A journal is great place to explore your feelings and journaling can help you reflect on things: Why did I do that? Why do I feel this way? Expressing difficult feelings in a journal can help you to let go of them and provide some perspective. It's almost like having a conversation with yourself. Journaling can also serve as a record of your journey. It's useful to look back over past entries and see what's changed. Journaling can highlight your progress and provide a useful record of insights you've had.
There's lots of evidence that journaling works. Dr. James Pennebaker found that those who kept a journal exploring their worst experiences had fewer minor illnesses and a more optimistic outlook.
Tips for Journaling
Journaling is most effective when you write about your deepest feelings. That can be challenging, but keep going as the journey is well worth it. Keep in mind that your journal is just for you. No-one else will ever read it. You may choose to share some of it in therapy, but that's not the main focus.
Journaling works best when you hand write each entry. You can use a computer, but I'd recommend using a hardback note book. What you write in your journal is confidential, so keep it somewhere safe.
You don't need to write for long, but try to do it everyday. Keep it manageable; how much time can you spare? Journaling for just 10 to 15 minutes a day is fine. Decide how long you'll write for and stick to it. It helps focus your mind if you time yourself and stop as soon as the time is up. Date every entry, as that will be useful when you come back to your journal later.
Don't worry about grammar, spelling or punctuation - just write! There's no rules about what to write but try to let the words come without too much thought. Your journal can include poems, drawings, doodles or whatever feels right for you. The best place to start is to ask yourself 'What's going on for me right now?' This is your private journal, so be honest with yourself. The more open and honest you can be in your journal, the better. Don't re-read what you've written straight away and don't edit it.
Don't worry if you get stuck; just explore how that stuckness feels. You might choose to notice what's happening in your body as you journal. How are you breathing? Do you notice any facial expressions or gestures? Be curious and be patient with yourself. Whatever happens is OK.
After a while it's worth reviewing what you've written. Read entries from a couple of weeks back or a month ago and see what comes up. Is there something to explore there? Has your perspective changed? Are there insights you'd forgotten in the meantime?
Other Ideas to Try
- Choose a photograph that's especially meaningful to you and journal about it.
- Write about what you'd choose if you had three wishes. Journal about your main worry right now. Write about memories or dreams.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Don't just count your blessings; write them down and journal about what feelings come up.
- Spend a few minutes preparation before you journal. Light a candle, do some breathing exercises or try a short mediation.
"The art of writing is the art
of discovering what you believe."
Contact me if you have any questions about journaling.