Journal Your Way to a Meaningful Life

How acutely do you sense a lack of meaning in your life? It’s easy to get caught up in materialism and forget what you most want to do and be. 

If you want to improve your health and happiness and return to intimacy with your ideals, take a refresher course in meaning by focusing on your perceptions.

Use a journal to reflect on meaning through your sensations and perceptions, and you take a shortcut to personal peace.

The season of colors and flavors and sounds is upon us. I’m talking about the months between September and December, when we celebrate the big holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas (or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever your specific midwinter ritual). It's a time when leaves turn their kaleidoscope colors and Halloween lets us indulge in disguise and mystery. It’s a time of shivering in chilly air, roaring with the crowd at football games, and planning holiday feasts and trips.

It’s a time of extraordinary sensations. Oh yes, the spring is captivating and in summer the living is easy. But the fall offers the most pungent – and poignant – sensory experiences.

We watch the earth’s greenery dance its slow death in autumn and feel a little nostalgia, a bit of anxiety about the winter to come. We slurp Thanksgiving’s abundance, listen to Christmas carols, inhale the stillness of the first snowfall, and luxuriate by the fire. It’s an avalanche of sensations which, like the harvest we gather at this time of year, is both reward for hard work in the past and a reminder that nothing lasts forever.

So it’s an excellent season for using your sense perceptions to guide your understanding. Here's how: 

1. Select a recent experience that was brimming with strong sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and/or textures.

2. Write a description of the experience in great detail. When you think you’re done describing it, continue with deeper descriptions for another five minutes or so. Push hard to come up with more thoughts and words about it, even if they seem silly.

3. Wait a day.

4. Now re-read your description and write your thoughts. Tell your journal how the experience and the subsequent writing made you feel. Also consider why the experience was meaningful to you. Why did you enter into it to begin with and why did you choose to focus on its sensations?

Make no mistake: this exercise is an exaggerated belaboring of sensation. You may feel strange making such a big deal of it. But if you do this just a few times during the season, you’ll begin to feel much more connected, more alive, responsive, and rich. 

Meaning is a plain and simple thing, so much so that we ignore it most of the time. Good thing all that’s required is journal writing to bring it back in focus!


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