Ahhh, January. Welcome back old friend.
As the cozy glitter of the holidays fade the reality of audition season, new goals, and deadlines begin to sink in.
You’ve worked hard the past year to get stronger, be more consistent, and maybe you’ve even had an in-person audition again!
But as your list of goals and resolutions add up it can all become a bit overwhelming.
Finding a work life balance can be challenging, especially as the landscapes of our industries continue to change post pandemic. And while this time of year is filled with the hope of new beginnings and inspiration to build better habits, the stress of balancing it all can start to clutter our minds.
That’s why finding a way to declutter and refocus our energy is incredibly important.
Now, if you’re anything like me, the first time you may have journaled was with one of those fuzzy journals from Claire’s with a fluff ball adorned gel pen.
And while writing about my crush on Justin Darlington was a lovely way to pass time, I eventually gave up the hobby.
But, from “The Artist’s Way” to the rise of wellness and gratitude journals, it’s clear that journaling can be an important tool of self care.
In fact, it’s scientifically proven to help people achieve their goals, reduce anxiety and depression, and even boost your immune system by encouraging better sleep!
Trust me, I am guilty of going to my local bookshop and selecting the *perfect* journal, committing to filling it with daily musings and journal entries only to have it sit on my shelves, half full years later.
So, how can we remain inspired to incorporate journaling into our self care routines sustainably?
First, we have to determine why we are journaling.
Are you hoping to set some goals?
Are you creating a food journal?
Are you starting a gratitude practice?
Maybe you’re trying to process some external stress you’re experiencing in your life.
It’s your journal! You get to decide!
The next question is, how often do you need to write?
The answer to this is simple. It’s up to you.
Studies have shown that you don’t have to journal everyday to experience its positive effects. If writing everyday feels like too big of a commitment, try once a week. If once a week isn’t enough, try twice a week.
The important thing is, like your workouts, you schedule it into your day so it becomes a priority. It doesn’t have to be long either. Dr. Pennebaker, a social psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, says that spending as little as 15-20 minutes writing can have great benefits.
“But Amber, what do I write about?”
I’m glad you asked.
I have seven prompts that I like to address when journaling. Somedays I pick one and focus on that, other days I write on a few.
There really is no right or wrong way to do this, so pick up your pen and your favorite journal and let’s get started.
What are your three biggest goals and what did you do today to be one step closer to them?
This is one of my favorite prompts when I am really zeroing in on my goals.
Not only does this hold me accountable to daily progress, but it also creates a log of my progress over time that I can look at when I am feeling discouraged. We love a way to encourage ourselves here at DWL and looking back at how far you come is definitely a great way to do that! This also offers you an opportunity to be very specific about your goals. You might find, through journaling your goals, that they change over time. Or, you might find that one goal has led you to another.
Either way, this is the space to be descriptive and specific about what you want and how you plan to achieve it.
What current habits do I have that are good, and what habits do I have that are no longer serving me?
There’s an old saying “Tell me how you spend your time, and I’ll tell you what you value.” This is a tough question to ask yourself, but as you respond to this prompt, take a moment to reflect on your day. What habits are you repeating daily that are moving you closer to your goals? What habits are you repeating that move you farther away?
Remember, goals come in all shapes and sizes; professional goals, relational goals, spiritual goals, physical goals, all of these come together to help you thrive!
Are you living in a way that reflects the person you want to be?
Here’s the thing, as dancers it’s really easy for us to be hyper critical of ourselves. I mean, what other job has you stand in front of a mirror for hours on end? But dancers are also very good at recognizing the excellence in others. So when you ask yourself this question, first, recognize the bits of yourself that you are proud of. Then, take a moment and- just like you are adjusting a passé line or an arabesque- write about the areas you want to adjust or improve upon. And you don’t have to stop there! Feel free to write about how you plan to make those adjustments and if you need help doing so.
In what areas do you need to show yourself more grace?
Here at DWL we talk a lot about goal crushing and planning for success, but we also talk a lot about the importance of being human. The reality is, perfection 100% of the time is not sustainable. But as Amber often says, “Imperfect action beats perfect inaction.” So, for this prompt, reflect on the parts of your day or week where you were frustrated with or hard on yourself and take the time to give yourself some encouragement in that area. Then, map out a way to be more gracious with yourself the next time it happens.
What negative feelings about myself do I need to let go of?
Understanding the negative feelings we have about ourselves is an imperative part of extending grace to ourselves and others. Taking the time to acknowledge our insecurities and where they may come from lessens the power those things have over us. By writing about them we create the space to examine where they stem from, how they are holding us back, and how we might overcome them.
What makes you feel whole and peaceful and how can you add more of that to your life?
As athletes we know how important rest and restoration are for seeing physical gains. Well, it should come as no surprise that the same is true for your mind! Take a moment and ask yourself, “When do I feel like the best version of myself?” “When do I feel alive?” “When do I feel whole?” You might be surprised by the answers. When you have those answers, write down some ways you can incorporate those things into your day to day life. Having a moment each day- no matter how big or small- where you feel at peace will only help you in your journey toward reaching your goals.
When do you feel like the best version of you?
This might feel similar to the last question, but it’s a little different. Instead of focusing on things you can add into your day to feel this way, take a moment and think about the times that you already feel like the best version of yourself.
In these moments we learn what we value most and where and how we’d like to spend our time. Once these things are in focus, it’s much easier to set goals that feel aligned with who you are.
There you have it, seven prompts to kick start your journal practice.
Choose one and stick with it each time, or, mix and match! Remember, there is no wrong way to do this. The important thing is to just write.
And hey, now that you don’t have to worry about what to write, all you have to do is begin.