Heal Yourself Using Journaling Power, with Mari L. McCarthy

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Scientists confirm that journaling impacts our physical health in tangible, even quantifiable ways. Our conversation with author Mari L. McCarthy demonstrates the powerful benefits of expressive writing.

Mari is the Founder and Chief Empowerment Officer of CreateWriteNow.com. She is the multi award-winning author of Journaling Power: How To Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want To Live and Heal Your Self With Journaling Power. She is also the creator of 20+ life-changing Journaling Power eWorkbooks such as Start Changing Your Life, Love Your Body and Take Control of Your Health.

Mari’s work is an inspiration. It was a privilege to talk with her about the ways journaling helps us make peace with our bodies. To learn more, read below to see highlights from our conversation, or listen to our interview on The Power of Journaling.

Before we begin, please note, Journaling.com does not provide medical advice. This conversation is for informational purposes only, and as always, we advise talking with your healthcare provider before making changes to any wellness routine.

Mari’s Story
Mari’s story is personal. Her sensitive approach to the work she does mentoring and empowering people with chronic conditions comes from her experience living with multiple sclerosis.

By the winter of ‘98, Mari had been living with an MS diagnosis for eight years. She knew her body and her symptoms well at that point, so when she woke up with lost feeling on her right side, she paid attention. This symptom, Mari realized, marked a change in her physical health.

Mari intuited that this symptom would not subside in a few weeks, and she was right. The only palatable choice was to adapt.  

“I realized I needed to teach myself to write with my left hand in order to keep working,” she explains. Undaunted, Mari spoke with a woman who referred her to Julia Cameron’s revolutionary book, The Artists Way. It was there she discovered Morning Pages.

Cameron describes Morning Pages, a widely popular journaling technique, as “writing three pages of longhand stream of consciousness first thing in the morning.”  Morning Pages bring ideas and concerns to the surface of our minds. The act of writing this way helps us to prioritize thoughts we want to invest energy into and puts unproductive fears and worries into perspective.

Each morning, Mari endeavored to write Morning Pages using her left hand. With a sense of irony, she acknowledges, “I started journaling for physical therapy purposes only.” But quickly she started to note the cadence and rhythm of her words, and she began writing poetry for the first time.

Forgotten memories started turning up on the pages of Mari’s journal. One startling discovery was the recollection that she’d been left-handed as a child. When she entered school, she’d been instructed to use only her right hand. Her mother confirmed this memory was true.  

As Mari made more discoveries, she saw journaling as a tool to unlock emotions. She felt it helping her achieve wellness and clarity as well. Mari has been an avid journaler since.

Journaling Opens Communication Lines
In her work supporting clients with a wide range of illnesses, Mari observes that many people do not enjoy a positive relationship with their bodies. She notes that many of us carry thoughts and experiences from childhood that have been internalized and are stuck inside.

Through journaling, new communication lines are established between our brains and our bodies. We become able to converse with our bodies in new ways as we cultivate language that shines a light on how we feel at a physical level.

As this communication grows in depth and precision, we feel our relationship with our bodies strengthen in positive ways.

Cultivate a Peaceful Relationship With Your Body
Mari invites us to use journaling to help connect and communicate with our bodies in a voice that is kind, forgiving, and compassionate. She explains that journaling everyday helps us to see when we aren’t treating ourselves with care.

The following tips from Mari will help foster connectedness and relationship with your physical self.

  • Dialogue with your body. Ask how it’s feeling today and listen carefully to its response.

  • Approach your body in the spirit of teamwork. Many of us have an adversarial relationship with our bodies. Be mindful of meeting your body with curiosity instead of judgment.

  • Write your heart out. It’s okay to rant and rave. Get the garbage out. Give yourself permission to purge. This brave act will decrease stress and facilitate meaningful processing of thoughts and emotions.

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Action steps

Mari acknowledges it’s initially difficult to sit down and dialogue with one’s body. It might feel silly at first, and you might feel anger and lack the compassion you aim to achieve. But she assures us that with time we will get there. Developing relationships, even with ourselves, is a slow, deep process. Be gentle with yourself!

If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also want to read about our conversation with Leia Francisco in which she talks about writing  through challenging life transitions. https://journaling.com/articles/write-your-way-through-challenging-life-transitions-with-leia-francisco/

Fun Ways to Combine Art and Journaling, with Caylee Grey

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My conversation with artist and journaler Caylee Grey is a reminder that the best way to journal is to use whichever tools work best for you. Some of us are most at ease with words. Others feel best with a paintbrush in hand. Some of us enjoy using both. There are no rules. Your journal won’t mind!

