Have you ever heard of The Artist’s Way? For me, the Julia Cameron book was pretty seminal in how I think and approach creativity. It’s a good one to check out, regardless of how “creative” you think you are, as it’s rich in helping you tune in with your inner self. However, The Artist’s Way also has some pretty specific must-dos in terms of how to maximize it’s efficacy. One of these non-negotiables is called “morning pages.” Morning pages are three handwritten pages every AM before you wake up. Doing so is supposed to awaken your creativity and help clarify your true thoughts and feelings. Morning pages can also help rid your mind of clutter, putting all your half-formed thoughts, resentments, to-do lists, worries, and fears on one paper. In theory, it’s awesome. I’ve tried it before. It’s amazing, when I get in the groove.
But it’s also hard.
Lately, morning pages just haven’t been a possibility in my life, especially juggling a two year old who wakes up early and a long to-do list of things that have to get done before we head out the door in the AM. But I still wanted to find that quiet, safe space of putting things down on paper. Here, four techniques that have worked for me, when you just don’t have time to journal.
Draw a Mandala
A mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as other world religions, representing the universe. The symbol still is used in religious ceremonies today, and is also found in art. The psychoanalyst Carl Jung used mandalas in his practice, postulating that drawing mandalas can help create a dialogue between your ego and your “true self.” Drawing a mandala—a circular shape with symbols—can be relaxing (even if you’re not an artist) and can help you clue into some things in your life that may not have words.
I love drawing mandalas! Sometimes I color them, but even if I have two minutes, drawing one can help me “see” my mind. For example, here’s one from December. I was stressed about the holidays, my schedule, and my to-do list and it shows. Look at how tightly I made my circles and how chaotic it looks? For me, drawing this was a clue I needed self care, stat.
2. A 5 Item Gratitude List
At the end of the day, write 5 things you’re thankful for. They can be large, they can be small, but they have to be something. Even in the worst day, you can find something you’re thankful for, and that attitude of gratitude can last you all day long. Again, the key is to keep it simple: Dogs. Netflix. Coffee. Chocolate. Music. Yoga backbends. Mine are literally things like this every day. But over time, they add up to something big.
For example, here’s my list from Monday.
1. White chocolate mocha
2. Strong shoulders in Downward Dog
3. Clean laundry
4. Oversize sweaters
5. Productive work day — checking off things on calendar
Before, Monday was “just” a Monday. Stressful, cold, annoying. But when you narrow it down to the positives, you see it may have been a pretty good day, too.
3. Photo a Day Journal
This is great if you’re visual. Just take a photo a day. If you like, you can build it on a private Instagram, meant only for you to look back on. This can be a great way to see what your mind’s eye is drawn to. Keeping it private can help you avoid the urge to put on a show or make it performative. It doesn’t need to be artsy, it only needs to speak to you. Notice patterns. Are you taking a lot of photos of trees? This could be a sign that it’s time to stretch past your roots and grow!
4. Makeup and Jewelry as Mood Journal
Your makeup and jewelry can provide insight into how you feel. If you have the ability to wear whatever you wish to work, get creative. Think of selecting your jewelry as a form of self-care, and wear what speaks to you. You may subconsciously pick pieces that can channel your mood and give voice to your subconscious, as well as choose pieces that may provide some much-needed psychic armor to shore yourself up from forces beyond your control. (Need more info? This article on crystals and how they can help ward off bad vibes is a great place to start!)
Bottom line: Documenting your day and touching base with your mood doesn’t need to be all-consuming, and can take all different sorts of forms. But try one! You may be surprised at what comes up—and how your life improves!
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