Emotions can be overwhelming. Life can be confusing, frustrating and upsetting. It can also be exciting, thrilling and joyful. Where do you usually put all those emotions? How do you sift through the whirring in your brain and reach your inner calm?
Meditation, yoga, exercise, and seeing a counsellor are common and helpful options for calming the mind and processing emotions. AND, I have another suggestion: have you ever tried journaling? Wait no, don’t stop reading! I promise this will be worthwhile.
If you’re sceptical, or don’t like writing, I get it. I have had a love-hate relationship with journaling for a long time, probably ever since I was a teenager when journaling was first suggested to me. Often it was a hate-hate situation.
But something changed when I tried it. I gave it a good, honest effort. And you know what? It helped me more than I ever thought possible.
What is Journaling?
Journaling is writing. It’s like writing in a diary, but this isn’t your grandma’s diary. This is an “anything goes” diary. You’re not recording the weather, or what you did today - although you can if you like. It's about exploring your innermost thoughts and feelings, whether they are dark, scary, powerful, upsetting, inspiring or exciting. It can be a place to dump all the stuff you don't want to dump on friends, family, partners or co-workers. It's a place to let out secrets. It's a path to comfort.
The Benefits of Journaling
Journaling is a private, cost- and time-effective way of accessing profound healing and self-expression. Some of the benefits of journaling include:
Clarifying your thoughts and feelings
Getting to know yourself better
Accessing your creativity
Expressing your feelings
Practicing critical thinking
Making decisions more easily
Resolving conflicts with others
These are just a few examples of what you might get out of the process of journaling. You won't know at the start what the result will be, but you can be sure that you will get a result if you put in the effort.
How to Journal
There is no right or wrong way to journal, it all depends on your personal style. The following are some of my recommendations and suggestions for journaling:
Daily journaling is best, but not mandatory.
A minimum of 20 minutes is ideal, but again, it’s up to you how long your write for. You might be surprised about how quickly the time passes.
Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar, that doesn’t matter.
Write somewhere private, and make sure others do not have access to your journal, so that you don’t feel you have to censor yourself.
The key is to handwrite your journal. No typing. No dictating. Something special happens when you put pen to paper and go through the motions of writing. It changes how you think, and is more conducive to emotional processing. Plus it’s fun to shop for new journals.
Swear as much as you like.
Write with your left hand.
Use coloured pens.
Choose a topic, or simply free write and see what comes up.
My journals include all of the above, as well as tear stains, coffee stains and chocolate smears. I like to highlight paragraphs and draw boxes around points I think are important. I draw stars next to ideas I want to come back to. And in the back of my journal I have a “Fun List.” Whenever I notice that I am truly having fun, I make sure to make a note of it in my journal, so that when I say “I never have any fun anymore,” I can flip to the back and remind myself that I do, actually, have quite a bit of fun.
You can do anything you like with your journal, as long as you use it. Only your imagination sets your limits.
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