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The empowering potential of journaling

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Through journaling, we can understand and appreciate ourselves on a deeper level, find aspects of our being we can improve, ruminate on problems, work our way through decisions, feel genuine gratitude, heal, and manage and process complicated situations and feelings.

This summer I celebrated three exciting anniversaries: ten years as an educator, three years of marriage, and two years since I started journaling to empower myself. It might seem extremely silly to celebrate the day that I started journaling, but… that decision is the one that seriously changed my life.

2019 was the happiest season of my life because I’d defended my doctoral dissertation, graduated with my Ph.D., gotten married, embarked on an epic road trip honeymoon out west, moved three hours south in Iowa, and started a new job all in the span of about six months. Shortly after that, though, I started to feel extremely lost. For the first time in my, then, twenty-nine years, I was no longer a student. Even though I liked my job as a professor, it just wasn’t enough. I needed something more. So, I tried out a lot of various hobbies and part-time programs at our local community college, but nothing was really scratching that itch for more.

It quickly became apparent that I was stuck in a negative mindset. Unbeknownst to me, I’d been thinking this way for years. Whenever something didn’t go as planned, I’d think: well, that happened because you suck. So, I decided that I needed to do something about it, which is why I turned to personal development books and podcasts. As I learned more and more, I felt like the information and inspiration started to seep out of my ears. So, one day at the grocery store, I beelined back towards the school supplies section. After searching for a moment, I found what I’d been looking for: a journal. It was spiral bound with multi-coloured stripes on the cover and pages that felt just right. Excited, I placed it into the cart, knowing that I hadn’t just found the perfect journal, I had found a sacred space that I could dedicate to working on myself and keeping track of all I was learning.

After purchasing that initial journal to take notes in, my practice evolved to answering questions that podcasters or writers posed, which then evolved into asking my own questions and exploring my own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. My journal is a place where I track goals, dream of what I want my life to look like, generate ideas, work out problems, reflect, and process. Since I felt so strongly about the benefits and wanted to encourage others to do the same, I eventually turned to Instagram Stories where I’d simply take a time-lapse video of myself journaling and share what I was writing about. That prompted many women— like you— to reach out and admit, “I’d love to get into journaling, but I don’t know how to do it.”

That’s when it clicked. Somehow, I knew that I was gifted this period of confusion, frustration, and self-discovery so that I could empower myself, and in turn empower other women, to tap into the transformative beauty of journaling. By putting pen to paper several times a week for the last two years, I’ve come to believe— to my very core— that each of us has the power and potential within ourselves to grow and change the narrative of our lives. Of course, we might not always feel that power within us or even believe it’s there, but I promise you, it’s bubbling just beneath the surface, waiting to be realized and unleashed. Through journaling, I was able to heal my negative mindset and discover my life’s passion: to empower women how to write books.

That said, when I first started journaling, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t concerned that I was doing it wrong. Maybe you can connect to that because it’s another really popular— and totally relevant— question in my Instagram DMs: “Is there a right or wrong way to journal?”

One of the reasons this question might be on your mind is because there’s so much confusion and even anxiety that surrounds journaling; we’re not sure what it is or what happens when we journal. According to the IAJ, journaling is “the simple and profound act of capturing and understanding our lives through […] writing about our thoughts and feelings while gaining self-awareness and new discoveries along the way.” This means that when we decide to keep a journal, we’re committed to intentionally making meaning of our thoughts, feelings, and experiences. By doing so, we’re becoming even more conscious and knowledgeable of how we think and process the events and emotions in our daily lives to help us grow into the ever-changing best version of ourselves.

The IAJ also tells us that “you can use journal writing to get to know yourself better, to solve problems, make life decisions, improve your health, increase feelings of gratitude and joy […] heal from stressful life circumstances, to deal with grief and loss, or other life transitions.” Through journaling, we can understand and appreciate ourselves on a deeper level, find aspects of our being we can improve, ruminate on problems, work our way through decisions, feel genuine gratitude, heal, and manage and process complicated situations and feelings— you know, just to name a few. While I’ve most definitely used journaling for those things, I know that it’s also a way that we can preserve memories and experiences, generate ideas, celebrate wins, and track goals.

There are truly no bounds to what journaling can help us do. If it wasn’t for the combination of personal growth podcasts and books with journaling, I wouldn’t be who or where I am now— a woman who is always working on herself and through her own issues and a woman who is more intentional and self-aware as she cultivates a life that excites her. I’m so grateful to have discovered a whole new version of me that I had no idea could exist. And the best part is I’ve barely scratched the surface of all I want to do, all I want to be, and all that’s to come.

I want the same for you. Put pen to paper and explore your thoughts, feelings, gratitude, intentions, and goals.

Looking for more pieces on writing? Check out the power of therapeutic writing.

Author

  • Meghan Hurley-Powell is a nerdy and enthusiastic writer, podcaster, and publisher with a Ph.D. in English. She’s deeply passionate about women’s empowerment and personal growth. Born and raised in Minnesota lake country, she currently resides in Iowa with her husband, Roger, and boxer-mix puppy, Banner. When she’s not writing, she’s likely talking way too loud on the phone, reading a romance novel, or re-watching Gilmore Girls for the zillionth time. (If you want to connect, follow her on Instagram: @dr.meggymarie or check out her website: www.meggymarie.com).

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