Can Nature-Based Journaling Help You Achieve Your Goals?

Have you ever had a journal? I can still remember my first journal. It was 1989. It had a padded cover. The fabric cover was dusty rose in the background with a large, 80s-esque flower pattern all over.

Journaling is all the rage right now. There are lots of great apps and physical journals available that are structured to be convenient, habit-developing, deeply reflective and/or easily synced with photos. Journaling is encouraged by the medical community as one healthy, regular practice to complement other regular practices of meditation, sleep, good nutrition and exercise for good mental health.

Doing an internet search of the benefits of journaling draws results that reflect these and other benefits. If you’ve been thinking about starting or modifying your journaling, read on for a highly effective and efficient approach to journaling and achieving goals!

Here’s another question for you first on a seemingly unrelated topic (but I promise I’m not going off on a random tangent).

Have you ever paid much attention to the phases of the moon (when it’s a new moon, or full moon)? I never used to pay much attention to the moon. Beyond having a general idea that there must be some kind of effect on people by the moon, because emergency personnel I knew hated working on or near full moons, due to the increased volume of calls to dispatch.

Full moon circles are increasingly popular as a time of community and reflection. In many communities, the new moon is associated with the idea of a fresh start, while the full moon is associated with the idea of bringing things to fruition.

What do journaling and the moon have to do with each other?

Bear with me here, I know it seems like a stretch. I’ve tried a number of journaling approaches, but the one that has most benefited me and has helped me achieve real outcomes has been one that is synced up to the cycle of the moon. Before I describe my outcome-producing, moon-related journaling approach, it would be useful to walk through a bit of an astronomy lesson.  If you’re already raring to go, jump to TL;DR.

Going back to grade 2: An astronomy lesson

The “new moon” occurs when the moon is perfectly aligned between the earth and sun. This means we can’t see the moon, since the sunlight is reflecting off the opposite side of the moon (the side facing away from the earth). In the two weeks following, the moon is “waxing crescent”  as the thin sliver of a crescent gradually becomes wider as the moon continues on its path and is increasingly illuminated on the earthside of its face.

Two weeks from the time of the invisible new moon is the full moon, when we can see the whole disc of the moon illuminated. At this point, the moon has continued on its path so that the sun and moon are on opposite sides of the earth. The day this post is going live is actually a full moon! In the two weeks following the full moon, the moon is “waning gibbous” as it continues around, becoming a smaller crescent with each passing day.

I should note that in some cultures, the “new moon” is actually called the “dark moon”, because it’s not visible during this time. In those same cultures, the “waxing crescent” moon is called the “new moon”. For the sake of clarity, I’ll stick with the astronomical term of “new moon” which is when it’s not visible.

What the moon has to do with journaling

The journaling practice I’m about to describe, I’ve been using for the past year and a half or so, and it has been the most outcomes-focused and success-producing journaling I’ve ever done. Whether its effectiveness is energetic, psychological, or some combination thereof, is really irrelevant. It’s an extremely productive form of journaling, which is why I’m sharing it with you today.

The basic idea is that you do a reflective journaling exercise every two weeks; once at the new moon and again at the full moon. The new moon reflection is focused on a goal or intention for the following month. The full moon reflection happens at the halfway point of the month as a check-in for how the work toward your goal is progressing. Simple, right? It is.

Regardless of your beliefs, if you are willing to invest about 20 minutes (give or take) every two weeks in goal-setting and reflection, you’ll benefit from the external timing of the moon cycle (which continues all year, so there’s no waiting for New Year’s resolutions!), combined with a simple, structured reflection for each journaling session.

That’s twelve goals or intentions per year. Not bad for 20 minutes every couple of weeks.

And if you are more energetically/spiritually inclined, this could be a new/modified ritual to incorporate into your routine.

Where I learned about new and full moon reflections

I’m not being compensated to reference these.

  • A couple of energy/spiritually-focused blog posts from 2016 here and 2017 here. I haven’t otherwise used content from these sources, and can’t speak to their other content, but found these to be a useful start.
  • Rachel Stavis also shared a post here in 2017.

How to do the moon-based journaling | TL;DR

1. Set up your journaling space/environment

  • Choose a notebook or journal for yourself.
    • I suggest selecting a physical notebook/journal if possible, as research has suggested that our brains process information more effectively when we handwrite than when we type. But do whatever works best for you.
    • Just make sure that you feel you can be completely forthcoming in your journal and can easily refer back to your journaling content, whether it’s physical, verbally recorded, video, or typed.
  • Set out one or more specific items to demarcate this journaling time as focused, special time for yourself. Some ideas:
    • Light a candle (be safe). I like using a beeswax candle made by local beekeepers.
    • Bring over your favourite plant (goes without saying…but keep it away from the candle flame…).
    • Make yourself a nice tea or other favourite beverage.
    • Turn your phone to silent and put it in a different room (or if you’re using a journaling app on your phone, turn your phone to Do Not Disturb so your focus won’t be interrupted).
    • Burn some incense or palo santo (again with the safety).
    • Set out a sacred-to-you object (or a few!). These could be any objects that help to remind you that this journaling is important and special.
      • Make sure the objects are about you though (careful with sentimental items as they could be distracting and remind you more of someone else than of yourself).
      • For example, during my new moon reflection a couple of weeks ago, I set out a nice stone I picked up off the ground when I was recently in Scotland, and a couple beautiful hand-crafted items made by artisans in Scotland and England. I also use a nice pen that is specifically for my journaling. It’s not expensive or anything, but the colours are cheerful and I only use it for journaling.

2. Reflection guidelines

Look up the new moon and full moon dates. This is a useful resource and you can input your location so the dates are specific to your locality.

If you want, feel free to meditate or do breathwork beforehand, but it’s not necessary.

New moon

The new moon is all about new beginnings, setting intentions, and focusing on what you want to achieve.

  • In the days leading up to the new moon, think about what you want your intention or goal to be.
  • On the day of the new moon, do your set up (see above), allocate time to do your reflection, and then sit down to write.
  • Write about what you intention or goal is.
    • Write a whole story about it, about your goal, about what things will look like when you’ve achieved your goal.
    • Write with confidence and authority (“In this coming moon cycle, I will do xyz. When I have achieved this, I will experience abc.”).
    • Make sure you’ve written down/recorded everything in your head about your goal or intention.
    • Get it all down, and focus on the constructive (what you will do, not what you won’t do).

Full moon

The full moon is about completion of the cycle, releasing what no longer serves you and bringing your intentions to fruition.  In other words, your full moon reflection is your two-week check-in to identify and release whatever is impeding the achievement of your goal.

  • Look back to your new moon reflection and think about how things are going.
    • Have you noticed any old patterns, thoughts, beliefs or past hurts that are no longer serving you in achieving your goal?
    • Write these down – all of things that no longer serve you. Write down that you’re letting them go.
    • Revisit your intention or goal and write more about it, and about how releasing what no longer serves you, will help you to achieve that goal.
    • Again, write with confidence, as if your release and goal achievement has already happened (“I release the fear of what people might think. I embrace my abilities and personal power”).
  • Finish your reflection with a confident and authoritative sentence that signals to yourself that you have already achieved your goal.

Have fun with this exercise, and don’t worry about whether you have enough candles or if you’re using the right notebook and pen. Just get started and find what works for you. Let me know how it goes!

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