Joyous Blog

How to start journaling: An interview with a journal PRO!

Apr 1, 2018 BY Joy McCarthy

Now that we officially have our joyous journals in the shop (WOOT!!), I thought it was only appropriate that I interview the journaling queen, Carol Dano -- our creative director and long-time friend/colleague at Joyous Health!

She's an avid "journaler" and after you read this whole post, I have a feeling you'll catch the bug too. Whether she's journaling about a bearded man crush or decompressing the day's events, journaling for Carol is all part of self-care. I hope you feel as inspired as I was after interviewing her to get out your pen and journal and start writing. 

Here goes, Q&A with Carol!


When did you start journaling?

I’ve been journaling since I was in elementary school. I was gifted one of those obnoxiously pink-glittery diaries with a heart-lock and key as a birthday present from my parents when I was around 6/7 and was completely enamoured by it that I wrote and doodled in it every day. It wasn’t deep, introspective writing. It progressed from doodles to what happened at school, what book I was reading, lusting over musicians/boy-bands (Mrs. Carol Wahlberg, wife of Donnie (NKOTB!)), and sometimes I’d pause halfway through the pages of my daily life and start writing bits and pieces of shorts stories. The teenage journals are another story…! Oh, man. Those were a weird couple of years full of angst, plaid, and weird eyebrows.


How often do you journal?

I play it by ear. Lately, I’ve been journaling weekly, but I’ve had moments where I’ve written daily, just before bed if I feel that I need to “brain dump.” I’m prone to over-thinking, and I have days where I’m over-analytical, so the act of writing — anything, just to get it out — let’s my mind be at rest. I sleep better. I feel happier. I feel lighter!

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You've been journaling many years, why do you keep at it? 

Journaling is the most accessible form of therapy that we have at our fingertips. It’s just you, the journal, the pen, and your thoughts. It’s a unique relationship. You make it your own. You can figuratively shut the world out and focus on yourself and let it all come out, without any judgement, and without feeling the guilt that selfishness often brings. There is no wrong. For me, the act of journaling is such a therapeutic way to work through emotions; both the good and whatever bad means. 

Journaling is the most accessible form of therapy that we have at our fingertips. It’s just you, the journal, the pen, and your thoughts. It’s a unique relationship.


What do you love about journaling?

Those who know me well know that I “feel things deeply,” and that I’m a typical introvert which lends me to be rather quiet — observing rather than speaking — so, journaling gives me the opportunity to be as loud as possible, take up all the space I need, and let’s me get all the weird, jumbled feelings out.


How did you make it a habit?

I’ve never not been writing. If not in a journal, then on paper later stuffed into a journal. Sometimes on a Post-it note. If I’m feeling particularly open, then an email (read: novel) sent to my bestie. The biggest chunk of journaling has been on-and-off the past 14 years, since the start of University to, well, now! I had gone through some major life changes. Starting with diving into design not knowing if it was the right decision, to traveling all on my own, to not wanting to come back, to the weirdest relationship in the universe ending, to moving out, to losing my grandmother (the woman who taught me the importance of French, and chocolate cake), to starting a business, to healing, to moving on (fiiiiinally, Carol!), to saying yes, to living in London… to… whatever’s next, I’m sure! Journaling became a habit because even though everything around me felt/was batshit crazy, it was (and is!) the only constant bit of sanity/self-care that I could give myself. I write with such fury, confidence and conviction that sometimes it feels like an out of body experience, if that makes sense!


What do you like to journal about?

Lately? Hahah No comment. Fine, fine. Maybe about a bearded man, or the “wondrous” world of dating — that’s the sarcasm talking. On a good day, I’ll usually work through whatever thought I have pop in my head. I’m coming up on my five years of being an entrepreneur (here’s to forever building a life based on my terms!), so I’ve been writing about goals and working through some doubts. 


How has journaling benefited you?

Besides what I’ve mentioned, one of the biggest perks about journaling for me is what comes out of my birthday ritual. On my birthday, I do a previous year-in-a-review. I take myself out. Coupled with sweet treats, and cups of tea, I write about everything from travel, relationships, health, family/friends, goals, mistakes, and patterns. Basically, anything that happened before turning forever-29 for the nth time, in more depth than usual. I take my time on this day. I write for longer, slower, and dig deeper. I use this day to see where I was, if anything changed, and where I want to go. I ask myself so many questions on this day. I look for new perspectives. I take a stab at writing about things I’m not yet comfortable about, and likely stop. I LAUGH AT MYSELF. I drink far too much tea. The year-in-review, along with these books, is the biggest confirmation of my personal growth, and to figuring out who and why I am.



Anything else you wanna share? 

I know how overwhelming and weird both an open journal with blank pages, and sitting with yourself can seem. But, quite frankly, it’s kind of fun. I remember telling an old friend ages ago (we’ve lost touch) that the only way that I could sleep was if I wrote beforehand. She laughed; said I was mental. She showed more resistance to journaling than I did. People are funny that way. My reply to her was “better out than in.” So that’s my motto. I’m going to be honest, the first couple of times you start writing, it’s going to feel weird. But, keep at it. Let it all out. Push your limits.


Do you have any tips for newbies?

If you’re not sure what to ask yourself to get started, try this! As the adage goes, ‘just start.’ Grab a journal, your favourite pen, make time for yourself (even five minutes), and document your life. We’re such a busy-bee, hyper-connected culture, that there’s no better reason and way to slow down, and disconnect than this. Throw yourself in it — you might be surprised where it takes you!

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Apr 1, 2018 BY Joy McCarthy
7 Comments
Patricia   •   April 3, 2018

I love the idea of the year in review on your birthday! I just started journaling recently and look forward to the challenge to keep me inspired!

Reply
Rachel Molenda   •   April 3, 2018

Such a good idea, isn't it Patricia? I want to adopt that practice too :) Looking forward to having you join the challenge! Rachel - Joyous Health Team

Carol D.   •   April 4, 2018

It's also a good reason to eat more cake ;)


Kaitlin J.   •   April 4, 2018

Hi Carol! I was wondering if you have any journal advice for me? I keep trying to start journalling, but end up stopping because I need it to be "perfect." I cannot seem to just write out my feelings, I spend too much time explaining to the context to really vent out how I feel. Thanks for your help/advice!

Reply
Carol D.   •   April 4, 2018

Hi Kaitlin! Sure thing! I’m not sure what the correct term is (or if there is one), but there’s a method of writing where you never release the pen from the page — you just start writing and don’t let go until you’re done. Starting off with context isn’t a bad idea, maybe your intuition likes that kind of structure where you need to explain. Every time you come to a certain point in writing where you feel ready, ask yourself a question like “how does this make me feel,” so that this prompts a shift in your thinking pattern from analytical to focus more on your emotions. The writing method of not releasing the pen could help you get into the flow. Practice daily. Let me know how it goes!


Nancy   •   April 17, 2018

This may sound rather strange, but I have kept a journal for many years but my fear is when I die who will read it. I will often re read my journals and find them therapeutic.

Reply
Rachel Molenda   •   April 17, 2018

Hey Nancy, That's totally understandable but we can't live in fear like that either. If it's serving you and benefiting you to journal and to re-read them, do that for you :) Rachel - Joyous Health Team


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