Journaling is the regular practice of exploring our thoughts and feelings surrounding the events, experiences and relationships in our lives through the medium of the written word. Taking the time to direct our thoughts, in relation to our life’s experiences, onto paper helps bring greater clarity and a much deeper understanding of why we think, feel, and behave as we do, resulting in a greater sense of self-awareness and greater self-esteem. As a result, we have a greater understanding of our relationship with ourselves and our relationships with others.
Penning Our Perceptions
Penning down our innermost feelings and our perspectives on life is one of the best ways of de-stressing as it evokes mindfulness and helps us remain present while keeping perspective on what it is we are writing about. When we journal, we become the writer, and as the writer, we become the observer. When we’re the observer, we can be more objective. When we’re objective, we’re not influenced by personal feelings or opinions but instead have a greater perception. When we have a greater perception, we’re better able to accurately interpret our environment and have greater control over our feelings and emotions. As a result, we are better able to move on in life.
Making The Unconscious Conscious
When we see the bigger picture, we can begin to acknowledge our issues and gain greater clarity on identifying our problems, fears and concerns. Breaking our issues down in this way gives us a greater perspective and helps us identify any triggers. Journaling provides us with a medium through which we can reveal the hidden, dark, secretive parts of our psyche, the parts we wouldn’t want others to know. When we self-reflect in this way, it helps us identify our inner self-talk – both negative and positive – and as such, we’re able to recognise any patterns and habits that play out in our lives. As a result, journaling helps us bring unconscious habits and patterns into our conscious awareness. Once we become aware of them, it’s then much easier to deal with them.
The Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of Writing
‘Who’ relates to the writer. That’s you. It also relates to who will read what you write; that’s you too. So write uncensored!
‘What’ relates to writing, journaling in this case. The difference between a diary and a journal is that while a diary records daily news and events, a journal records events of a personal nature, taking into account thoughts, feelings and emotions. Will you write about your thoughts, feelings and emotions surrounding your daily events? Or will you go deeper and write about your relationship with yourself and your relationships with others? Writing about your goals and aspirations will help bring them to life as you power them with your energy because wherever your thoughts are, that’s where your energy is! When you write about your issues, it’s as if you can unburden yourself from any guilt, shame or blame, or indeed any emotion that may surface. You get to offload all our emotional debris onto the page.
‘When’ you journal is totally up to you. It helps if you set a planned time to write every day as you then train your brain to expect to write at certain times; this can help develop the habit of regular journaling. It can be anytime, preferably one that fits in with your daily schedule. Writing in the morning tends to help set the tone for the day ahead. Writing in the evening helps put some perspective and closure on the day’s events. Nothing is stopping you from doing both. Writing at the same time every day will help develop and reinforce a new habit.
‘Where’ is where it feels right or feels comfortable for you to sit and journal. Create a writing space, somewhere comfortable and private with good lighting, where you’ll have privacy and will be uninterrupted. It’s important you have a comfortable seat with somewhere to place your paper on for writing; this may be a tray, a table, the arm of a chair, or even your lap. You may wish to write in bed, in the bath, in the garden, or in the park. You get to choose.
‘Why’ you write in a journal is personal to you. I started journaling as an outlet for my feelings and emotions and gaining a greater perspective on my life. I then progressed to writing to my True Authentic Self to develop a stronger connection and purer relationship with myself.
‘How’ you write is up to you and will be influenced by your own preferred style and writing format. Typing allows for password security on digital files. Alternatively, source a lockable journal or lockable cabinet to house your paper journals away from prying eyes. Writing authentically gives you the complete freedom to write in whatever way feels right to you. This is how you find your inner voice. ‘How’ also relates to how long should you journal for. There are no hard or fast rules. It’s best to ease into it, start with five minutes and gradually build up to 10, then 15 and eventually 20 minutes, ensuring the journaling doesn’t become burdensome or intrusive into everyday events.
Ideas For You To Try
Journaling The Day
Writing in a journal may feel awkward, to begin with, but as with any new habit, the more we practice, the easier it becomes. If we’re struggling with our feelings, we might want to try writing about our day’s activities. For example, I met ‘so-and-so’, went to ‘such-and-such’ a place for lunch. I had a lovely day out; it was nice to catch up. Soon we’ll be adding bits like ‘it was great to be able to talk through such-and-such an issue as I gained a new perspective on things.’ Or, ‘didn’t enjoy my time with so-and-so as she moaned throughout lunch, to the point that I had to excuse myself and leave early.’
