One of my favorites, Katie Dalebout from The Wellness Wonderland, is back again, this time to share her expertise on journaling. Check out below, as we talk legal pads, post-it notes and what she calls, "Stop, Drop and Journal."
AC: Please tell us about your story with journaling and about the book you’re working on.
KD: It all happened by accident, how most good things come. I was in college and going through something in my life that was challenging. I was healing in treatment from an eating disorder, graduating and trying to figure out what to do with my life. I had a lot on my mind. A coach and mentor told me to get a journal. I intuitively knew to just do that, and I got a journal, then she told me that would be a good idea, so that cemented it.
I started to write down my thoughts, and one particular journal had different colored pages. The first third of the journal was green, the next third was orange and the next third was red. I remember thinking, “I’m going to just let out all of the negative thoughts in my mind in the green part, and by the time I get to the middle, I’m going to be happy, and they’re all going to be positive thoughts.” The reality was that it was so cathartic to just write, and I allowed myself to write whatever was on my mind and really put all of that out there on the page without judgment. It was so cathartic that, by the time I got to the orange pages, I didn’t want to stop. Everything wasn’t butterflies and rainbows, because that’s not what journaling is. Journaling is getting out whatever’s there. Whether it’s happy, whether it’s joyful, whether it’s really dark, it doesn’t matter, because it’s real.
That is what’s so cathartic for me about the process of journaling. When I started to do that, I realized that I was able to be more authentic in my life because I was authentic with myself. I don’t know how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking unless I’m writing. It’s really been a practice for me to sift through the thoughts in my mind and get to the new thought forms that are under all of that. That’s how I started, and at the time, it would have been very helpful if I had had a guide. I just made one for myself by doing it, but I thought that there would be a need to fill with a book about journaling. Giving people prompts, giving people the information and explaining why it was so helpful for me.
I had tried to meditate, to clear my mind, but found I couldn’t really do that effectively until I first allowed those thoughts to come to the surface, and then I could try to change them or clear them or put an affirmation over them. You have to feel out your emotions before you can heal them. You can’t just go and heal them directly. We all feel happier when we’re being authentic, and if you can be authentic with yourself, even if it’s just with your journal that you share with no one, you’re more likely to be authentic in other areas of your life. It’s just like any other muscle. If you use it, it will get stronger.
That’s interesting that you brought up meditation. It does actually sound like meditation. You’re getting all that noise out so you can really be aware of underlying thoughts. This is like a nice little pre-meditation process.
It’s a pre-meditation process, a post meditation process, a during meditation process. I don’t sit on a meditation pillow without a journal nearby. You’re likely to get creative thought forms and ideas during that time and have thoughts and emotions come up that need to be felt, dealt with and healed. It all comes to the surface. You’re stirring the pot by not stimulating yourself with being around other people and electronics. While you’re stimulating your mind, other things aren’t going to come up. When you’re really alone with yourself, you’re going to feel a lot.
There were guided meditations I would listen to of voices guiding me to “Go to the top of the mountain and see yourself there,” and I remember pausing and thinking, “Wait, wait, I need to write that down.” I’m just not the person who can feel it, see it, move on. I have to write it down. It’s just the way that I synthesize information. I can’t really visualize it, but if I start writing about it, then I can see it in my mind. That’s been a powerful visualization tool for me as well.
There’s a lot of power in writing things down. When you put things down, you said it helps your visualization, it also helps to manifest things.
I think there’s something to be said for the permanence of writing something down. It’s beautiful, because it’s one thing to claim it in your mind that you want it, and it’s another thing to write it down. That really sends a signal to the universe. You feel this pressure to follow through on that, because you put it out there so then you’re immediately responsible for going to get it. And if you put it out in your mind that you want to do that, you’re not really that responsible to anyone, even yourself, because you could forget about it tomorrow.
When you write it down, you’re more likely to remember that, and even though you may not be claiming that to the world, you’re claiming it to yourself and to the universe. Manifestation is all a big trick to get you to go after your dream. If you actually claim that you want it, you’re going take action to have that unfold.
It’s interesting, also in the Feng Shui that I practice, anytime we do a Feng Shui adjustment, we reinforce with body, speech and mind. It’s letting the universe know energetically, in many ways. It’s like a ton of bricks on the universe saying, “This is what I really want.” When I had journals when I was young, I hated keeping them. I would always throw them away. What is your take on that?
A lot of people ask me about that because I’ve inadvertently become this "journaling expert." People come to me with all their journaling questions, and that’s the one that people ask me all the time. Do you go back and look at them? Do you get rid of them?
I think it doesn’t really matter. Whatever you want to do, whatever feels right for you. Often times for me, my best journaling is done on a legal pad that I just throw away when I get done, and then I do another one, because I write so much. I like to do morning pages every day, which is just feelings on the page first thing when you wake up. Sometimes it’s in Google Doc or sometimes it is a physical journal, whatever feels best for you. Sometimes I delete the file, sometimes I go back and look at it, but I don’t have a specific practice to that. Some people find it really powerful to get of rid of it. Feng Shui-wise, maybe it is really powerful to just get rid of those and not really hold on to them. I think it’s an individual thing.
I think that’s a great answer that you don’t have to keep it. You can do what you want with it. I go to Shambhala Center, and they do a Shambhala calligraphy or Shambhala art. It is like doing morning pages, but visual. I was holding onto them, and they were getting piled up. I talked to my meditation instructor, and he said, “No, just throw them away. You don’t want to have attachment to it.”