Caylee is the host of a kind and enthusiastic art journaling community on the internet called Get Messy. She believes in the habit of art, dancing naked in perfectionism’s face, and the magic of connection. She squeezes her own creative time in during her tiny human’s naps, and helps other artists find the time in their own busy lives to create.  

Listen to our interview, or read below to see highlights from our talk, and discover why the art journaling community refers to Caylee as the “Fairy Art Mother.”



Pair Your Art with Your Writing

Caylee is an inspired journaler. The 100 completed journals she’s created so far are proof of this! Art and writing have become so intertwined for her, she no longer bothers to separate the two. 

“I’ve kept journals forever. I tried to do a word-only journal once thinking that was how to make a “real” journal. Very quickly though, I started doodling in the margin and pasting things inside, and I finally gave up on keeping a words-only journal.”

Why Art Journaling Works

Caylee is a dynamic, energized speaker, and her enthusiasm is contagious when she talks about the benefits of art journaling.

  • Pushing paint around on a page helps express emotions that words cannot always access. Caylee recalls a challenging time in her own life when the simple act of applying black paint on her journal’s pages got to the heart of an issue words couldn’t touch.
  • It’s not complicated. Caylee reminds us art is in everything and we can use it to tell our story. Just pasting a receipt or putting a business card on the pages of a journal she explains, provide abstract ideas with meaning and form.
  • Everything is art. Even a shopping list in your own handwriting is a form of self-expression.
  • Art journaling is calming. “It’s like meditation,” Caylee notes, “but requires less discipline!”

Get Messy!

The name of Caylee’s dynamic online art community, Get Messy, is personal. “I’m a perfectionist. Getting messy makes me uncomfortable. Coming up with this name was like a challenge to myself to ignore perfectionism, and to let go and just make a mess!”

Caylee works tirelessly to empower the artists in her Get Messy community to let go of perfectionism.

It’s the Process Not the Product

Caylee gives a shout out to one of Journaling.com’s favorite artists, Amy Maricle, who speaks to the value of “the process over the product.”  In her own creative work, Caylee’s noticed that if the focus is on “messing up” in a positive sense, the inner critic is silenced which leads to extraordinary creative outcomes.

This idea has ramifications for other parts of our lives. Caylee connects the dots and explains that when we let go of perfectionism in our art, we eliminate this tendency in other facets of our lives as well.

Establish a Routine to Maximize Creative Moments

Caylee describes herself as routine driven. She believes and commits to doing something creative every day. Whether that’s drawing a line in her journal or spending four hours on a page, she prioritizes these moments. “Showing up every day is where the magic happens. It’s about waiting for the magic and being prepared for it when it comes.”

The notion that good art comes from bursts of electric inspiration is one Caylee has moved past. Instead, she’s discovered, it’s through small repetitive practices every day that substantive creative goals are achieved.

“I have a rule that I can go two days without creating something. Otherwise, I make something, even if I don’t feel like it. I know that even if I’m tired, even if I create rubbish, at least I’ve shown up, and I can come back again and try something different. Showing up and a little risk leads to magic.”

Tips for Travel Journaling

“When you take time to journal what you’re feeling and seeing around you, there is something magical about it.” Caylee regularly talks travel journaling with her followers, and she considers this medium the perfect tool for capturing the essence of a trip.

There is something different about journaling when compared with photography, Caylee notes, and she’s found herself lately taking trips with the sole purpose of journaling. “My travel journals are my favorites. Photos are how everyone sees the world. My journal reflects the ways that I see it.”

Journaling Tips to Take On Your Travels

  • Mix words and images any way you choose.

  • Collect papers, ticket stubs, and other finds you spot, and arrange them in an appealing way.

  • Take the picture no one else would think of and tuck it inside of your journal. If you visit the Eifel Tower, for instance, take a close-up shot. Capture a small detail others might overlook.

  • Look for and use materials that evoke memories of textures, sights, and sounds from the place you’ve visited.

  • Write about the small details. The menu at the café you adored. The conversations that buzzed around you. These memories are rich and will transport you back to special places for many years to come.

Your Action Plan

  • Listen to my conversation with Caylee.

  • Connect with Caylee. Visit her online at the Get Messy Art Website and at Get Messy on Instagram.

