Friday, June 21, 2024

I Tried Audio Journaling For a Month — Here’s What Happened

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Being introspective has never been easy for me. I’ve tried to do it on and off again through traditional journaling for the past 5 years. While beneficial at times, I’m often inconsistent and the practice can start to feel stale after a while. Still, I felt like I wanted a way to reflect on my emotions day to day. Then one afternoon in March, I was scrolling on TikTok and I stumbled upon this user’s video explaining the benefits and appeal of audio journaling.

I’d never heard of it before, but the thought of recording what was on my mind seemed refreshing. I’d have the opportunity to capture raw emotions and thoughts in a spontaneous and authentic manner. Unlike the traditional journaling method, which at times felt too structured. Plus, audio recordings offer up a unique privacy (when done on a cell phone, they’re password protected!) and ease of listening, says Stacy McCall-Martin, licensed therapist and owner of The Fruited Life, a virtual mental health and wellness company.

Some clients may feel apprehensive about audio journaling. As a mental health professional, McCall-Martin, will use often sessions as an opportunity to practice the journaling method. Encouraging clients to record entries during sessions which can prompt them to try it independently, McCall-Martin tells PS.

So how do you audio journal, exactly? In the TikTok that hooked me, the user provided a few tips on how to get started with recommendations like meditating, going out in nature or doing anything that relaxes you to get grounded before recording. But ultimately, she shared that there are no real rules to audio journaling except to be your authentic self and let whatever comes to mind out. You can use prompts to get started if you’re unsure of what to do, but it’s not a requirement. This was appealing to me because who doesn’t love the idea of “no real rules.” Plus, I was intrigued by the possibility of being able to express myself without worrying about grammar, structure, or any other constraints typically associated with written forms of journaling.

The simplicity of it all sounded so freeing — just hitting record on my phone and speaking my thoughts aloud. It eliminated the need to remember to sit down with pen and paper, making it incredibly convenient for someone with a busy schedule like mine. I could easily prop my phone up wherever I was and simply start talking, capturing my thoughts and emotions in real-time. So that’s exactly what I did — I propped my phone up, took a deep breath, and hit record. Here’s what happened:

Day 1:

I woke up excited knowing I was starting something new today. I was used to journaling in a notebook first thing in the morning so I thought to try the same thing with audio journaling. “Hi”, “So”, “Eh” I spoke into my phone at the start. I didn’t know how to begin. Immediately I started over-thinking about what to say and how to say it. But eventually, I sat down at my kitchen table as I sipped my morning coffee and just started talking. I went in without a plan. No prompts or anything. I just went with the flow and said whatever came from the dome.

I spoke about how my morning was going and how I was feeling in the present moment. After not knowing what to say during the first few seconds, it eventually became natural. It was like my own personal podcast. I ended the audio with a positive affirmation: “This week will be great, you will conquer anything that comes your way.” On Day 1, I managed to journal for five minutes. It went by so fast that I didn’t even realize that I had so much to say. I felt positive afterwards and I was looking forward to Day 2.

Day 15:

I woke up exhausted. Yesterday, I traveled home from celebrating a friend’s birthday and I did not have the energy to record the first thing in the morning. But I mustered up the courage to journal closer to the afternoon to set the tone for the day.

This session was a combination of affirmations, recapping my friend’s birthday weekend (which was very fun), and reminiscing on the new memories that were made. For context, she curated a birthday brunch where she spotlighted Black-owned creators, creatives, and businesses — so I left feeling very inspired about my own future. I continued on with my journal entry discussing my experience with audio journaling thus far and ended it with random thoughts that came to my head. This entry was ten minutes long.

By day fifteen, I felt like I’d truly grasped the concept of audio journaling and noticed that it set my mood for the day. Being able to get my thoughts out first thing in the morning by just saying what was on my mind became a stress reliever for me and something new that I looked forward to.

Day 20:

In the days leading up to day 20, I felt extremely proud of myself for keeping up with this new journey. However, today was different. I woke up feeling a bit off (I didn’t get much sleep after hanging out with my nephew), and my usual routine felt more like a chore than a comfort. But I decided to journal anyway because of how I was feeling, rather than skip it altogether due to my emotions.

