What is Journaling?
Journaling, or journal writing, is the process of recording one’s thoughts, emotions, insights, reflections and questions. It is a form of reflective writing that can help you build ideas and bridge connections between the physical world and experiences to one’s emotions or behaviours. It can relieve stress of the day, assisting you so that it prevents, or limits build up of stress, carrying it subconsciously from one day, to the next. Journaling can help you to identify areas of trauma, pain, hurt and fear, but also identify and acknowledge your progress, strengths and attributes. You can include dreams, gratitude, when something or someone has upset your and to provide a private space to explore and reflect on those things.
Why is a Diary, not the same a Journaling?
A diary typically records your day, what you did, what happened, where you went, with who etc. A diary is more about the facts of your day to day life, a timeline of events in your life.
A journal is where you can explore the inner psyche, emotional and spiritual aspects, influences and thoughts. It is a place to explore your emotional experiences and reactions throughout your day and any insights or reflections you may have.
Journaling: The Psyche and how it influences and assists your personal development.
It is hypothesised that writing enhances our mental health. Guiding you towards confronting previously inhibited emotions, processing traumatic events and having a coherent narrative of your experiences.
Writing can make you more aware, or self-aware, of your emotional processes and spiritual experiences. It allows for you to have more control in your life and puts things into perspective which we cannot always do or rationalise in the current moment. It assists you to shift from a negative mindset to a more positive one.
Journaling makes you step back and evaluate your thoughts, emotions, and behaviour and explores solutions. It brings your emotions and motivations into alignment with your deepest values and can help to lower your emotional reactivity to others.
It increases tolerance of ambiguity, ambivalence, and unpredictability, which are part of normal living and helps you see other people’s perspectives alongside your own.
Remember, when journaling it is important to reflect. It is not a place where you become an observer of your own life, where it becomes a vehicle of blame or for wallowing in negativity, rather than taking responsibility for your journey and process, to explore options, potentials and dreams.
How to Write a Journal
When you journal, remember the simple acronym: WRITE!
W – What do you want to write about? Think about what is going on in your life, your current thoughts and feelings, even if you experience writers block, or if it’s something along the lines of “I don’t know what to write about” put it down! Then ask yourself, how does it make me feel, not knowing what to write about? When have I felt like this before? Be curios, ask yourself questions and you will find yourself writing in no time.
R – Review or reflect on it. Take a few moments to be still, calm your breath, and focus. A little mindfulness or meditation could help in this step. Try to start sentences with “I” statements like “I feel…”, “I want…”, and, “I think…” Also, try to keep them in the present tense, with sentence stems like “Today…”, “Right now…”, or “In this moment…”. This allows you to own and take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings. You may have an entry where you had an argument with someone, instead of “name had an argument with me, and he/she made me feel ….”. Instead write “today I had an argument and I felt ….” Then read your entry back and see how it feels.
I – Investigate your thoughts and feelings through your writing. Just keep going! If you feel you have run out of things to write or your mind starts to wander, take a moment to re-focus (another opportunity for mindfulness meditation!), read over what you have just written, and continue on.
T – Time yourself to ensure that you have time to write for as long as you feel necessary. It is commonly suggested to write in your journal first thing in the morning, before checking your phone, laptop or device. While the mind is still and quiet. It is also a handy tip for dream journaling. If the morning is not a good time for you then choose a time of day when you know you will have some quite time, free from distractions and utilise that part of your day for your journal.
E – Exit strategically and with introspection. Read what you have written and take a moment to reflect on it. Sum up your takeaway in one or two sentences, starting with statements like “As I read this, I notice…”, “I’m aware of…”, or “I feel…” If you have any action items or steps you would like to take next, write them down now (Adams, n.d.).
This strategy has many benefits, allowing you to explore your thoughts and emotional processes, taking responsibility for your own feelings and thoughts.
Other Journaling Tips
Use A Pen & Paper A pen and paper allow for us to bring our thoughts, into reality, more tangible. Which means you can have a greater access and relationship with the inner psyche, it enables you to be better able to confront, take responsibility and action surrounding the issues that arise.
The act of writing allows for our mind to slow down and to focus and as you record your journey it allows for patterns to emerge, allowing for further reflection and analysation. It may highlight specific areas that may need more focus or help with.
Writing, in the format of pen and paper allows for a gradual process of change within the brain and thought patterns, enabling a transformation and growth.
