Journaling is writing thoughts down.
A personal endeavour and there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
It can be done anywhere, at any time and by any method.
You may be dealing with something but find it difficult to open up. You may want to keep it to yourself and deal with it by distraction (going out, exercising, sleeping) or attempting to block it out, you may be discouraged to speak because you are used to bottling things up, you could be afraid of judgement from others or you may think there’s no point because said person(s) won’t understand. Another thing that may deter you from working through your situation verbally is that it causes you pain and professional support may not be readily available to you, or you don’t know how to access it. There are many reasons why people don’t talk especially because of the still exisiting stigma that surrounds mental (ill) health. By no means is journaling a replacement to professional intervention but once adopted, it can be a very useful way to manage the pressure that daily life brings and can form part of your self-care routine.
Why I began journaling
Despite always writing things down, I noticed that I wasn’t intentionally keeping track of how I feel, so at the beginning of the year I decided to journal immediately after a meditation practice. Typically I write about whatever comes up during my meditation, such as how settled I felt or how often my mind wandered and whether I found myself focusing a lot on the past or the future, as well as the content of my thoughts. If I do a guided meditation I write about any prompts that were instructed by the teacher, for example writing about what an ideal day would look like. Meditation is witnessing and journaling is conscious reflection. Journaling is another opportunity for me to develop my awareness and I am able to identify general patterns of thinking; it’s interesting to compare what was on my mind in January to how I’m feeling right now. I start each entry with ‘Peace is the priority’ – a daily reminder for me to act in accordance with what I value because I believe all good things come from peace. To complete my entries I express gratitude which reminds me to be appreciative of all that I have. The addition of journaling has increased my awareness, brought greater clarity and it has enabled me to feel more in harmony with my internal state.
Benefits of journaling
Journaling allows you to be honest with yourself and creates space to be alone with your thoughts. There are a number of benefits to journaling and I’ll go into a few of my faves.
A lot of us aren’t aware with what’s going on within our minds 100% of the time. I’ll never stop saying how important awareness is; knowing and understanding what your mind looks like will only serve you well. The more aware you are, the better equipped you are to navigate life and the world around you. Spending time writing about how you feel is useful because you can learn trends about yourself; what is your default, are you someone who typically has positive or negative thoughts? Is there something that tends to always be on your mind? What are you worrying about? You can ask questions like: Why did I feel this way when….? Getting to know who you are in my opinion is undeniably one of the most crucial things you could do because once you know that, you can create the life you want for yourself.
If you don’t get things out you’ll have thousands of thoughts swirling around your mind, it can become overwhelming and impact you subconsciously. Think of a time when something played on your mind that made you feel down, irritated, short tempered or feel as though you couldn’t be bothered to do anything? That’s your thoughts affecting how you feel and no doubt this influenced how you subsequently behaved.
Journaling is a tool that can help us cope with the whirlwind of emotions that we experience.
When keep things to ourselves, it may not be till others notice a change in our behaviour or even until we’ve reached crisis point that we realise how much we were struggling. I get that not all of us are comfortable talking and this is were journaling can be useful, it is an alternative way to get whatever it is out of your head and on to paper. I think of it as an offloading exercise that once complete you feel that bit lighter, like getting something off your chest. For the most part I write my entry for the day and leave it at that, but it’s completely up to you, you can re-visit your previous entires or not do it at all. I stumbled across a technique where you write in your journal, rip the page out, screw it up and throw it away. The basic premise is that by having the physical action of throwing the paper away it is supposed to reaffirm to you that once it’s out, it’s out and you do not need to trouble yourself with those thoughts again. This is especially useful for people who find themselves ruminating over a situation that can no longer be changed but constantly thinking about what could’ve been done differently etc. By doing so they are suffering which will have a negative impact on their mental health.
Sometimes you just have to see, hear or feel something for you to fully comprehend what’s going on. As you know we all learn differently; if you are a visual learner it’s useful for you to have aids such as images, videos or models to help you absorb new information. With kinaesthetic learners their preferred learning method lends itself to a hands on approach, whereby they have to get involved and actually do said activity in order to digest the information in a way that is most effective for them. And finally, with auditory learners it’s beneficial for them to hear the information they are consuming be it listening to podcasts or having a lecturer dictate to them. Although one learning style can be more dominant than the other, it’s common for the styles to overlap. Journaling is a tool for almost everyone, when we write with a pen we are physically doing something (kinaesthetic learners) as we write we can see what words we have produced (visual learners) and generally when we write or read we simultaneously say the words in our head (auditory learners). Journaling combines all three styles and is an effective strategy to learn about ourselves, gain clarity on our thought process and ultimately who we are as an individual.
Tips to start journaling
Get a pen and begin!
- A5 is a good notebook / pad size
- New day, new page (keeps things looking nice and neat, but if you don’t care, that’s cool too)
- Be completely honest (no one else has to read it)
- Carve out the same time in your day to journal (consistency is key!)
- Be flexible with your approach (some days you may not actually feel like writing & that’s okay)
- Try and find a quite space to express yourself (allows you to hone in & avoid distraction)
- Write whatever comes up, positive or negative it is what it is
- Make it your own (decorate, use colours, put your favourite quotes on there, whatever you like)
Journaling increases your awareness, regulates your emotions and helps to clear you up!
I’d love to know if you already journal, or if after reading this post it’s inspired you to give it a try! 🙂
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