Know why you suffer – Journalling

As we think, so we become. This is the eternal truth about the human mind which is the source of all joy and suffering. Why is that so? Because the way we think leads us to form habits that are strengthened each time we repeat them. Over time, we become the sum of our habits. Question is: what sort of habits rule our life?

Ask any wise person for the formula of success and he or she will tell you to examine, analyse and study your habits. If there are mental, physical and spiritual habits that impede your progress, you need to get rid of them now. You cannot put it off.

Each time you repeat a habitual pattern, you would deepen the energetic groove of samskara (volition) and vasana (tendency). Volition means a compulsion to act while tendency means you will go back to the same old, familiar ways. Therefore, unless you begin to replace the old ineffective habits with new and more life-enhancing ones, you will be compelled to act again and again in the same old ways. Like the saying goes: Old habits die hard.

Then there is your attitude. Is your life going the way you want it? If not, do you change the environment, your job, your spouse, or do you want to change your habits? If you aren’t willing to then don’t bother asking for the formula of success. In reality, changing the environment, job or spouse would just be a temporary relief if the real problem lies within you. The way you perceive your situation, yourself and others is the issue here. Again: As you think, so you become.

How long does it take to change an old habit and for a new one to totally replace it? 21 days. Does it really take that long? Not if you are willing and persistent enough to say, “Yes, I need to change and I will. I am going to do it”. Not when you understand that changing your habits for the better would actually lead you to greater happiness and fulfilment even if it did not result in a material gain. This is because like it or not, your less-than-effective habits can be traced back to one or other of the way you operate through your body, ego, mind, and intellect. Again, it’s down to perceptions, filters, biases, etc.

Ask yourself these questions. What habits do I repeat again and again because they feed my likes and help me avoid my dislikes? In what way do they bolster my ego? Add to my sense of pride? And make me think I know best? As human beings, we are blessed with the power of the intellect. We are capable of reasoning and finding creative solutions to serve our ends. But the thing is sometimes we fall short when it comes to knowing what’s really the best in the end. Often all we want is to win and so we make the mistake of becoming self-serving instead of other-serving. It is not in our nature to think of others first. Instead it requires us to make an effort to do so.

Journaling as a way of self-discovery

This is where keeping a journal can help you track your habits. Lots of things you didn’t know were happening inside you will slowly reveal themselves. That’s why keeping a journal can also be extremely enlightening. More often than not, why you feel a certain way most of the time can say alot about what’s going on in your life and why you are unhappy. It will show how you are coping with life. Best yet, it will show you the way out. Change the way you think and you will change the way you feel. Change the way you feel and you will change your life.

Here are some journaling prompts that many have found useful. You can adopt one or use a combination. Add doodles or a drawing if that speaks louder than words. Be creative but be courageous and honest. No one should have access to your journal unless with your permission. Write for your eyes only because then you can be as honest as you can. That’s the key. Honesty. And, by the way, using your smartphone with voice memos or an app or two works just as well as the good old notebook.

A daily sentence

If you are pressed for time, jotting down just one sentence a day with a brief description of your emotional state is a good start. Remember, emotion is the language of your inner life. It is from your emotions that you can slowly tease out what’s really going on inside you. You’d be surprised. Oh, so that’s where this is coming from…. and so on. Just one sentence a day can be very enlightening.

Morning pages

This is one of our favourites. Don’t do anything else upon waking but go to your notebook and start writing. This helps to circumvent any mental defenses as you just write whatever comes to your head. You can set yourself a minimum of 3 pages or more. Or whatever works for you. The thing is to just write without thinking too much about how it’s coming out. Put aside any thoughts about grammar and such. Remember, you are helping stuff to surface from your subconscious and this is why it’s best done right after you get up and before doing anything else. Yes, even that shower in the morning.

Evening pages

These are like morning pages but done at the end of the day when you want to reflect on the day and how it panned out. Doing so can lend great insight into what has happened or how it could be better done the next time. It’s great for helping you to pinpoint areas for change but don’t get too hung up and beat yourself up over everything that didn’t quite go the way you thought it should have.

Gratitude journal

This is a daily journal with gratitude as a theme. You can start or end the day with it by writing down 5 things you are grateful for, from the simplest to the most important stuff in your life. Being grateful helps us appreciate things with a sense of grace and benevolence. It’s like you know God has your back no matter what. Your life can be stressing you out but there are stuff you are thankful for. It’s like “there goes I but for the grace of God” feeling. A gratitude journal can help you to see things more positively and with faith restored, you can then look for creative solutions to any problem in your life.

Addressing the negative but don’t ruminate

You will notice that journaling is best for putting out on paper all the negative stuff in your life. Doing so helps to create some distance between you and your problems hopefully leading to more clarity and solutions. But don’t get stuck and end up spinning around your problems. The idea is to take a long hard and honest look at the negatives in your life and then look for areas to change. If you can’t figure it out on your own and feel you need more professional help, then don’t hesitate to contact a counsellor.


At the end of the day, expansion and growth are the reasons why we are here in this life and all lives. It’s so that we can be better at being a human being although a human birth is  not always guaranteed. What’s guaranteed is that all sentient beings have a spiritual aspect that we will need to address if we have been given a human form in this precious incarnation. It is therefore our duty to make sure we do our utmost to flower in that aspect. Looking deep into ourselves to discover what makes us tick and how to tick better and more spiritually is our job. Let’s get on with it before time runs out.

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