Whether it’s an emotional outlet, or somewhere to explore your biggest thoughts, a journal is so much more than just ink and paper. Here, our columnist Grace Victory shares the impact journaling has had on her own self-awareness

In 2014, I was in the pursuit of happiness. I knew I was unhappy and constantly stressed, so I began to search for deeper meaning. I remember buying new bed sheets, changing my room around, buying books, and picking up a few notepads from a local store. I used to Google everything – I still do now – and I remember typing into the search engine “how to be happier”. Obviously, thousands of self-help pages came up, but I clicked on a page that spoke about mindfulness and the teachings of Buddhism.

Back then, mindfulness wasn’t something I was completely ready to delve into. Meditation? Nah. I’ll pass on that. Be in nature? Maybe I’ll try that at a later stage. But then I stumbled across a thing called ‘journaling’ and I decided that hey, that could be for me.

As a young child I used to write poems. Sometimes they would be funny and rhyme, other times they’d be dark, and on the surface wouldn’t make much sense, but looking back, I have always used writing to help me process. To help me feel. To help see things inside of myself.

Grace Victory

Photography | Paul Buller

So, I’m 24, feeling a lot of feelings, on the verge of a break-up, and recognising that I definitely had an eating disorder – but I didn’t look thin, so was it really that much of a problem? Those early-mid 20s were an incredibly lonely time for me – which I think so many of my amazing readers can probably relate to. I was longing to find who I was, but also struggling to access the tools to do so. It was hard, but writing gave me an outlet.

Most nights I’d pick up my notebook, put on some music, and just let the ink flow on the paper. Songs would sometimes come out too, but a lot of the sentences were full of confusion – and yet also hope. I was a big dreamer, and I really believed I was supposed to have a beautiful life, so my writing often reflected that too. I’d talk to God, or my future husband, sometimes I’d even talk to my past self. At the time, I didn’t know just how powerful this mindfulness technique was, all I knew was that I enjoyed it. My notepads were full of secrets, dreams, wishes, pain, and little pieces of me that I hid from the world, and that I also hid from myself.

A few years later I started to use my journal with more intention. I was older, wiser and on a journey of ‘self-exploration’, so my priorities, needs, and wants started to change. Suddenly I wanted to try every wellness tool, including meditation, that I so blatantly shunned a few years prior. So journaling became my stream of consciousness, and often my unconsciousness, too. I journaled everything, and made a promise to myself that these pages would be brutally honest, and I haven’t looked back since.

Looking back, I have always used writing to help me process. To help me feel. To help see things inside of myself

I use journaling to reflect on therapy sessions, arguments with my boyfriend, and to process daily life. I often journal in the mornings to get out any anxiety I feel about the day ahead, or any feelings I am still holding on to from the previous one. Journaling is like a best friend, or a mirror. You tell her something, and she will often respond back. I write to no one and everyone, and when I think I don’t have the answer to something, it will form, like magic, on the page in front of me.

Journaling has taught me how to slow down, and how to take a deep breath. It allows me to ponder, scream, cry, and shout. It allows me to be mean and rude, without hurting anyone, and it’s taught me that thoughts are often fleeting, and we should treat them as such.

For me, journaling is releasing pent up emotions, recognising triggers, enhancing self-awareness, creating space in one’s mind, and reducing triggers. It can be done anywhere by anyone, and that’s what makes it so powerful. Love Grace x

Come back next month for more from Grace!