One of the beautiful things about the path to wellbeing is that it’s different for everyone; what works for one person might not resonate for another. And, there are countless tools that each of us can call on to bring us closer to that reimagined state of being. One of them is putting pen to paper. And one of our go-to gurus for this incredibly beneficial practice is Laura Rubin.
Founder of AllSwell, an experience company dedicated to fostering creativity in all its forms, Laura has channeled her passion for journaling into something much greater. Her write-draw notebooks have become an antidote to digital overwhelm, and her custom workshops, hosted in intentionally inspired settings from Tahiti to Tofino, have helped countless individuals and organizations become healthier, happier and more visionary. We're thrilled to be hosting one such event in the weeks ahead... and to share her thoughts on this simple yet essential practice, below.
Tell us how AllSwell Creative came to be… Can you share your journey in embracing journaling as a tool for self-exploration and self-care?
I’ve never not journaled. I started at age 8 when a family friend gave me my first diary and haven’t stopped since. It’s an integral part of how I experience the world, how I relate to myself and a hugely helpful tool for shaping my life. It informs how I make decisions, process information, dream and mourn.
I wasn’t fully, consciously aware of how good this practice was for me until I created the first AllSwell notebook and discovered in the process the immense body of scientific data supporting the benefits of keeping a journal. This accessible, relatable tool is mentally, emotionally and physiologically good for you. It helps strengthen your immune system, diminish anxiety, it helps curb PTSD and speeds wound healing. The list goes on. My mind was blown and it redoubled my commitment to share this practice, which has been so supportive for me personally, with others.
Can you share the sentiment behind the idea of “life being a creative act”?
Too often we can get caught up in the day to day, carrying out plot lines that we devise for ourselves based on external programming (i.e. what we think is expected of us). But we have so much more autonomy than we realize and the greatest factor holding us back is often access to our own imagination.
Creating a life that is nourishing, exciting and interesting is not a luxury.
I’m not talking about lounging around on super-yachts in the Mediterranean (though if that’s your thing, amen). I’m referring to structuring your day-to-day life in ways that engage your best, truest self.
When is the last time you stopped to envision a life you love? What work are you doing? Where are you living? Where are you eating breakfast, with whom? How does your body feel? We deserve to ask ourselves these questions periodically. Check in, dream into your own future. Once you have that vision it’s a lot easier to get to that place.
What are some of the real-world benefits you’ve seen from the practice of putting pen to paper?
Having an outlet for self-expression is nourishing but it also has tremendous utility. Innovation of any kind comes from the spark of creativity. Think of creativity like a muscle that strengthens with regular use (and requires rest from time to time). By activating that impulse through an intentional pen-to-paper practice it can make you a more visionary leader, a more intuitive manager, a better problem solver, etc.
What are some common misconceptions and/or misgivings around the practice of journaling? And, how do you go about encouraging people to push through them?
You do not need to be a good writer to be good at journaling. Grammar doesn’t matter. Sentence structure isn’t important. Nobody’s grading you, there’s no audience.
Don’t think you have anything interesting to say? We are all creative beings. (I’m not suggesting we are all artists, that’s a different animal.) Each of us has an innate voice that is uniquely one’s own. Connecting with that voice is the goal; it’s about the act not the output.
Journaling is not just for women. UCLA released a study in 2018 that all the benefits of journaling (see above) are 50% greater for men. Culturally speaking, men have so few acceptable forms of self-expression that this simple tool provides them with a much needed and transformational outlet.
What have been some of the most rewarding pieces of this work?
This work never fails to fascinate and stun me. I watch people connect with themselves, learn to respect their own voice, slow down long enough to actually feel how they’re feeling. It reminds me of a phrase in a poem by Hafiz: “the seed cracked open.”
I hear repeatedly that the AllSwell workshops are life-changing but I’m no guru. I don’t tell anyone what to write. I create a compelling and safe setting, provide information and present different ways to use a journal. The experience is fundamentally self-generated and I’m joyfully there to encourage the process.
Tell us something you’re especially excited about:
I am over-the-moon excited about the upcoming launch of the new AllSwell product. Coming out later this year, it’s a deck of journaling prompt cards that I created in collaboration with psychiatrist Monisha Vasa. Various people suggested I create a journaling prompt app but the last thing I want is to drive people to their phones. So, I decided to keep it old school and analog in keeping with AllSwell’s ethos. Pull a card, crack your notebook and have at it.
Outside of the written word, where do you find inspiration?
Nature is my greatest ally. Even a quick hit of being outdoors helps fill my creativity well. A big trip somewhere visually dramatic helps but what I’m referring to here are more the small doses. It might be a beach walk, a sunset hike, paddling out for a surf session or just sitting in my backyard doing what I call tree-gazing.
I’m also inspired by my community. I have to brag a bit and say that my friends are incredible human beings. Their real-talk wisdom, diverse viewpoints and general bad-assery are a big part of why I am who I am.
At Prima, we believe that self-care is health care. What are some things you do to prioritize your physical, emotional and social health?
Predictably, I journal. Usually twice a day. In the morning I whip up a matcha latte loaded with collagen and adaptogens and spend about 10 minutes writing in my notebook. Sometimes less, sometimes more, it depends on what tools I’m using and what feels right that particular day.
At night I journal in bed, getting out of my head and onto the page whatever bits of the day I need to remember or process. I sleep better as a result because I’m not carrying that baggage into my dreamtime. I take some CBD and drift off.