If you are looking for a way to slow down and take stock in the new year, may I suggest journaling -- not as another item on your to-do list, but as a gift to yourself, a record of the journey of the experiences and thought processes that make up your life.

It beats talking out loud and, as a bonus, you can answer yourself in a journal.

There is no one right way to journal. You can include bad puns (as I just did), happy thoughts, sad feelings, stories, people, places and memories. You can hash out a problem and just maybe, over time, solve it.

You can dream. You can decide to keep a specific journal of the slumberland express where you write down each morning where your mind went in the rapid eye movement stage of sleep.

When I went through a "bad patch" a few years ago the book "Simple Abundance" by Sarah Ban Breathnach was recommended to me by a friend. According to Ban Breathnach, one couldn't start to have a life of joy without first having gratitude.

For a year, at the end of each day, I wrote down the five things I was grateful for. "I faced another day," or "I had lunch with Joanne," or "The station wagon is repaired," or "My

3- year-old daughter composed a 13-word sentence with several concepts," or "Andi and I had fun in the pool after work."

It changed my entire perspective and helped me discover little joys I had been overlooking. Even though I'm in a vastly better place now, I am feeling it is probably time to be actively grateful again.

Go ahead and jot down those random ideas crossways on the lined pages of your journal. I highly recommend using a pen you really like the feel of in your hand as you write.

Lined or blank, white pages or colorful ones, intricate or plain covers, journal choices abound. I had great fun writing in a black-papered, spiral-bound notebook with colored gel pens for a while.

Ah, but you say, "I've never written," or "I hated English in school," or "Eek! What if my kids find it?" or "I don't want to."

This is your stream of consciousness! Although you may go back and revisit yourself, no one is grading it.

Come on, you can put it someplace your children won't discover it. (Maybe they'd like to start their own journals?)

For those who are still with me, on the other side of the bookstore from the blank journal choices are books to inspire you and nudge you in the personal writing direction.

The non-linear among us can start in the middle or two pages from the end or seven from the front.

Charlene Geiss and Claudia Jessup wrote "The Book of Exploration, Using the Inner Outings Method and Diarist's Deck of 33 Cards." The cards are reminiscent of the scrapbooking techniques taught by Barbara and Brenda at Paper and Metal Scrappers.

The "Wish upon a star" card reminds us that as children we looked up and wished upon a star for a new bike, that we'd make a basket at the next tournament, or that the boy we had a crush on would pay attention.

What did you wish for as a child? Did any come true? How? When? How did you feel?

"May our time here together

be quiet and attentive;

may it lead us toward seeing the sacred,

toward hearing the silence,

toward meeting the light

which is coming over the hills."

According to G. Lynn Nelson in "Writing and Being," the above is a "common Native American saying, signifying the connectedness of all things."

Being quiet and attentive to one's self gives creativity the freedom to emerge. Nelson sees writing as a tool for intellectual, psychological and spiritual growth.

He writes, "Wonder about the motion of love ... Each time you open your journal, you begin again ..."

If you don't want to journal, please, we need more happiness in life. Find what makes you happy and do more of it.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.