For the last 25 years, I have been telling people to write things down. I am not talking about shopping lists here. I am not even talking about listing your goals, dreams or objectives. I tell people to do that too, but that is not what I am talking about here either. Nor am I talking about To Do-lists, although they can come in very useful, I fully admit.
What I am talking about here is Journalling. Keeping a Diary. Writing Morning Pages. The sort of thing we encourage guests on our Equine-guided Personal Development and Meditation Retreats to do.
Writing things down as a coping strategy, a way to process trauma, a method to make sense of it all, to get to know yourself, to discover your life’s purpose if you do not know it already, or to discover the purpose of the second (or third or fourth) part of your life – as we so often need to do during midlife.
It is Christmas time. Christmastime is a great time to start journalling. Why?
- Journalling over Christmas time provides you with a memory bank about Christmas this year. Where you went, what you did, what you cooked for Christmas, who came to have dinner, who did not and why – but also how you felt about it all, which brings us to the second benefit :
- Journalling over Christmas time helps you cope with discord. Writing down feelings about certain members of your family, especially those you do not get on so well with, what they did last year and what you are worried they may do this year can help you see things from a new perspective. Journalling is great for problem solving – writing about it may reveal solutions to possible problems this year and insight into problems last year.
- Journalling over Christmas is a great way to keep Christmas stress manageable. Because Christmas IS stressful, ask any Christmas Eve (in France) or Christmas Day (In English speaking countries) host or hostess. Journalling can help you plan. Making a plan(s) and putting your plan on paper can reduce your stress levels dramatically.
- Journalling over Christmas can make you more confident that you will be able to handle whatever comes your way – once you have written down the problems you anticipate your brain will start working on possible solutions, getting them ready for you to write down next time you are journalling – which will enable you to enjoy yourself more because you will be feeling much more in control.
- If you journal over Christmas this year, it may be hugely helpful to you next year. You will be able to see how you managed (or just survived) frustrations and irritations this year and can suggest what you can do to manage better next year – even if it is only that you need to start shopping earlier. You will discover which recipes worked this year, which did not and how to improve them next year – and not only food recipes, but also recipes to avoid impending family disasters (in and out of the kitchen).
- Journalling over Christmas time is creative. If you have run out of ideas for Christmas, journalling can offer new options. Here I would like to mention blogging. Blogging ( for me ) is a form of journalling. Whereas standard journalling is a private practice, blogging is a public one. Obviously there are still certain things that one journals (or should journal) about in private, but blogging offers a platform for journalling that not only offers support and encouragement from one’s readers, but also a million and one ideas about everything under the sun. Especially over Christmas time. I have read blogposts about everything to do with Christmas this year : decorations for house and tree, traditional and innovative recipes, the fastest way to to clean one’s house before staying guests arrive (I liked that one!), coping with the in-laws, what present to buy for each and every hobby… – of course the temptation is to spend the whole day reading blogpots and then to not get anything done at all, never mind journalling !
- Journalling is a good way to nurture self-discipline. Committing to writing down one’s worries and feelings for 15-20 minutes a day, everyday, including the 24th and the 25th, is no small undertaking. Sticking to this sort of resolution during a very busy period not only increases your self-esteem but also makes you feel deeply satisfied. Consider it your « me »-time, your Christmas present to yourself, 15-20 minutes a day that you devote to your own well-being, in the midst of the Christmas whirlwind.
- One of the MOST important benefits of journalling for me is that it makes you mindful. Mindfulness is just the most fashionable thing to do at the moment, I know, but there is a reason for it. I have already written several articles about the benefits of mindfulness, and I will no doubt do so again. Mindfulness means you are 100% present in the moment and who wouldn’t want to be fully present over the Christmas period to be able to fully enjoy all it has to offer ? Sadly, we spent so much time stressing about it, that we are rarely truly present in the moment. We are often 5, 10 60 or more minutes in the future, at any given moment.
- Journalling can improve your communication skills. If you have decided there is something you have to say to your mother/sister/son/distant cousin when you see him/her this year, writing down what you want to say beforehand and getting it clear can be of great help in avoiding misunderstandings.
- Journalling can also be about celebrating : celebrating successes and achievements, rejoicing in the happiest moments – putting this down on paper is important. We so rarely take time to celebrate our successes, we usually already have our eye on the next thing that needs doing and immediately move on. Giving yourself a pat on the back from time to time is essential for your continued mental health. And if you journal about it this year, it will motivate and inspire you next year.
Today’s French Christmas Carol (or Chant de Noel) is Les Anges dans nos Campagnes, a very well known Christmas Carol. You will immediately recognise the tune. We are singing it for our Christmas Carol Concert this year, as part of a Christmas Medley, in English. Once again, it is sung by the Petit Chanteurs du Croix de Bois.
Do let me know your favourites, either in English or French, I’ll include them in this Advent Calendar.