People gift me really beautiful journals or I’ll buy a really nice, expensive journal at Anthropologie, and I love those. Sometimes I’ll make those my gratitude journals, where every night before bed I write down 5 things that I’m grateful for. Those are ones that I don’t mind going back through and reading, “Oh, February 28, I was grateful for this, this and this, and today, I’m grateful for those same things and something completely different." It’s all positive things, so it’s okay to kind of go back and look at.
But I find some of my most expressive, cathartic, beautiful writing is on a legal pad or a post-it note or something in Google Drive that can just be impermanent. You can just put it out there and there’s more tomorrow. I think that is really an awesome practice.
Danielle LaPorte once said she never journals anymore. She only writes blog posts. She said, “Every time I write something, I end up sharing it in some way. I make it a teachable thing and put that out as a blog post, and sometimes they’re really great, sometimes they’re not but they’re real and it’s my feelings on the page." I have found that a lot of times, what I write does end up being a blog post or an Instagram post or an idea for something I want to write in the future. It’s very frequent that I’m writing something just destructive, but something that’s just very abstract, on a legal pad, and that ends up being something I want to share with a lot of people on my blog. There are two sides to that. They always say creation and destruction are very, very similar, or opposites I guess, but I think you kind of have to have that balance of both.
We grew up thinking journaling as a diary, that’s a book with a lock on it. The way that you look at journaling, what do you think are the benefits?
The number one benefit is clarity of mind. You can see how you’re feeling. You’re really creating space in your mind by skimming away the scum for the new thought form and creative ideas to enter. We have over 60,000 thoughts a day, and usually we think the same few thoughts on repeat. If you’re only thinking those few things, you’re never going to have new ideas or creative thoughts. That’s why, in the morning, it’s so powerful for me to just think “I had this weird dream. I’m really worried about this, but it’s going to be okay. I think I can do it."
I find a lot of times that my journaling will start very negative, but I’ll self-soothe and self-coach myself through, and by the end it’s very positive and uplifting and bright. It can go from dark to light on the page, where it’s more difficult to do that in your mind.
Is there a specific time of day that’s better or a specific place that you would recommend or that you like to personally journal at?
I think that it needs to work in someone’s life. Someone works the night shift, what works for me isn’t going to work for them. I think ideally, writing at least something when you first wake up in the morning is really powerful. It’s been proven to be really helpful for a lot of people. That being said, sometimes I’d have my greatest journaling sessions in the evening, right before drifting off to sleep, so any time of day really works well. I always carry a journal in my bag, so if I’m at a park or I want to just stop, drop and journal, I can do that. A lot of times after exercise or after yoga class or a walk, you’ll have that clarity of mind, and you might have really great ideas. That might be a really great time to stop, drop and journal.
I also keep a Google Doc folder of journal entries. I’ll write down whatever I feel during the day that I just need to write about. Sometimes I need to do that in the middle of the work day, so it’s usually done on my computer on Google Docs. That’s really cathartic. I think when you have an emotion that feels really strong and you need to feel it and figure out what it is, writing is a really great tool to do that. However, a lot of us don’t have the luxury, when that emotion comes upon us, to stop, drop and journal. I think there’s something to be said for giving yourself little prompts and saying, “I need to return to this.” Just giving yourself a bullet point of prompts, so when you do have time to journal, you have something to write about.
And what are 3 tips that you would give to readers that they can do now to start journaling?
The first one is, just start. There’s this great Yogi Bhajan quote, “When the time is on you, start and the pressure will be off.” There’s no recipe for this. Although I’m writing a book that will give you prompts and be your guide, you can guide yourself if you just start. Just get out a piece of paper and write something down. Just say something. Write down your thoughts.
The next thing would be to not judge yourself. If you judge what you’re writing down, you’re not journaling. Whatever comes out, it doesn’t matter. No one has to see it. As long as it’s honest and real, it’s perfect. You just have to be honest and authentic.
A good way to get started is to ask yourself a question, something that you’re wondering, something that you’re nervous about, something that you just need guidance on. Just the same way you would ask a friend or something you would want to ask a psychic.
That’s a good idea.
The kind of thing you would ask a Magic 8 ball, ask yourself. Then your intuition, will come forward on the page and reveal to you what you need to know. That’s a really, really powerful practice. You may start out thinking, “I have no idea,” but as you are writing, you’ll synthesize the information you do have, and it will transform all that information with what your higher self needs you to know, kind of like a meditation.
Perfect! I think I should start journaling now! I’ll get a legal pad. That’s a great idea, because it’s no pressure. You just throw it away.
Yes, exactly. I always throw them away, and they’re the most honest, the most authentic. I think there was some part of me when I was journaling in a really nice journal or even on my computer, that thought, “Oh, someone could see this,” so I wasn’t allowing myself to admit what I already knew to be true. If I had something I knew no one would see, or in my mind I felt wasn’t as visible, I could really get honest and real. When you can get that real with yourself, it really opens things up, and you’re just more clear about everything.
That’s really great. I think that’s a great way to clear out some of those repetitive thoughts.
It’s great before meditation. After meditation might be a time to write down your stuff or do your art right away. Just something creative, because you’re so open at that point!
Thank you so much! I’m really excited to have another interview with you!
by Anjie Cho