5 Reasons Why You Should Keep an Ugly Journal
I’ve been journaling on and off since I could write! My first journal had a psychedelic puppy on it and a locket and was filled up with barely legible and hilarious stories. I still have a giant box of my journals in my garage and little shelf in my room with recent years journals.
I want to talk about stream of consciousness journaling, or what I like to call it - Ugly Journaling.
It’s basically an approach to journaling where you brain dump absolutely everything and anything on to a blank piece of paper. You don’t filter yourself, you apply no censorship, you have no goals except to just write and see where it leads you.
I've found it so helpful to call it "ugly journaling" because it gives me permission to not try to be poetic or pretty, but just show up in a raw way - chicken scratch and all. Along with the practice of prayer I've talked about here, journaling has become a part of my daily routine I never like to miss.
Here are the reasons I have found ugly journaling so amazing:.
In one day, there are so many thoughts, so many tiny events and feelings that start to take up space in my mind. If I don’t take time to sift through all of the chatter, I will start feeling a general sense of anxiety and not really know where it’s coming from. Ugly journaling brings those things up and gives me an opportunity to work through them.
It also helps me understand the season I am. I believe God is always doing a specific work in our lives and journaling can be incredibly helpful to get a sense of what area He's growing me in, what goals I should set, and how I can show up the best way possible in this season.
Often when I’m journaling, I’ll find patterns of toxic thoughts. They pop up over and over again in my narrative and when I notice them, I can ask myself questions. This is a powerful practice I learned from Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book Switch on Your Brain and I talked about it a bit in my post on overcoming the cycle of insecurity.
Where is this thought coming from? Is the root of it even deeper? What would the healthiest version of me say about this thought? What does scripture say about this thought?
Once we've asked ourselves questions, we can write down the truth we want to replace the lie with and use it as a weapon every time that thought creeps up again. Sometimes I’ll even write it down on a sticky note and put it in places like the kitchen window above my sink or the visor of my car so I can get into the habit of speaking truth to the lies.
I feel like this benefit you wouldn’t really expect, but sifting through my thoughts on a daily basis like this frees up space to feel more at ease, less stressed by the noise, and more in control of my life. It's therapeutic and helpful to start the day with this clear heart/mind space.
There’s a strong connection between mindfulness and happiness and spending time to raise that inner awareness and emotional intelligence has brought me deeper peace, relaxation, and joy.
Journaling makes me more aware of my hopes and dreams, it helped me realize my values, what makes me happy, what grieves me and moves me to action, the skills and talents that give me energy.
It’s been said that the place where passion, skill, and purpose meet is your bliss. You might struggle with one of these areas more than the other, but for me, it’s the purpose I need reminding of often. Ugly journaling helps me see what that purpose is for me and helps me create goals that are in alignment with that.
When I write, I write it like a prayer. Like I’m talking to God about all of this stuff in my heart and mind. When I’m journaling and sifting through the contents of my heart with God, it deepens my relationship with Him. Realizing hurts, truths, purpose, spilling my guts in a way I wouldn’t do with anyone else, brings so much intimacy and connection.
Okay, so now that I’ve shared the reasons I find ugly journaling so helpful, I’ll share some practicals with you! Here’s how to get started:
1. Simple, empty notebook
The way I journal is very simple and straightforward. There are no fancy stickers or highlighters or any of that stuff - I don’t decompress that way. I’ll start thinking about making things pretty and making my words clever and it’ll get in the way. I also find it works best when I have a dedicated notebook and have other notebooks for my evening journaling, memory keeping, gratitude list, etc. Something about having that dedicated space makes me feel free to just write and not try to be cute. It's called ugly journaling for a reason!
2. Gel ink roller pens
You’re going to be writing a lot and it can be hard on the wrist and fingers so get a good pen that flows well and makes writing easier.
3. 15-30 minutes
Yes, this takes some time. Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way calls this journaling technique "morning pages" and recommends you write exactly three pages every morning. I like this three page rule, but there are definitely seasons where I have to shorten things up and do an abbreviated version. I still try to make room for a little ugly journaling session daily.
Check all of your performance at the door, you are here to brain dump. Do not judge what you’re writing, be kind to yourself and even curious about where your thoughts are leading you.
5. Time to sift
Take some time to sift through those thoughts at the end of your writing time. Are there any toxic thought patterns here? Any actions that need to be taken? Anything you can dive into prayer about? Any truth you can write down and put on some sticky notes? This is a fluid practice and it takes time to learn how to self reflect, we’re constantly growing. Don’t give up and know it’ll get easier and better as you go.
To recap, ugly journal is so helpful for Clarity, Growth, Relaxation, Purpose, and Connection. To get started journal you’ll need an Empty Notebook, Gel Roller Pens, 15-30 Minutes, the Right Mindset, & Time to Sift through it when you’re done.
I hope this has encouraged you to make ugly journaling a part of your daily routine and I hope you’re able to experience the benefits I have and feel freer, clearer, and happier than ever! If you like this post and want to stay tuned for more posts on daily habits, practices, and mindset shifts, consider subscribing to the blog! Happy journaling, friends!