On a clear blue Friday in July, a group of 20 people from different professional backgrounds — a sports coach, a television executive, an owner of a public relations company — sat around a table stocked with nuts and fruit in Montauk, N.Y., to learn how to journal.
With a glass of white wine in hand and against the backdrop of a harbor, the instructor, Laura Rubin, led a discussion about the group’s preconceptions of the practice.
“The last time I journaled was in 1988 on a trip to Tibet,” one man said. “My mom said you will never remember this stuff unless you write it down.”
“A lot of people only journal when they travel,” Ms. Rubin replied. “But don’t you want to enjoy and savor your whole life?”
“I haven’t touched a journal since I was a kid because my mom always read them,” another participant added.
“That is not uncommon,” Ms. Rubin responded, calling this a typical “journaling trauma.” The reasons continued: It was a practice for only teenage girls; it was something helpful only in a crisis; it was too scary to find out what would emerge on the page.
“I’m going to change all of your minds, and of course I have a method of teaching that I have tried and tested, but that is not why,” she said. “It’s because journaling works. It gets you where you need to go.”
‘I am not a yoga teacher from Topanga’
Ms. Rubin, 50, who lives in Sag Harbor, founded a company named Allswell Creative in 2015 that facilitates workshops around the world to teach people how to journal. Her main objective is to reach people who wouldn’t naturally gravitate toward journaling — in environments “that aren’t associated with fuzzy slippers and bath balms” — especially those working in corporate America or other high-pressure environments (she has worked with wounded veterans, for example).For most of her life, Ms. Rubin worked in corporate America or as an entrepreneur. She ran a marketing communications agency on both coasts that represented mega-fashion companies and large, bureaucratic foundations. “Because I come from a corporate background I understand the unique environment they are operating in,” she said. “I am not a yoga teacher from Topanga.”
She has also journaled for most of her life. “It helped me pivot from big jobs, not marry that guy, move coasts,” she said. “It has been my North Star since I was 8.”
So she knew the benefits of journaling were too good to reserve for wellness-minded folks. In fact, they might be more important for busy people.
“Journaling provides that opportunity to ask yourself the right questions and do check-ins. How does this make me feel? Is this the best use of my time?” she said.
Ms. Rubin has put on workshops for companies like Netflix and soon, Nasdaq. Some workplaces even hire her to help employees manage their mental health.
“Especially in our industry, in entertainment, people work 12-hour work days and have really stressful clients,” said Nikki Seidlin, a human resources director for Endeavor that held workshops for employees in its Los Angeles and New York City offices.
“Stressed and anxious employees are the top presenting issues we run into, so we want to give people a tool,” she said, that allows them to “get their emotions out on the page instead of having them come out in unproductive ways.”
Ms. Seidlin added that the workshops were voluntary and they had agents, executives, executive assistants and mail-room staff participate.
Other companies have specific goals. “There is a digital marketing agency I did a workshop for, and they were all so burnt out, because they work on their phones and look at a screen all day long,” Ms. Rubin said. “The woman who hired me wanted her employees to have something to help counter the burnout.”
A private foundation hired Ms. Rubin to run a workshop months after the death of George Floyd, giving employees, she said, “a place to privately express themselves in the midst of what could be a confronting process during which a lot of emotions were likely to emerge.”
‘The microdosing method of journaling’
The workshop in Montauk was sponsored by Whalebone, a surfing brand that publishes a magazine and sells merchandise, for the community. “I really want this to be a moment where we can all slow down together,” said Eddie Berrang, Whalebone’s president and publisher.
During the two-hour event, Ms. Rubin guided participants through different journaling exercises.
For four minutes the group wrote about everything they saw, heard or noticed. Other portions of the workshop were spent brainstorming ideas for slowing down or jotting down lists of things participants like.
When time was up, Ms. Rubin asked: “Did you feel any shift in terms of your presence?” Many nodded.
She added that they could do it for a few minutes every day at home. “It’s like the microdosing method of journaling.”
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