Journaling is a way to freely express your feelings, but if your only past experience with journaling was part of a school assignment the very word “journaling” might conjure an image of your high school English teacher and the anxiety of adolescence. In your school days you likely trudged through a journaling assignment just trying to fill in the pages enough to get a decent grade. As you were writing, in the back of your mind, you were aware your teacher might skim the contents of your journal. Each sentence you wrote was censored by this knowledge.
Even if past journaling experiences were part of an exercise for therapy, you might have set about it with an attitude of resistance. If past journaling has led to discomfort and talking about stress or trauma in a forced way, each time you pick up a journal you might expect sadness and pain. If the thought of being told to keep a journal feels like work to you, you may be surprised to learn of the many benefits journaling can have.
First, you will need to see journaling as something fun rather than a chore. Try picturing this instead: GoPlay!
That’s right, remember the days when a parent or other adult would need you out of their way and command you to Go Play! When’s the last time someone told you to go play? As a child you probably received this command when you were under foot. You might have even acted upon it begrudgingly. But think of the freedom such a command would bring you now. Imagine the only thing you need to do is Go Play. No chores, no work, no demands pulling your attention away, just Go Play.
Think of your journaling as the permission and the command to Go Play! Journaling won’t help you unless you take the opportunity to write freely. If you are too focused on the outcome you will subconsciously tailor your writing to that expected outcome. Instead of controlling the process, let the outcome surprise you. If it helps write the words “Go Play” on the cover of your journal or at the top of each page to remind yourself you are free to do whatever you want and have fun.
- Journaling is a way to express your feelings. At moments when you are too angry to talk to someone or too hurt and confused by someone’s actions to process what you’re feeling, you can pour frustration into your journal. Be fierce. Your journal can take it and you’ll feel better.
- Journaling creates catharsis. Catharsis is the relief and sense of euphoria that a person might feel from expressing strong emotion. In your journal, you don’t need to worry about penmanship or misspellings. You can write as furiously as you want without hesitating or wondering whether what you are writing makes any sense.
- Journaling allows reflection. Once you’ve exhausted the emotion of a moment by expelling it into your journal it’s easier to reflect on the circumstances that caused that reaction. Journaling is a way to process those feelings. Reflection can uncover the reasons you respond the way you do.
- Journaling brings clarity. Re-reading your journal entries can allow you to piece together past traumatic events or process through complex relationships. As you write you will begin to uncover connections you couldn’t see before. Journaling can help you understand yourself and the people in your life better.
- Journaling brings appreciation. Journaling isn’t all about processing the painful moments of your life. It’s also about processing the good. Often, we’re too caught up in the business of our lives to fully appreciate all that we have. Journaling can be a way to remind yourself that you are loved and help you hold that feeling in moments of stress.
- Journaling cures avoidance. Whatever you have been avoiding saying to yourself will come out. That’s okay. In fact, that’s the point. Journaling is a process. By making regular journal entries you will find the courage and the comfort to say what you need to say and face whatever you may be avoiding.
- Journaling allows you to forgive yourself. We all carry guilt; most is unfounded and we need to learn to shed ourselves of this burden. You don’t need to share your journal with anyone to feel that you have been absolved of any shame or guilt you feel in your life. Just by writing about incidents and feelings in your journal you have broken the silence and freed yourself.
- Journaling allows you to track your progress. You may never fully read through your journal entries in their entirety, but even a glance back at a few random entries will show you how much you have changed and learned about yourself. This is especially helpful when processing a break-up. Seeing how much you have grown can boost your self-esteem and make you more confident entering a new relationship.
- Journaling brings honesty. The only audience is you. If you are honest in your writing, your writing will be honest with you. Let it flow. You can say the things you want to say and you can write until you find something you didn’t even know you felt. The truth you are seeking will come out.
- Journaling becomes a routine. Journaling allows you to empty your mind and purge your thoughts on a regular basis. In this way, journaling can have a cleansing effect on the body and the mind. Think of your journaling as similar to meditation or physical exercise in which the benefit comes from regular practice.
Now Go Play!
Let me know how it goes. I would love to know what discoveries you have.
Sending lots of love.