Write Everyday It promotes and enhances your creativity in a way that once-in-a-while journaling simply can’t match;
It propels you toward your goals, helping you bring your vision to life;
It offers you a daily opportunity to recover from the daily stressors and leave the unimportant stuff behind;
It can help you identify things that would otherwise go unnoticed, such as patterns in your thinking, the influences behind your feelings and behaviour, and any incongruencies in your life;
It gives you a chance to get all of your emotions out on paper, reducing your stress and releasing tension;
It facilitates learning by creating a record of the lessons and key ideas you have discovered and helps you remember them more effectively;
It boosts your overall sense of gratitude and your sensitivity to all that you have to be grateful for;
It makes you a better writer and helps you discover your “voice;”
It leaves a written record of your experiences, which can be helpful today and extremely precious years into the future (Hardy, 2017). (resource Positivepsychology.com)
Journaling Prompts Initially some people find it hard to begin writing, particularly if they have never really written anything before. So, here are some suggested prompts you could use to help you get started.
Stress Relief: What upset me today and why?
Who upset me today and why?
What part may I have played in the matter?
What can I do on my part to make it better?
How has this situation affected other areas of my life?
How has this person affected other areas of my life?
List the things that make you stressed and anxious. Why do they?
List all how allowing these things enrich your life. Hint: they probably aren’t.
What things made me happy today?
Self-Reflection: Where have I let myself down today?
What hurt me today?.
Who hurt my feelings today?
Does this remind you of something similar that happened?
In what areas of my life do I need healing?
What actions of self-love can I show myself today?
Where am I in life at the moment?
Following up on the above, where do you want to be?
What is stopping me from getting there? What fears do I fear most, succeeding or failing? State why.
Self-Improvement: List five areas of your life you’d like to improve.
How can you improve these areas? Do you need to see a professional? Take a class? Practice it?
What is your life’s purpose and how are you living it today?
Let’s talk health. Set goals to exercises and eat and sleep better. Ask yourself daily, ‘if my body could speak what would it say?
Spirituality plays a vital role in your life’s longevity. Once you embark on the journey, reflect on how you’ve nurtured your spiritual journey daily.
Name at least one thing you learned today.
What is the one thing you want to do differently tomorrow?
Who can help me on my journey? Be open-minded; sometimes the people you overlook might be your greatest allies in your life’s journey.
Who can I help? (resource: Mellowed.com)
Other Styles Of Journaling You Might Be Interested To Try.
Stream Of Consciousness Writing Stream of consciousness writing is a form of journaling where you write down your thoughts within the current moment. You allow yourself to write exactly what is on your mind, it doesn’t matter if it makes sense, if it is one or two words at a time, it does not have to be structured, logical and spelling does not matter. You can use one of the prompts mentioned above to start you off if you are experiencing a mental block. As you continue to write, you may notice that a particular topic may arise, and your writing may transform from being scattered and illogical to reflective about a particular topic. They key for this process is to not think too hard, or if you can then not at all. Just allow the current thoughts that are circulating in your mind at all to transfer through the pen and onto the paper.
Gratitude Journaling Gratitude journaling is the process of writing about the things that you are grateful for in your day. Some people like to set themselves targets of 5, or 10, things they are grateful for but sometimes this can cause anxiety. It is good to note down the thoughts or feelings you have if you feel you can’t write 10 things you are grateful for and reflect that. Or just simply write as many things as you can think of that you a grateful for without setting yourself a target or limit. Write down what happened, why you are grateful and what it means to you. Another way of harnessing Gratitude journaling is writing as though you are you in the future. Writing about the things you are grateful for that has happened to you. This also crosses over into the law of attraction, where the act of writing about things that you want to happen, have already happened and embodying the feeling and emotion of what it is like to have achieved that goal, target or dream.
Dream Journaling A dream Journal is written first thing in the morning upon waking. It is where you write any recollections of your dreams and waking experiences and is another way to explore the subconscious mind. There are many experiences you have in your waking life that do not get fully processed until you go to sleep, and these experiences, thoughts and emotions can play out in your dream state. Often everything that occurs in your dream is significant, or symbolic of something. So, when dream journaling any detail, no matter how small can be significant. You can then go back over your entry and begin to reflect or analyse what your dream may mean, how you felt in the dream and what you think it relates to. You can incorporate your dream journal into your regular journal as you may find that writing a dream journal will naturally flow into further exploration.
I hope this helps you to feel more positive about your journal writing, or inspired you to begin journaling and given you useful tips on your journal writing process. helping you to make the impossible, possible. Love, blessings and deepest gratitude to all <3 Hannah xxx