I have kept a journal since I was a teenager, or diary as we used to call it in the 1980s! Diaries were what maiden aunts gifted their nieces and took the form of a pink flowery hardback book with a miniature lock and key. The message was clear, this is an activity for girls, and it should be kept secret.

 

Fast-forward to the emergence of the internet and journaling became more popular, and less gendered, via blogs. These are of course edited for a reading audience, but the sentiment remains, use them to work out your feelings, express your thoughts, and facilitate personal growth.

 

At the core of coaching is enhancing the client’s relationship with Self. Journaling can help, so regardless of what kind of coach you are, consider how keeping a journal can support you and your clients.

 

Choosing a Purpose

 

In Tristine Rainer’s book, The New Diary: how to use a journal for self-guidance and expanded creativity, the author divides diarising into four Natural Modes of Expression:

 

  1. Catharsis – expressing and releasing emotions. E.g., writing about an ex and letting it rip!
  2. Description – conveys the information taken in by all our senses. E.g., exploring a recent date
  3. Free-intuitive – the language of intuition. Involves centring yourself and allowing all thoughts to arrive
  4. Reflection – the contemplation of intellect. Involves giving space to stand back and look for patterns

 

Rainer encourages us to think about what the journal is for, and feel free to change tack. Perhaps it is personal, to slow down our thinking and uncover areas of our lives. Or maybe it is to leave a legacy to offspring. It could help with writing a book or articles. Maybe it is to document a special holiday or record your dreams. You may use it to write an unsent letter, write the dialogue of a conversation that should have happened, speak from your higher self, or play forwards hopes and dreams.

 

Using Several Books

 

I use journaling to process thoughts and feelings around romantic relationships, mainly for Catharsis and Reflection. I like to hand write in notebooks with striking covers, as this brings a reverence to my practice. You may want to use loose leaf paper, notes in a box, or write on a laptop or phone, choose the method that helps you commit to doing it. I also have a separate journal for lists, work musings and plans. And a third book that is an open-ended letter to my daughter, that she will find one day.

 

During Lockdown I wrote “Morning Pages” for twelve weeks. This is from Julia Cameron’s brilliant book, The Artist’s Way: a course in discovering and recovering your creative self. Morning Pages are three sides of loose-leaf pages, hand-written, that you write as soon as you get up (Free-Intuitive) and then destroy. They are a tool to creative recovery because they are non-judgemental, allow anything and everything to pour out uncensored. They encourage flow. I certainly reaped the benefits, producing half a memoir over that time too.

 

Eva Weaver is a writing, breathwork, and embodied sexuality coach, author, and host of Phoenix Nest Writing Retreats in the UK. She did “Morning Pages” every day for nineteen years and kept each entry, with piles of books stacked waist high around her office. She said some were boringly banal and included lists of things to do, and others were exquisitely poetic, creative, and spiritual. They helped her to ‘compost’:

 

“I am writing through difficult things: areas I feel stuck in, places I feel hurt, things I can’t easily work out. Usually by page three something has been cleared: either I found a solution, a different angle, I let off steam and something else can come in: new ideas, peace or even grace.”

 

After going through an emotionally challenging time Eva decided to burn some journals as an act of releasing the past. She now journals when she needs to process or clarify something, when wanting to generate a stream of consciousness, or to lift out ideas for a novel. You can find an interview with Eva about her journaling practice here: https://player.vimeo.com/video/153359994?h=abafd0f5a4

 

Mental Journaling

 

If writing is not your thing then you might want to try Mental Journaling, as practiced by holistic writing coach Marijeta Matijas. Marijeta is based in Croatia and describes herself as a visual and mental type of person, who thinks super-fast and doesn’t want writing or typing words to slow her thoughts down.

 

Mental Journaling is a dialogue with the higher self, listening to thoughts, observing emotions and sensations in your body. It requires focus, persistence, and dedication. Marijeta uses it when she has something to explore or resolve, feels stuck, or does not feel her true self. She finds a quiet place and sits with eyes closed. Marijeta identifies any loud thoughts running the show, and steps out of their way to simply observe them, using the analogy of thoughts being traffic.

