Emotional Health

This Simple Daily Ritual Helped One Woman Find Joy

A few minutes every morning is all it takes.

The sun gleamed outside Barb Beck’s window, but as she lay in bed, she wasn’t sure if she could face the day. Not only was she ending a relationship with a man she’d intended to marry, but her mother had recently passed away. On top of that, her son had graduated from college and moved out on his own, leaving her an empty nester. The Portland, Oregon, 53-year-old felt alone and hopeless. She cried, ranted and prayed, but nothing brought her relief. If I don’t release some of this darkness, I’m going to sink, she despaired.

Barb knew how dangerous it was to bury her feelings. She’d spent years pushing down a traumatic childhood experience only to have it result in repeating unhealthy patterns in adulthood. Finally, in her 30s, she’d gone for counseling. Around that same time, Barb also read the book The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, a self-help manual that aims to help people unleash their creativity and live better lives. (Buy on Amazon, $15.30)

One thing the author suggested was starting each day with three pages of “stream of consciousness” writing — or putting all the feelings and thoughts that arise in that moment down on paper, without worrying about grammar, spelling, style, or punctuation. In doing so, Cameron asserted, you can learn to better handle difficult emotions that stop you from becoming your best self. She dubbed the journaling practice, “The Morning Pages.” Barb had tried it and found the process freeing and healing. But over the years, Barb had let her Morning Pages journaling ritual lapse.

Back From the Abyss

Each morning, Barb began “dumping” her worries, sadness, anger, and fear into her journal. Sometimes, she was surprised by what she’d written. After getting that release and clarity, Barb would sit quietly for a few minutes and ask herself, “How do I want to feel today? And what can I do today to help myself feel that way?”

In the beginning, she just longed to feel “hopeful” and “at peace” and would then write things like read an inspiring article or go for a walk on her to-do list.

Barb began looking forward to sitting with a cup of coffee and her journal each morning. Soon, she noticed a lightness in her heart, not only during the writing, but all day long. As weeks passed, Barb filled several journals and noticed that she didn’t just want to feel joyful, she was joyful.

Today, Barb, now 62, is a successful author and relationship coach. She’s also in a long-term relationship with a man who shares her new passion for intentional living. “Writing the truth down on paper helped free me from heartache and offers no judgment. From there, I was able to make positive shifts that helped lead me down the path toward healing and joy. Journaling really works!”

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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