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If you’ve been following me for a while then there’s no doubt you will have heard me talking about journaling at some point. It’s a tool I’ve been using since I was 13 and something that has helped me cope with mental health struggles and processing everyday emotions.
Whether it’s taking some time at the end of the day to process what’s happened by writing a few reflections, or reaching out when I’m overwhelmed and spilling my heart and soul onto page after page… it’s a necessity for me.
This means I have worked my way through a fair few journals! For most of 2020 I was sticking with an unstructured approach, using a plain notebook and just writing a few lines at the end of each day. But towards the end of the year I was very kindly gifted a ‘give yourself kindness’ journal from its creator, Rachel.
Encouraging you to identify the emotions you’ve felt that day, exploring them in a non-judgemental way and answering a couple of simple but thought-provoking prompts (which change periodically throughout), it was unlike any journal I’d tried before. I found myself having realisations and epiphanies I hadn’t had before – they clearly needed some gentle teasing from beneath the surface.
I was interested in hearing more from Rachel and what led her to create the journal, so I asked her a few questions.
Hi Rachel, can you start by telling us a little about your background and how you came to create the give yourself kindness journal?
I want to wave first of all to you all, with a smile. The person behind the wave is me, Rachel, a person who a few years ago was deep in a swirling cloud of destructive eating disorder behaviours, behaviours to mask my thoughts and emotions because at the time to feel those thoughts and emotions felt too painful.
I then – and I feel very lucky – received some amazing compassion focused therapy, therapy that introduced me to self-compassion, therapy that made me notice how I spoke to myself and taught me that if that voice was full of disgust then that wasn’t helpful to me or anyone around me. Therapy that made me question why I could easily speak to a friend with kindness but never considered speaking to myself in the same way.
Therapy that taught me it is normal to feel all types of emotions and that makes us human.
After a couple of years of powerful, challenging, painful yet full of warmth therapy work, I wanted to try journalling to support me. I found myself on the internet searching for a journal, sadly I really struggled, I felt angry at the many journals, described as wellbeing journals that had sections dominated by weight tracking, but on top of that I felt that in everything I found, self-compassion was missing.
The gratitude journals that simply had: ‘Three things I’m grateful for…1,2,3’ I thought didn’t support anyone, myself included, that maybe had days where they couldn’t think of anything, not because they are less grateful than others but because gratitude is an area in the brain to be nurtured and developed. I wanted more than lists and numbers which I think leads to pressure.
And from here my passion to create ‘give yourself kindness’ flowed like a wave, I put everything that I’d learnt into the give yourself kindness journal. I feel so bursting with excitement to share its messages and to reassure everyone that the way you speak to yourself matters, and that together we can spread kindness far and wide.
Can you give us a little insight into how you came up with the prompts within the journal?
I tried and tested a lot, on myself and everyone around me, and in that process the important things that always felt most helpful was to give reassurance, to eliminate pressure and the power of sharing self-compassion and kindness. I also read a lot and listened to lots of podcasts, ones like yours – which I love! (thank you Rachel!)
Why do you think so many of us find it difficult to be kind to ourselves?
I think from my experience I didn’t even recognise how mean I was talking to myself, and it took learning about self-compassion and thinking about if I would talk to a friend in the same ways I spoke to myself to think… no! I don’t know where it comes from but I think a lot of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves and expect ourselves to be perfect, but I want to share that being human means being imperfect and mistakes make us wonderfully human. Just imagine if everyone was perfect, which would make everyone the same and make us all robots without emotions – that sounds horrible!
Aside from journaling, what other tools do you recommend to support people in being more caring towards themselves?
I think everyone is different, but just finding something that for you gives your brain a bit of time to quieten. But I also know that this is super hard and it’s really important to remember that it’s impossible to stop all the thoughts buzzing around, so it’s ok if it’s just time to slightly quieten – this still brings the powerful effects of allowing yourself time to feel aware.
Saying this, for me, I love yoga and the grounding power, connection and energy it gives. I also love the soil! I have an allotment and I think the energy and life the soil holds in amazing. Nurturing it and feeling the energy the ground holds I think is so powerful and for me sometimes just being close to the soil feels like from somewhere I’m getting a big hug.
And finally do you have any tips for people who are struggling to make journaling a habit?
I want to say importantly that I completely understand that starting a new habit can feel hard, and I definitely don’t want to create the voice of “you should be doing this…” (I hate even typing the word “should”) but when it became a habit for me, I noticed how I felt later in the day, or the day after using it, and I noticed when I didn’t. I hope that the journal can be a journey building awareness and then that awareness helps you to know whether this journal is right for you.
I also want to give reassurance that a habit doesn’t have to be perfect (humans are imperfect) and there are some days that I don’t write in it and there are some days when I write at a different time of day, when I feel a particular challenge has come up or I feel overwhelmed by my emotions. I made a conscious decision to take out any week or day markers in the journal and I want the give yourself kindness journal to be something that can be used and picked up when it feels right for you.
Thank you so much Rachel for sharing this with us. When it comes to journaling I believe we all need different things and can benefit from different approaches. If you would like to do some work on the relationship you have with yourself and have space to explore what makes you, you – then I recommend trying the give yourself kindness journal. You can follow Rachel’s journey on Instagram too.
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