  • Connect with a like-minded arts community. Join https://getmessyart.com/

  • Start collecting and creating elements that reflect your life. These might be your own words, the words of others, drawings, or miscellaneous items you affix to the page.
  • Caylee’s favorite supplies are the moleskin journals she keeps on hand. But she recommends you grab whatever is most convenient in your house at this moment. Choose the resource that will get you started journaling today!
  • Establish a regular creative routine that is free of judgement.
  • Let go of perfectionism. Get messy!

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, check out our conversation with Amy Maricle where we discuss five fabulous tips for art journaling.

Journaling.com’s Top 10 Productivity Journals and Tools

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Organize Your Day Around Actions That Matter

Put yourself in the driver’s seat with Journaling.com’s Top Ten Productivity Journals. Instead of living life in reactive-mode, robotically responding to texts and to-do lists, live your life in proactive mode. Organize your day around actions that matter.

Journaling.com wants to make this easy for you. We’ve dug deep, done all of the research, and unearthed ten productivity journals to help ensure that the work and activities you spend time on bring joy and value to each day.

A special thanks to Kathleen Adams with the Therapeutic Writing Institute (TWI) for sponsoring this list. TWI is a dynamic distance-learning training institute for facilitators of therapeutic writing.  To learn more about Kathleen’s important work, visit her website.

The Top 10 Journals & Planners for Productivity

1. “The High Performance Planner” by Brendon Burchard

The High Performance Planner opens with the words, “With the right daily mindset, focus, and habits, you can shape an extraordinary quality of life and contribute at world class levels way beyond anyone’s expectations.” The High Performance Planner was created by the world’s leading high performance coach, Brendon Burchard. What we love about this planner is that it provides users with the keys for reaching and sustaining long-term success, while also helping maintain well-being and positive relationships. Highly recommended.

2. “The Morning Sidekick Journal” by Habitnest

Embrace your mornings with positivity and intention. The Morning Sidekick Journal will show you how. This planner demonstrates how productivity and happiness are intertwined and then provides the tools to help achieve both. This journal planner demonstrates how a focus on small life changes can yield big results. The creator of this journal, Habitnest, believes, “If you change today, tomorrow will be different. If you don’t change today, the rest of your life will be self-determined.” Love it.

3. “The Bullet Journal Method” by Ryder Carroll

People around the world are trying out this extraordinary method and loving it. If you have a busy lifestyle, often feel overwhelmed, or are undertaking a big goal or project, bullet journaling will keep you peacefully productive. Bullet Journaling will help you meet deadlines by ensuring that details don’t fall through the cracks. Your confidence will soar as you become the person who does what you say you are going to do. What we like best about this book is Ryder Carroll’s authentic, articulate voice. Along with first-rate tips to help get you started, he shares the reasons he created Bullet Journaling, how it works, and reflects on the system’s benefits. In addition to Ryder’s book, you may also want to listen to Journaling.com’s podcast interview with him.

4. “Happiness Planner”

Happiness Planner is a 100-day planner that helps users develop habits to promote positive thinking, mindfulness, gratitude, and self-development. The Happiness Planner can help you manage schedules and to-do lists, while shining a light on the things that bring joy to the day. We especially like the opening pages of this book which encourage reflection on positive, joy-filled moments in your past, present, and future. 100 days is a perfect length of time to develop a new habit, lifestyle change, or shift in outlook. Be sure to listen to Journaling.com’s podcast interview with the creator of The Happiness Planner, Mo Seetubtim. Available from HappinessPlanner.com

5. “The Desire Map 2019 Weekly Planner” by Danielle LaPorte

Danielle LaPorte’s products encourage users to think about the ways they want to feel when a task on their to-do list is achieved. We love her motto: “Feelings first, then strategy.” The Desire Map Planner is designed to work in conjunction with three workbooks. Workbook one helps put the year in review by asking “What flopped and what soared?” Workbook two helps identify “Core Desired Feelings” to help guide you through the year. Workbook three helps transform those feelings into concrete goals. When the workbooks are completed and goals and feelings have been identified, you’ll have a plan you can implement to actualize your goals. Used together, these workbooks and planner constitute a powerful system.

6. “The SELF Journal” by Best Self Co.

“Win the day on every page.” Over 200,000 of these journals have been sold worldwide, making BestSelf the worldwide leader in planners for productivity and self-development. We like this journal planner because it comes with videos and pdf downloads to help you make the most of every day. We also like the “freedom pages” at the back of Self Journal – blank pages for you to brainstorm and sketch ideas. This is a powerful system that can help you plan goals, take consistent action, and celebrate wins with gratitude.

