How journaling reduces stress and boosts creativity

How journaling reduces stress and boosts creativity

How journaling reduces stress and boosts creativity

Did you know there’s robust research showing that writing a journal helps us let go of difficult emotions, cuts down on over-thinking and procrastination and leaves us calmer, clearer and less stressed?

The research shows a journal habit:

  • helps your brain regulate your emotions (less shouting at the kids/your spouse/the TV)
  • gives you an outlet for your full range of emotions (yes, it is healthy to feel anger, fear, jealousy, envy, no it is not healthy to bottle them up or throw them on your nearest and dearest)
  • boosts your ability to cope with change and adversity (and who doesn’t need that right now?)
  • strengthens your sense of identity and your feelings of self-esteem and self-confidence (vital for people not working whose identity has been entwined with what they do)
  • build your self-awareness and emotional intelligence (which will stop you being replaced at work by a robot – yes seriously)

I encourage all my executive coaching clients to keep a journal 

After all, coaching is a change process; one that requires reflection, un-learning and experimenting with new ways of doing things.  The process of change will throw up the full range of emotions and will challenge us to think differently about ourselves.  So, look again at those research findings above to see how keeping a journal can be an important part of the coaching process.

As I write this, I realise that coaching is an act of creation; generating new insights, opening up new possibilities and choices.

And there you go.  Sitting down and writing has allowed that new thinking to emerge for me.

But I’m going to be honest, most of my clients don’t end up keeping a journal

For some of them it seems a bit “woo” and for some of them it seems so hard to get started.  There are few things more intimidating than a blank page and a sense that this is an extravagant indulgence when you are so busy (and perhaps also stressed). 

Getting started with journaling is HARD and it CAN seem a bit well, woo.

So let’s start with a few common myths:

Myth #1 Writing a diary and a journal are the same thing

They’re not. A diary tends to be a record of things that you’ve done or plans that you have.  What I call “out-there stuff”.  Journaling is “in here stuff”; thoughts, feelings, reactions, hopes and dreams. There can be an overlap between the two, but writing a journal is a structured form of brain dumping. Or what we call in psychology “letting go”.

Myth #2 Writing a journal is about neat handwriting, good grammar and having something important to say

If writing a journal was about good handwriting, that would count me out.  Journaling can include doodling, scribbling, drawing and mind maps. You certainly don’t need good grammar. Developing a journal habit will show you that you always have something important to say, it’s just a case of allowing what needs to be said to come out on paper.

What really holds us all back from writing a journal?

We are held back from writing a journal because of the way we learnt to write

We didn’t learn to write in the same way we learnt to talk.  Our speech developed through experimentation and lots of trial and error.  Our errors were often seen as adorable by our care givers; toddlers mangle the language and it’s cute and funny.

We learn to write under supervision and strict rules

We aren’t allowed to make up our own spelling rules; we have lines to write on and punctuation to get to grips with.  We have teachers and parents watching how and what we write and we are being marked and assessed right from the get-go.

So it’s hardly surprising that when we are adults and we get faced with a blank page in a journal, our Inner Critic and our Inner Editor hold an intervention and start telling us loud and clear that we have no idea what we are doing; who are we to think we are worthy enough, smart enough, reflective enough to fill this beautiful book with words?

Writing a journal is both an act of creativity and a doorway to further creation

There are no rules or limits when you use a journal. If you begin with a blank page in your journal, you could just ask yourself: “How am I now, in this moment?”

The process of answering this question by writing, doodling or drawing for just a few minutes allows you to untangle what you are thinking and feeling.  This opens a space cognitively and emotionally.  This “decluttered”, grounded state is the perfect start point for creativity.  You have given your brain processing speed to consider new ideas and you have given yourself the emotional capacity to take risks. 

In this curious, creative space you have also reduced your stress, as neurologically it is impossible to feel both anxious and curious at the same time.

For more reading on how to get started with journaling, click here.


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I would highly recommend journal writing. I joined one of Moyra’s journal safari sessions a couple of weeks ago and have been keeping a daily journal ever since. The main benefits for me is it’s helped me to keep perspective in these times, not to be too hard on myself and be thankful for the things I have achieved.