Despite my feelings that day, I made a conscious effort to push through and prioritize my audio journaling. Instead of starting my day with it though, I waited until the afternoon when I was in a better headspace and felt more settled. It was around 2 pm when I finally sat down with my phone and hit record. As I spoke, I found myself delving into deeper topics, exploring my emotions and thoughts with a newfound clarity. I also reflected on the past week that I had spent with my family and the new experiences added to our family vault.

The session lasted for about eight minutes. I am happy that I waited until the afternoon to journal — by then I had a clearer head, more time and space. That’s one of the most important things to do when journaling. While there are no specific rules to the practice, I do recommend journaling when you feel comfortable and at ease. For me, allowing the timing of my journaling to fluctuate based on my headspace impacted by ability to feel connected with myself and my emotions.

Day 25:

Today, I woke up feeling positive. I am not sure if it was the weather (my mood brightens when the sun is out) or if it’s because I slept well — but I was feeling great. Today’s session, I focused on reflecting on how far I’d come with this process. What I’d learned thus far about audio journaling is being consistent pays off. What I thought was nearly impossible became easy by day 25 due to consistency. This audio session lasted ten minutes and taught me that I can do anything that I put my mind to. It also reminded me of the power of self-expression and the importance of making time for introspection, even when things are going great.

Day 30:

Today marks the end of my thirty-day audio journaling journey, and what a journey it has been. Looking back on the past month, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride in how far I’ve come. From starting off my first audio journaling session with “uh, hi? ” because I didn’t know where to start — to now, where audio journaling has become an integral part of my daily routine.

By the morning of day thirty, I felt a tinge of nostalgia mixed with excitement for what the future holds. As I spoke into my phone feeling relaxed and confident, I reflected on the growth, the challenges, and the moments of clarity that I experienced along the way. Today, I journaled for fifteen minutes, as I wanted to take the time to express my gratitude for this journey, set intentions for the road ahead and said a few affirmations.

When I hit stop on the recording, the first thing I experienced was happiness. While the thirty days may be over, I knew it was just the beginning of a lifelong practice of expressing myself.

What I Liked About Audio Journaling

Audio journaling is more therapeutic than I ever thought it would be. The daily practice provided me with an outlet to effortlessly capture my thoughts and reflections wherever I was. It didn’t matter if I was in my room or walking around my neighborhood. I had the opportunity to eliminate the need for pen and paper to share my thoughts especially for busy days when I’m not able to write or too tired to.

McCall-Martin also informed me that “audio journaling can assist individuals with challenges in verbal expression, aiding them in effectively communicating their thoughts and feelings. It serves as a form of practicing emotional intelligence in self-dialogue, potentially boosting confidence in similar conversations with others.”

This was my exact experience, beyond the convenience of it all, I was able to convey the emotions I had with depth and nuance. It’s hard for me to write everything I am thinking when I do journal with pen and paper. I don’t fully capture my thoughts because it’s too much to write. With audio journaling, I captured the subtleties of tone and inflection that might be lost in written words. This emotional richness not only enhances the authenticity of your journal entries but also provides a more holistic record of your experiences. It felt liberating to express myself without the pressure of perfection, knowing that I could speak freely and openly without worrying about formatting or structure. In the future I’ll probably do a mixture of both audio and traditional journaling.

What To Know Before Audio Journaling

I loved audio journaling, but every person is different. Audio journaling may not be for you if you tend to be anxious or critical when hearing your own voice, explains McCall-Martin.

If you want to try audio journaling, but fear that anxiety or critique will get in the way, she recommends that individuals choose not to listen to entries until they feel more at ease with recording their thoughts and experiences. And that tends to come with time. Try giving yourself a week before hitting play.

Another helpful tip: consider when you choose to record. For me, I noticed that the morning was typically better because I tended to forget later in the day. But also, let your emotions guide you. Some mornings when I felt groggy or unwilling to record, I did so later in the day and those were some of my most introspective recordings.

A final tip: take it slow when you first start out. You don’t have to record for 10 minutes the first day; any length of time works as long as you’re getting your thoughts out. And remember, there are no rules other than to hit record. Talk as much as you want, let it be messy, and let things flow as they come to mind. Don’t focus too much on how you sound — it’ll all make sense later.

Tamieka Welsh is a writer specializing in general wellness, health, and lifestyle trends. In addition to PS, her work has appeared in, MindBodyGreen, and YR Media.

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