thoughts that once pervaded my mind because many times my worries were in vain. With journaling, you begin to see that although our obstacles can sometimes look like mountains, we only ever have tiny hills to climb. But that’s the difference between starting from the bottom and being here! Thank you, Drake. 

Journaling is my favorite form of self-care. I use journals to regularly check in with myself. Journals help me assess how I’m doing physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, financially, vocationally, and interpersonally in real-time. Having this information in one place helps me measure the work I need to do, and helps me appreciate how much work I’ve already done.

Write Yourself Well

The only real rule when it comes to journaling is to actually do it. To reap the benefits of journaling, you should commit at least 10-15 minutes each day to writing down whatever you like. You can use journals to track health symptoms or emotional triggers, to track progress toward a specific goal, as a letter from yourself to yourself, or as a food log to get to the bottom of any sensitivities or allergies. If you are using journaling to mentally unpack a traumatic experience, you may need a professional to help you sort through it all. That’s okay. 

Some studies suggest journaling can help injuries heal faster or boost your immune system. Journaling will improve the way you communicate with yourself, which improves your ability to communicate with others. Give yourself permission to journal in a way that feels good. You can doodle in the margins, or just stick with words. You might benefit from nature journals, feelings journals, or vacation journals. Some enjoy writing from a daily prompt or using affirmations as inspiration. Journal in a way most nourishing to you, and try your best to work (write) through any self-critique you might experience. 

Journaling relieves my stress, fuels my creativity, keeps me grateful, and helps me make decisions. I can weigh the pros and cons of a situation and choose what’s in line with my values and goals. I use journals to reflect on my past in a nonjudgmental way to learn from previous missteps. Journaling helps me get to the root of the many fears and beliefs planted long, long ago by unqualified farmers. It helps me cultivate new flowers in my mind. 

Featured image by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

Candace founded this site in 2015 to help women of color reclaim their vitality. Follow Candace’s content on holistic beauty, mental wellness, herbs and essential oils, non-toxic products, healthy libations, wellness travel, and self-reflection. Green is her happy color.

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