The Joy of Journaling

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Do you journal? If so, why? If not, why not?

I was recently looking over my years of journals (that started as diaries back in the 70’s- yes that long ago).  I noticed a pattern of writing more when I was emotionally charged about something – usually not positive. Yet I could vividly remember how much better I felt after each entry. I encourage all my clients to journal, so I will share with you what I share with them…

Journal writing, or journaling, is a contemplative process of recording our thoughts, stories, feelings, observations, insights, and curiosities. Journaling is an invaluable tool with numerous benefits. To name a few, journaling can help us:

  • Increase self-awareness
  • Explore challenges
  • Gain clarity
  • Reduce stress
  • Solve problems
  • Make decisions
  • Enhance creativity
  • Heal emotional wounds
  • Improve or repair relationships
  • Release anxiety
  • Connect dots
  • Provoke insights
  • Find meaning
  • Create momentum
  • Capture memories

The only rule you need to follow is to WRITE. Whether you are new to journaling or a veteran, just make sure you use a style that does not restrict you from writing. For veterans, reflect on how you feel about your journaling practice. Does it work for you? Do you want to try a different approach? Are you digging deep in your explorations? What would “stepping-up” look like? For new or ‘stuck’ writers, consider these following guidelines:

  1. Buy a new journal or set up an e-file- today! If going hard-copy, I would suggest something that attracts your attention and will be easy to scribe. I often start clients with a spiral-bound, lined, 6×8 inch journal that has an appealing cover or one that is blank that could be drawn on or photo attached.
  2. Decide in advance where and when the best time will be to write.
    • Where: Find a quiet place free of distractions. Take advantage of nature if you can. It is best to stick with one place consistently, but mixing it up with a different ‘zen’ place is great, too.
    • When: Many people feel the first thing in the morning is best – before the world wakes up and electronics illuminate. It is also when dreams may be lingering, bringing awareness to unconscious thoughts. Last thing at night could help calm and clear the mind. Middle of the day is a nice pause for reflection and chance to reset. Experiment, but try to create a routine.
  3. Start by getting quiet with yourself. If you meditate, do that first. If not, sit quietly for 2-5 minutes and just notice what thoughts pop up and begin writing when the energy moves you.
  4. Write or Create.
    • Date the entry, including time.
    • Write quickly and naturally – no need to edit.
    • Be open and honest. You are the only one reading this.
    • Notice if your energy is high or low. If it is low, try something different – keep it short, doodle, write a poem, bullet point thoughts.
    • If narratives don’t work for you, get creative! Draw pictures, use photos, craft poems, etc…
  5. Review. Either immediately after, before starting your next entry, every few days, or end of the week. Look for patterns, themes, or insights. Decide what, if anything, you want to do with what you read.
  6. Enjoy!

Photo by Vic via Flickr

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