Micro-journaling: An Art Adventure of Self-care

Micro-journaling is a self-care and self-discovery practice that can help initiate increased connection with ourselves and nature, reduce stress, renew our perspective, and bring a sense of orientation and clarity into our lives. 
self-care and self-discovery through art and adventure - a person drawing and sitting on rocks by the ocean

Materials:

  • Journal – almost any paper type, thicker is better if using watercolor
  • Watercolor travel kit, colored pencils
  • Paintbrush(s)
  • Micron Pen(s), pencil or other pen. 
  • Water from my personal water bottle

Life gets busy and noisy, and we are bombarded with input all day, every day. In these situations, it can be difficult at times to think or work through personal challenges and emotions with all that is going on around us. Enter micro-journaling, a self-care and self-discovery practice that can help initiate increased connection with ourselves and nature, reduce stress, renew our perspective, and bring a sense of orientation and clarity into our lives. 

Micro-journaling is not a commitment to a great and difficult art project, nor is it just writing down your feelings in a novel-length entry. Micro-journaling is meant to evoke the natural relationship between the aesthetic and language, which allows us to express and explore aspects of our inner landscapes. Micro-journaling can provide a way to process life-changing or difficult events and powerful emotions, manifest or focus on a goal, navigate setbacks and obstacles, or celebrate joys and triumphs. By giving liminal thoughts a home, you are creating an altar for your emotions and for healing. 

Getting Started on Your Art Adventure

I invite you to take a moment to find a space that allows you to breathe deeply, where you can tap into your creativity, your needs and desires. This should be a space where you feel safe to let go of life stressors, and see things with a fresh or different perspective. Maybe a day trip is in order, or a foray into the woods close to your home. Just stepping away from the chores and responsibilities of daily life can give us renewed energy and improved well-being. 

Let that oxygen-filled air in, observe flowers blooming, tune into the sounds of birds calling, trees rustling, water rushing or waves lapping, feel the sand or soil beneath or between your toes and fingers. Let these things ground you. Our connection to the earth is very real, let it move you and inspire you.  

This well-being exercise works on many levels in your self-care and self-discovery journey. Using both sides of your brain, micro-journaling builds a creative bridge between your subconscious and conscious, as you further develop your awareness, find balance, reduce your anxiety, invite relaxation, and discover fulfillment and growth in your abilities and willingness to participate in this activity.

There is zero art experience required. I like to use watercolors, but you can use colored pencils, even crayons! Whatever you love, have available, or fits in your day bag. 

Your Art and Adventure Kit

Here’s what you will need: A simple journal with paper heavy enough to hold watercolor paint (if that’s the medium you plan to use). It does not need to be fancy. If you want to invest in a watercolor journal, I love the Strathmore art journals

Gather up your other supplies in a case of your choosing. I use a small toiletry bag to hold a couple of paintbrushes, a few micron pens (any pens will do), a pencil with an eraser, my travel watercolor kit, a few colored pencils, and my journal. I like to toss a binder clip in there, too, to hold the pages back when I am working on a page. The list below includes links of a few tried and true favorites of mine, but the important thing is to get started. There is no need to invest a lot of money in supplies. 

Keep your journal and supplies in your day bag, so that if you find yourself on a lunch break and inspiration hits, you can take advantage of that time. This is all about your well-being and nurturing self-care and self-discovery. 

I’m at a place right now in my life where day trips are easier for me to commit to, and so I embrace them with regularity and happiness, like meeting an old friend—me! My goal is to reset, re-center, and find awareness in myself, so I plan trips that are in peaceful locations, eco- and nature-based, with simplicity as their foundation. My stocked day bag, a big bottle of water, a light lunch, a blanket for sitting on, and sunscreen are all I usually take with me. 

Connecting with a Place & Moment that Welcomes Self-care & Self-discovery

Get yourself to a place you love, or have been wanting to explore. Take your time to ground yourself in your senses. What do you hear? See? Smell? Feel? Allow yourself to slow down. Breathe deep. Give this time to yourself. Get yourself comfortable. I like to open my journal and clip to a blank page. I typically leave it open for a bit, welcoming the opportunity, and letting the moment come to me. When I’m ready, I fill one or two pages with color, using shades that reflect my emotions that day. Don’t overthink this, just use the colors that you feel drawn to. There is no right or wrong way to fill the pages—let the paints blend into each other, let the shapes flow from your inner self. Don’t try to control the outcome. 