Acknowledging how we feel is the first step in processing our feelings and emotion. Sometimes that’s all it takes, simply acknowledging the emotion allows it to come to the surface and then we can watch it dissipate. One young woman I know wrote pages of blah, blah, blah to express the blah feeling she had towards life. After weeks of writing blah, she found she could add the odd sentence or two; until eventually she permitted herself to ‘speak’. Once she found her written voice, nothing could hold her back, and she was amazed at how good it felt to express herself finally. She wrote lyrics and poems and filled journals with years of thoughts and feelings and emotions that were trapped inside her body. Writing about them freed her up.
It helps to write down your memories of the day’s events as they happened. It’s worth knowing that emotions are associated with our bodily reactions activated through neurotransmitters and hormones released by the brain. At the same time, our feelings are our conscious experience of these emotional reactions. As you write about your day, ask yourself:
- How did that make me feel, and where do I feel that? And write out your feelings and the bodily sensations you’re experiencing.
- What emotions surfaced for me? Write down the emotions you identify with.
- What were my thoughts at the time? Write out your thoughts.
- How did I react/respond? Imagine you’re watching yourself in that situation and write down what you see.
- What did this trigger in me? Write down any old memories that may have surfaced.
- Is this an old pattern playing out? Write down your thoughts and beliefs around your perception of this situation.
- Are these your belief’s or someone else’s? Do you believe these beliefs?
Writing this way will help you identify beliefs, patterns, habits, triggers etc., giving you greater insight into your relationship with yourself and your relationship with others.
Writing To An Imaginary Friend
One of the most talked-about Jewish victims of the Holocaust, Anne Frank, wrote daily in her diary. Anne was desperate for a trusted friend, someone with whom she could share her innermost secrets and her darkest fears and not worry about how her friend would react. On her birthday on 14th July 1942, she wrote an entry in her diary ‘hoping that she would be able to entrust everything to her diary and that it would be a great support’. Two days after her birthday, she started writing daily, addressing her entries to several fictional characters until eventually, she focused mainly on her favourite character, Kitty. Anne found great comfort in expressing herself to Kitty and started her diary entries with ‘Dear Kitty’. In this way, writing gave Anne the best friend she desired and an outlet for her feelings and emotions.
Writing To Your True Authentic Self
In order to openly and freely write to someone about our innermost feelings, it helps if we have a trusting relationship with them, one in which we feel very safe and secure. For me personally, I like to write to my true authentic self (TAS). Doing so helps me form a stronger connection with my true inner core self. Writing in this way feels like I’m opening up to a part of me that knows all the issues and also knows the best way to handle things, as I bypass the ego and tap into my innate wisdom and inner guidance.
Writing To A Specific Person (not for posting)
We may wish to direct our letters to specific people knowing we will never post the letters, so they will never read them. This allows us to write uncensored. Because of this, we can freely express our thoughts, emotions and feelings in terms of our relationship without having to worry about confrontation or how the other person may react. Rather than holding onto these letters, it would help if we were to consider these letters for burning, as this is a great way to release our emotions, freeing us up to let go of the past. Also, this ensures these letters never get read.
Scribbling It Out
When we’re feeling rage, we can scribble it out, venting all our anger onto the paper as we open the emotional floodgates, knowing it’s safe to do as the paper absorbs our fury and rage. The icing on the cake is when we burn the paper (safely), setting the intention that we’re freeing ourselves and releasing our emotions for our greatest and highest good.
Working Through The Discomfort
The best way to deal with any situation is to work through it, but this can be uncomfortable and even quite challenging for some as we process our feelings and emotions. It helps if we can find ways of easing the stress and discomfort of change. Stepping Into Your Light is a wonderful metaphor for stepping out of the issue at hand and stepping into a safe, secure place within where we can find calm and peace. It’s much easier to deal with our emotions when they do not engulf us.
Closing With Gratitude
An excellent way to end a journal entry is with a moment of gratitude. Journaling about the good things in life, such as the things we love, our appreciation for the wonderful people in our lives, and all that we have to be grateful for, helps open our hearts to all the abundance life has to offer.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab a pen and paper and as you write, let your emotions flow and let the past go. So cathartic!