What is journaling?
Journaling involves the practice of writing regularly, even daily, in a diary or journal to explore and examine your thoughts and feelings about the events of your life. This process allows you to be in touch with your personal concerns, including your deepest, and most private issues. Writing consistently in your journal gives you a record of your life experiences and emotional journey through them. Reviewing your journal will sometimes provide an opportunity to assess growth and development over time. It can also remind you of things that have helped or hurt you in the past.
Why should I do it?
In addition to being a tool of self-examination, journaling can be a great stress management tool. By writing about your thoughts and feelings in an unreserved fashion, you have the chance to release the emotion involved in a safe way. Your journal can be a protected and secure forum for thoughts and feelings that sometimes feel too weird, painful or “out of control” to share with others. Journaling also helps you to gather and clarify your thoughts, often leading to improved self-awareness and better problem solving. Writing about traumatic events can allow for acceptance, integration and even healing. If you choose to share your journal, it gives others a “window into the soul,” making it easier to understand those experiences and how they have affected you.
How do I get started?
Select a journal. It can be a blank, leather-bound book, a notebook, or a just a dedicated folder on your computer. You can use the formatting of the journal to reflect your identity and creativity, incorporating pictures, doodles, poems, and even the lyrics of songs. Or you can simply use your journal to write in.
Set aside time on a regular basis. It is really helpful to bring journaling into your daily routine. Some like to journal first thing in the morning, as a way to start the day. Others write at lunchtime or in the evening to release stress and to review the day’s events. Try to write at least ten to twenty minutes a day—or more, if time allows. If you can’t put journal writing into the routine of your day yet, consider carrying it with you. That way, you can write when ‘the spirit moves you’—or when you really need to vent! Please note that journal writing is a tool intended just for you. Keep your journal private by putting it in a safe place, perhaps under lock and key. If you are using your computer to journal, make sure it is password-protected to ensure confidentiality. Remember, you can always share some or all of the contents of your journal with others you trust when you determine it would be useful to do so.
Now, just begin writing!
It is important to be uninhibited in your writing. Don’t worry about what to say or how you say it. Grammar and spelling are unimportant and sometimes just get in the way of the free-flow of ideas. Don’t waste time censoring or editing yourself. Just begin writing—about anything! You can write about your day, your dreams, your relationships, your problems, and more. Challenge yourself to write about how you see your purpose in life and what you are grateful for. As you write, try not to only vent out negative emotions, or to just list the day’s events. Write about more than your feelings and activities. Reflect. Examine. Include your thoughts, values, and opinions about the things you write about. When you allow yourself to relive emotional events, take the time afterward to think constructively about solutions or the life lessons they offer you.
Re-read your journal entries from time to time, noting the patterns, changes, and growth you have attained. Research suggests that journal writing not only relieves stress, but also enhances your self-awareness and development. So, go ahead. Try it out. It will surprise you!
Written by Kathleen Weeks, MS, MA, LLP. Visit www.mielkeandweeks.com for more information about Kathleen.