After the pages are filled, set it aside for a few minutes. Eat your lunch. Drink some water. Stretch. Breathe. You will want to adopt a slow travel mindset with this activity. When you feel ready to return to the pages, pick out a drawing utensil—pen, pencil—preferably something dark so it will show over your colors. 

There is no one way to create your micro-journaling pages. Watercolor paint naturally leaves pigments of various shapes and depths depending on what I have intrinsically done with the paintbrush. These variations of color create mountains, valleys, oceans, lakes, swirls, and blooms that I love to detail and outline with my Micron pen. This gets me connected to the paper, to the colors that I have instinctually chosen to portray my emotions. You may choose to create flowers, mountains, waves, patterns, circles, whatever you feel coming from you, let that be the spark. See where your creativity takes you. 

It Starts with a Word

Write the first word that comes to mind. Any word. This can be a thought, a feeling that you want to capture: Gratitude. Awakening. Love. Hope. Worry. Heartache. Loss. Loneliness. 

Place that word wherever your hand directs you to. Like a breeze that floats by, let your thoughts flow from you and through your fingers to the page. Let there be a stream of consciousness, a wellspring from your head to your heart to your core. Take your time with this, let the words bubble up. You may want to take breaks, observe your surroundings, reorient or reground yourself. Allow the words or phrases to find a home in the place you have provided for them. You will know when you are done. 

In my experience, this exercise gives me much clarity. I find that I am able to tap into subconscious thoughts, specific moments and feelings, and work through them with fresh observations. It’s like wiping the dirt off the window in front of me. It is in these quiet moments, I am awarded little gems of profound lucidity and personal growth. 

The Wellness Benefits of Art and Journaling 

In a study conducted at the University of Liverpool, researchers found that engaging in creative activities, such as drawing and painting, can help individuals access deeper layers of consciousness and uncover hidden emotions and thoughts. And research published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that expressive writing (such as journaling) can reduce levels of stress and improve overall mental health. Journaling can increase self-awareness and insight, leading to improved emotional regulation and self-understanding, as well as provide the necessary space for clear problem solving and finding solutions.  

Personally, I have found much contentment and satisfaction in the practice of micro-journaling. Beginning with organic washes of colors created easily and freely with my hand, I am immediately visually pleased and feel myself relaxing. Layering micro-journaling on top of or surrounded by the baths of color, I allow myself to put thoughts and emotions on the page without the need to self-edit. The results are always surprising and give space to honor my feelings and beliefs, greatly improving my self-awareness.

Micro-journaling is both mindful and meditative, and can be deeply nourishing. Reflection on my micro-journals show me where I have struggled, how I have felt at any given time, and how I will be able to work through my thoughts and feelings so I can have greater flexibility in the future. It is interesting to see how different each daily entry can be, how beautifully and simply a diary like this can capture my vulnerability, my insights, and my self-care and self-discovery journey. Often, I am struck by how my words, which have flowed from me without direction, pierce like arrows of truth. 

Micro-journaling is All for You

Micro-journaling is gaining popularity in a world that moves fast and requires so many of us to write and speak articulately, intelligently, and completely on numerous topics. Micro-journaling is all for you. Your thoughts. Your feelings. It doesn’t require complete sentences or explanations. There doesn’t need to be context. Perfect grammar is not required. All that is required is you and a willingness to show up at the page. Take a deep breath and exhale. Connect. Feel. One word. Give it a home. Let it grow. Open yourself up. Allow. Explore. See what happens.  

It’s difficult to make decisions when life gets fast and noisy. We all need time to quiet our minds, gather our thoughts, reflect, develop perspective, and find balance and inner peace. Take the time to prioritize a self-care and self-discovery art adventure, give yourself the gift of micro-journaling, and honor your process, your thoughts, your continued growth, and well-being. 

Are you ready to see how Create Joy’s approach to goal-orientated travel can elevate your personal growth? Learn more about the self-care and self-discovery retreats we are currently developing

Getting Started Strategies:

  • Get comfortable by finding a safe, distraction-free place
  • Observe your surroundings, your orientation, yourself in place and in the moment
  • Breathe using a yoga breath- in through the nose, out through the mouth
  • Slow it down, find a rhythm with your breath, quiet the body and mind
  • Allow the time by giving yourself permission to work through the process
  • Set up and welcome positive energies into your space
  • Paint your emotions, letting the inspiration come to you
  • Reframe your mindset– there is no right or wrong way to do this, allow for the process not the outcome
  • Start with a word: Begin.

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