One of the pros of journal writing is its accessibility. A book and pen won’t break the bank. Not only that, they can be carried around day-to-day without being much of a burden. However, there is a need for our journals to remain private and the last thing we’d want is for our private thoughts to be invaded. Naturally, privacy becomes a concern. Thankfully, we have technologies that make recording our inner thoughts much more discrete. Most smartphones are a short download away from having a note-taking app which can be a useful substitute for a physical notebook. If you prefer, voice memos are possible too. This can be a good alternative if you’re on the move or if you don’t consider yourself a confident writer.
Finding the Time
Now that you have what you need to get going, create your routine and find your frequency. It is important to find gaps in your schedule and in the early stages, make a conscious habit of it - remember the urge to write doesn’t come naturally to all of us. There’s evidence to suggest that daily journaling is more beneficial than in-the-moment writing, but this can be a big commitment, especially amidst a busy schedule. An effective way to get into the flow of things is to start small and focus on consistency. Answering the simple questions such as how you’re feeling every so often can be a good way to start getting your thoughts down - and from there it builds.
Following a schedule isn’t for everyone though, some people prefer to write in times surrounding big events in their lives, or in times of distress or disillusion. This reactive approach can help to efficiently dissect and understand the situation and brainstorm potential solutions to the problems at hand. It is an effective way to diffuse stress and prepare for different outcomes in tumultuous times.
Your journal is your own; it doesn’t need to be super organised and you can ramble and repeat yourself to your heart’s content. It’s completely up to you the way in which you choose to write, but here are some examples to give you an idea on how to start putting pen to paper :Goal Setting
A tip for goal setting is to follow the acronym SMART; make your goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound. Separate your long term goals from your short term goals and tick them off as you go. The satisfaction or internal buzz of achieving a tick will likely motivate you to stay on track - and over time, looking back at all of the headway you’ve made will give you a sense of accomplishment too.An Unsent Letter
In Anne Frank’s famous diary she wrote to an imaginary friend named Kitty, but if you are keen on a letter, it can be directed to anyone. Each recipient, and they can vary from letter to letter, can give you a unique way of writing and can help you see and explain things in ways you might not have considered. The process will encourage you to re-frame your journal thoughts. If the person you’re writing to is still on your radar, this could offer a way to organise your thoughts so they can be expressed clearly if you decide to reconnect with them.Lists
Lists are a good way to brainstorm, organise and prioritise information. In the simplest form, they could even be dot points. You can list everything you’re grateful for, things you could improve in your life, your proudest moments, your favourite qualities in a potential partner. For the more orderly people, you could categorise this information as well. Lists have the advantage of being easy to edit and look back on for future reference.
A refreshing aspect of journal writing is the opportunity to be your authentic self; all of the filters and facades you might employ in front of others can be set down for a moment, allowing you to tap into the true source of who you are and what you’re feeling. It also gives you an opportunity to review any insecurities, hesitations or doubts. Over time, leaving these insecurities unaddressed can be harmful to the psyche so coming to terms with them can release a burden. Research has also found that journal writing can be useful for trauma, addiction, problem-solving and goal-setting.
So when do most of us not write in our diary? When things are going great. A journal can also be a place to reflect positively in those times when you feel like you’re hitting all of the green lights - about what you’re grateful for, offering a sense of contentment with who you are and your current situation. It might even give you some insight into why that particular time of life has been so positive recently.
Introverts arguably find the most use from having a journal as they are more likely to find talking to other people about their difficulties a daunting prospect. Even for extroverts, people aren’t always going to be around to hear you out. If you find yourself awake at 3am with something on your mind, a journal might be your best option to put those thoughts to rest.
Additionally, the thought of starting therapy can sometimes be a scary one. However, journaling can aid in this transition, offering a private and secure way to articulate your problems (past, present or future), explore potential solutions and express your emotions. If you do decide to sit down with a psychologist in the future, your journal can act as a companion to help you communicate your thoughts. Many patients choose to bring their journals along with them for this reason.
Maybe journaling for some might seem like an embarrassing thing to do. But taking the time to reflect on yourself, your character and life’s happenings is a noble endeavour and can act to breed confidence and solidarity in your own identity. You just need the confidence to give it a try. Almost no planning is required, can be done in many different settings and can take many different forms. And whether it is a response to a bad time, or a good time, it might just give you the momentum required to stay on top of the inevitable fluctuations of life.
Acceptance-Enhanced Expressive Writing Prevents Symptoms in Participants with Low Initial Depression - Emily S. Baum & Stephanie S. Rude
Writing Cures: An Introductory Handbook of Writing in Counselling and Psychotherapy - Gillie Bolton, Colin Lago, Stephanie Howlett83 Benefits of Journaling for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress - Courtney E. Ackerman, MA.
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