 

After a while, she stops the thoughts. This clears the highway, and she can see the other side of the road, where often the actual issue is standing. Marijeta highlights that Fear can emerge in this process because you come face-to-face with the issue. She offers encouragement:

 

“Trust yourself, the issue is not bigger nor stronger than you. It’s a part of you, therefore you are in control. And if there is the will to resolve it and dedication that no matter what you’ll get to the bottom of it, the fear can’t stop you. You’ve got this!”

 

After this process, the next step is to start an honest, heart-to-heart conversation with your higher self, with God, with the angels, with whomever you trust to give you the most honest answer to your questions. Marijeta says she loves Mental Journaling with the angels.

 

“I start the process with a question regarding an issue I’m facing, a dilemma, a block. Then they give me a prompt. Sometimes it’s in the form of a question, other times it’s in the form of a statement. But every time it gives me a perspective I haven’t explored yet. That’s how I know I’m on the right track. From there, I simply start the process of a thought flow and I emerge into it. One by one windows open and the answer gets clearer and clearer.”

 

Even though Marijeta is a writer and an author, she finds Mental Journaling works best for her. She recommends those new to journaling first start with writing, and then progress to Mental Journaling techniques. She also suggests journaling via dictating and voice recording.

 

Good for You, Good for Business

 

Janine Kathleen Shapiro is a personal leadership coach based in South Africa and uses journaling as part of her practice. She finds it brings increased understanding to her business by using it to ask herself how she can help her clients. With her clients that use journaling, it helps them understand blocks, patterns, and cycles. Janine enjoys using Morning Pages to explore feelings and past events. Check out her masterclass on journaling here: https://youtu.be/EPbZ2SBExKw

 

Janine is keen to promote the value of journaling, she sees it as:

 

“An absolute magnificent tool of personal leadership. Whether it’s gratitude journaling, planning, expanding our soul, or discovering and releasing wounds.”

 

Marijeta uses journaling techniques with her clients who come to her wishing to write a book, and they find it enormously beneficial. Michelle Allen also puts journaling at the front of her coaching business. She is a writer, and business mindset coach based in the UK. Every morning she does one page of brags, one page of fears, and one page for reframing the fears. Having tried this method while attending her online Infinite Marketing Mindset course, I can attest to its value!

 

In James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits: an easy and proven way to build good habits and break old ones, the author talks about managers keeping a “Decision Journal”, in order to record major decisions they made that week, why they made them, and what they expect the outcome to be. Then they can review their choices at the end of the month or year, and assess what worked and where change is required.

 

Proceed with Caution

 

Coaches should remember that even if they are a big fan of journaling, it is not our place to push it onto our clients. Perhaps have a question in your Pre-Sessions Questionnaire that asks them to outline their wellness/mindfulness practices. Not only will they likely mention if journaling is an important part of their day, but they may also reveal that they do not do it enough, and you can explore this in your sessions.

 

Be mindful that writing may not be enjoyable for some people. It can come laden with psychological stories and negative associations. Further, individual differences around processing speeds and differing abilities may make journaling untenable. Asking a question about anything you need to know to help with creating an inclusive coaching container will help mitigate for this.

 

When I talk to my clients who want to start journaling, there are usually three main blocks. They do not know what to do, they think they will do it “wrong”, or they fear someone will read it. By breaking down each area I help clients bring in a wellness practice that could revolutionise how they view their world. We explore the best time, place, and method of journaling, and they create a fulfilling routine with the potential to generate a daily sense of achievement and a massive dose of self-care.

 

References

 

  1. Eva Weaver, Writing, Breathwork and Embodied Sexuality Coach: evaweaver.com @writing_fromthebody
  2. Michelle Allen, Business Mindset Coach infiniteupstart.com @infiniteupstart Michelle uses journaling methodology by Shannon Whaley www.shannonwhaley.com and Julia Wells www.juliacwells.com
  3. Marijeta Matijas, Holistic Coach, proof reading, editing, consulting: odrukopisadocitatelja.com @marijeta.matijas
  4. Janine Kathleen Shapiro, Personal Leadership Coach janinekathleen.com @janine_kathleen

 

Ali Hendry, Education Director (Europe)
Radiant Coaches Academy
https://alihendry.co.uk/coaching-page/

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