Justin Ellis

Innovation & Strategy, British retail bank

What got you here, won’t get you there

What got you here, won’t get you there

“Coaching and counselling are really for losers”, said a forthright friend of mine the other day.

“I know it’s what you do but I don’t believe in this coaching stuff.  If people were just a bit more resilient… I guess if you’re a bit of a loser it might help, but otherwise I don’t believe in it.”

And with friends like that you might think…

But I really didn’t take offence.  I’ve been hearing echoes of that statement for a long time.

The myth that coaching fixes problems

This idea is still widespread.  How else do we explain that two thirds of CEOs understand the value of coaching, yet 90% of them don’t have a coach?

It’s not lack of budget or sign-off power that is holding them back.  It’s the idea that they might have a problem that needs to be fixed, or some trait that needs to changed.

The three simple things that make you better at what you do

The three simple things that make you better at what you do

As a coach, clients ask me into their business to help them get better at what they do. Whether it’s an individual leader, a team or even a whole company, these clients are always interested in improvement.

Most of the time they’re pretty successful (sometimes extremely successful) but they’re looking for something a little bit extra. Some of them realise that what got them to this point may not get them to where they really want to be.

At the beginning big nouns are bandied about: “leadership”, “engagement”, “collaboration.”  I know that big consultancies make big money from trying to grapple with big nouns.

Perhaps foolishly, I start with a few small verbs. Because that literally is where the action is.

There are three verbs – three actions – that guarantee improvement


Time Management: The biggest lie: “I have no time.”

Time Management: The biggest lie: “I have no time.”

If you want to change anything significant in your life you need to nail this lie.

Whether it is exercising more, changing the direction of your business or becoming a better leader to your team, most of us need to challenge this most insidious of self-limiting beliefs that what is stopping us is a lack of time. We need to look at our time management.

I’ve written before that I believe effective time management  is the very first thing needed to be a true leader – without that skill you just have over-busy, stressed managers.

So when can we tell we’re lying to ourselves?


How do you respond to conflict? Learn how to set your Emotional Thermostat

How do you respond to conflict? Learn how to set your Emotional Thermostat

What is an Emotional Thermostat?  When faced with an indifferent waiter and disappointing food, how easy do you find it to complain?

When someone at work has produced poor quality work, what do you do and say?  And more importantly, how do you feel?

These feedback moments are challenging for many of us because of the potential for confrontation and conflict.  We need to learn to respond while retaining control of our ancient fight or flight responses.

So let’s get acquainted with our Emotional Thermostat (more…)

What is your self-worth? How to really value yourself.

What is your self-worth? How to really value yourself.

If I asked you the question “What is your self-worth?”  what would you take into consideration?

Would you think about how much you earn or how much you own?  Would you think about what’s in the bank, or how much you owe the bank?

Or would you dwell on what other people might think you’re worth?

How long did it take you before you valued yourself?

Not just in this exercise above, but in your life?

The trouble with external valuations – like everything in a market – is the value can rise or fall without really having anything to do with you.

We’ve been judged and labelled all our lives 

Sporty, smart, arty, eccentric, funny, beautiful, introvert, extrovert, people person, shy, bossy, go-getting.  These (e)valuations are set by other people, or agreed by us in some kind of unconscious negotiation with other people.

Rescuing knight - self-wroth value yourselfAfter a while we may even take on that label; wear it like a suit of armour.  You might begin sentences with:

“you see, I’m an X kind of person.”

We limit our self-worth by overlooking our value

Being an “X kind of person” makes sure that we limit ourselves before someone else does.  It’s a bulwark against rejection.

It’s why I think psychometric tests are such comfort blankets for corporations; they’re grown-up labels where it’s ok to put people in boxes.  The focus is on a fixed point. Nowhere are we considering our value; what we’re offering or what we have in common.

Most of the coaching conversations I’ve ever had – whether I have been the coach or the one being coached – has begun at the point of being frustrated or comforted with a label.

The biggest value of coaching or therapy is that it allows us the space to examine our own assumptions and unpick the tapestry of labels and self-limiting beliefs we’ve stitched together over time.

How to set your own self-worth and value

Setting our value, establishing our own self-worth, is not an easy task.  Especially when we’ve got used to other people doing it for us.

We could all value these things more: