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Tracy Winchell

Global Polling Data Says You're Not Your Best You Right Now | Take One Step Toward Improvement Now

publishedabout 2 months ago
5 min read

Hi Reader,

Odds are, you're overwhelmed, unfocused, or anxious. If you're like me, you're all 3.

In 2021, people from around the globe responded to a 2020 Gallup poll indicating they were more worried, stressed, and sad than at any time since 2005. 87% of Americans report they are "emotionally overwhelmed and fatigued." (Harris Poll, 2022)

Too often we buy into unconscious myths about mental health and using journaling as a tool for improving focus, getting ourselves unstuck, and able to manage anxiety.

Last week we talked about 7 myths and points of friction that keep us from getting started with a consistent journaling practice.

Review Journaling Friction + myths Lesson 1

Armed with your response to last week's reflection question you're ready to embrace 4 truths about writing frameworks.

In case you missed the question: Which of these fallacies do you believe to be true for you?

In this week's lesson in our How to Root Out Friction & Build a Functional Journaling Practice. series, we will do a deep dive into the

Truth 1: Digital self-reflection is effective.

Truth 2: Any time of day beats not journaling at all.

Truth 3: Consistency beats perfection every single day.

Truth 4: Journaling about the same junk repeatedly can make things worse.

4 Truths About Journaling

Truth 1: Digital self-reflection is effective.

No doubt you have have read that handwriting increases retention, engages your mind, and a host of other benefits.

While I do not doubt the science, I do understand and appreciate that not all of us do well with a pen and a notebook for certain things.

In fact, I find that many Tools for Thought practitioners do journal by hand because it helps them break away from screens for a few moments each day.

The however is that digital writing for self-reflection has remarkable benefits not afforded to us by handwriting.

Digital Benefit 1: Write more accurately about your thoughts.

Keyboard entries get us much closer to the speed of our brain than writing by hand.

Our verbal stream of thought is so industrious that according to one study we internally talk to ourselves at a rate equivalent to speaking four thousand words per minute out loud. -Ethan Kross, Chatter

For perspective, giving a speech consisting of four thousand words would take more than an hour.

Digital Benefit 2: Reminding your today self about the person you want to become.

Digital journaling allows us to set up a system of self-evaluation.

Am I doing today the things that will get me to my best future self? Why, or why not?

This simple daily reflection reminds the only self (your present self) with the capacity to make a difference, and to track what gets you offtrack.

Digital Benefit 3: Search for insights worth their weight in gold.

I want...

I need...

I feel...

My Tools for Thought friends call searches like these, "Semantic Goldmines."

h/t to my Twitter people (@Jeanvaljean689) & (@elaptics).

Semantic searches reveal trends from our subconscious selves.

Align ambitions with today's choices.

Keeping a digital journal is the best method for keeping your today self marching toward the future self you want to become.

Truth 2: Any time of day beats not journaling at all.

All the "experts" tell you that morning journaling works best. In fact, some journaling coaches say you "must" journal in the mornings.

That's a load of hooey.

Too many people don't have the bandwidth for a morning reflection.

The reality of someone's schedule or how their brains work does not preclude someone from designing & practicing self-reflection!

Reflection questions at the end of today's lessons prepare you for a time that actually works for you.

Truth 3: Consistency beats perfection every single day.

When you are designing a new habit, you are really designing for consistency. And for that result, you'll find that simplicity is the key. Or as I like to teach my students: Simplicity changes behavior.
Tiny Habits, BJ Fogg

If you're someone who has heard about all the benefits of journaling and you know you "should" engage in written self-reflection, you may be beating yourself up for not journaling daily.

That's perfectionism yanking your chain.

Journaling isn't necessarily a daily activity.

3 to 4 days each week for 60 days rewired my brain so that I didn't start complaining as soon as I got to work. Instead, I started lifting people's spirits. So don't worry about perfection.

Here's a paradox: We're working under pressure to be more self-aware, but Perfection intercedes.

I think the inverse of this quote is true. Self-awareness can't stand perfectionism.

Keep in mind that perfection can't stand awareness
Finish, Jon Acuff

Truth 4: Journaling about the same junk repeatedly can make things worse.

Lots of people (including me) pick up a new journaling practice when we are enduring loss, facing a health crisis, or we are facing an uncertain future.

If you're like me, you quit writing because you're not feeling better and, in fact, you're feeling worse!

Decades of research tells us you're not alone.

We write about the same traumatic moment over and over. Our well-meaning friends ask for details when we tell them why we're emotional wrecks. In fact, we tell anyone who will listen to us what happened.

This is called rumination.

"Rumination involves reliving experiences and emotions that sufferers are trying to avoid. The more work people put into suppressing these thoughts, the more they return to consciousness. Does rumination cause depression or vice versa? The current thinking is that they go hand in hand and either can exacerbate the other."
Opening Up by Writing It Down Third Edition: How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain, James W. Pennebaker, Joshua M. Smyth

The good news is that, armed with a handful of bumper guards, we are capable of writing beyond cycle after cycle of rumination.

Instead, we write about how we felt or how we feel now.

"Coming to terms with emotional upheavals and even concerns about health problems will help people stop ruminating about their fears and problems."
Opening Up by Writing It Down, Third Edition: How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain, James W. Pennebaker, Joshua M. Smyth

Dr. James Pennebaker has performed years of remarkable research about the types of reflection that does not help, as well as how writing can help us make sense of our past. His methodology calls for writing sessions of 4 consecutive days and a minimum 20 minutes during each session.

If you're interested in the details, search for "Expressive Writing" & "James Pennebaker."

Should you be interested in giving this method a go, I recommend that you purchase Expressive Writing: Words that Heal. The entire first section of the book provides instruction for this methodology.

No-Guilt Habit Design

Next week you'll learn how habits work, according to behavioral scientist B.J. Fogg.

What I love most about Fogg’s teachings in Tiny Habits: The Small Habits That Change Everything, is that not only does he give us permission to experiment and have fun with our new habit designs, he deems it necessary to see building new habits as an experiment.

The following 3 questions will prepare you to act on next week's lesson.

Worst time of day to insert a new habit

Most reasonable time of day to insert a new habit

Journalers: How and when do I typically log a journal entry?

That's it for this week.

As always, I'll be delighted to hear your responses to this week's reflection questions.

--Tracy