7. “Law of Attraction”

The creator of this 30-day guided journal wants this resource to help you experience “the magnetic force that brings into our lives what we focus on most.” Filled with original prompts, Law of Attraction inspires deep reflection with questions like, What does it mean to you to be successful? What would you like to attract into your life right now? What does it mean to be healthy? We think you’ll love this beautiful, hardback journal.

8. “Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act” by Carolyn Koehnline

Though not strictly a planner or a journal, we’ve included this resource because we know that clearing clutter is integral in making emotional and physical space for writing and reflection. With compassion and kindness, this book inspires readers to engage in the act of decluttering as a transformative, sacred experience. The author is a journaling expert who provides mindfulness techniques that help declutter our physical space, calendars, thoughts, and emotions. Highly recommended. You can listen to Journaling.com’s podcast interview with Carolyn Koehnline.

9. “Purpose Journal”

From the makers of Happiness Planner comes Purpose, ahardback journal that walks users, page by page, through a process of discovery and actualization. Purpose Journal helps you figure out your life’s calling, while inspiring you to live a life of purpose every single day.

10. “The Productivity Planner” by Intelligent Change

The Productivity Planner was brought to our attention by a former guest, Kathleen Adams.  Based on the Pomodoro Technique, this planner helps users focus on a maximum of three to five tasks a day. Emphasis is placed on doing the most important task first and then working through the list one job at a time. This method is used by some of the world’s most productive people. We like this planner for its ability to help us focus on what’s important and for its straightforward approach.

Tackle Writer’s Block With This Down & Dirty Tip

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Learn how “down and dirty” journaling can help you break free from writer’s rut.

We’ve all been there. Stuck in front of a blank page or screen that stares back at us with a baleful stink- eye.

You thought words were your friends, but in this time of need, they have deserted their posts, leaving you to muster a ragtag band of incoherent words to battle the block: writer’s block.

I know the feeling. I was born with graphophobia, an irrational fear of writing or handwriting.  My poor mother reports that as a baby, the sight of a pencil, pen, crayon or even a piece of chalk would give me the skeevies. A blank piece of lined paper or a blinking cursor on a wordless Word file would fill me with despair.

There was plenty of hand-wringing from my parents. How would their son make his mark on life without the ability to write, even to mark an “X” on a college financial-aid application?

If you’re reading this, I’m happy to tell you that I eventually tamed my fear by immersing myself in writing until either my pen ran dry, the pencil snapped, or my paper ran out.

And while I now have a grip on my graphophobia, I continue to grapple with writer’s block. The block frequently hampers my ability to start writing and keep writing, a problem exacerbated by the fact that I work in marketing communications and words pay my bills. The power of the pen doesn’t exist if the pen is stuck in park.

Journaling is the Juice

I’ve discovered that journaling helps me battle writer’s block. Sitting down with a journal and a pen and pushing that pen around on a page provides me with a creative outlet. Here, I can write freely without worrying about following normal writing conventions or having to run my copy through an approval mill.

But, I’d like to share another idea that has increased my word output whether I’m journaling or writing for work.

It involves lying back and putting your feet up. Yes, you read that right.   

Through a series of experiments – some of them off-the-wall – I’ve discovered that words flow better from within when I’m lying on the ground, my back propped against a pillow and my feet planted firmly on a wall. There’s high probability this “down and dirty” journaling has nothing to do with juicing my writing but it focuses my attention on the act of writing. I liken it to a warmup routine that a baseball pitcher goes through to prepare to face batters in a real game.

White Socks and a Blank Wall

I always wear socks (neatness counts in writing and housekeeping) preferably white athletic socks free of stripes, logos, or cute designs. Similarly, I favor a blank backdrop – no electrical outlets, scuff marks or mouse holes on the wall to divert attention. Finally, I plop down and put pen or pencil to paper, or fingers to the keyboard. It’s still hard work, but I find I don’t notice it as much when I’m down and dirty.

This position also lends itself to doing the occasional stomach crunch, which is an added health benefit while you’re working out the words.

Next time you’re stuck in a writing rut, try getting down with pen in hand and feet on the wall. I can’t promise it will work, but if nothing else it will reframe your perspective and could kick up some creativity.

For me, the journal of a thousand words begins with three steps: recline, put both feet on a wall and write.