If you’ve ever been in therapy or a creative writing class, I’m guessing it was suggested to that you grab a journal and write away. As a therapist, it’s a tool I recommend to my clients all the time. Whether it’s during sessions, in between sessions, as well as continuing after therapy ends.
Other than the cost of a journal itself, it is a free therapist in your bag that can be taken and used anywhere.
I find that when clients journal, they bring new insights they gained into their next session, only allowing therapy to move more quickly and smoothly.
Use journaling to process a struggle you’re going through or share a happy moment that you want to make a memory of. Keep it and look at it several months later. Or, tear off the pages as soon as you’re done. Rip it in pieces and throw it in the trash. A cathartic step for many.
The key is to not think too much. Instead, let your thoughts and your hand flow. Your mind knows when to stop. It’s as if your thoughts just stop and your hand follows suit. It may bring tears, but that is a GOOD thing, not a bad thing.
Feeling anxious about writing emotions on paper?
If this is you, pull out your favorite coloring tools: crayons, color pencils, or markers. Gel pens are my favorite. Then choose a color that represents an emotion to you. For example, red for anger, blue for sad, yellow for happy, etc. (Can you tell what I would choose?). Then just color what you’re feeling. Again, don’t think too much. Let your hands choose the color it’s drawn too. Scribble or draw what it wants.
SO, WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF JOURNALING?
- Gain insight. Emotional stress can get us wrapped up in thoughts and choices. We can’t see the forest from the trees. We feel lost and don’t know what to do. Journaling helps us to take a step back, release the thoughts and emotions, and gain some clarity as to why we’re feeling the way we are. When we can connect the dots, things make more sense, and we automatically feel more at ease with this new understanding.
- Recognize patterns. Stepping back helps us see how we get triggered and react to those triggers. It’s only when we gain awareness of our reaction patterns that we can then change them. You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t change what you don’t know.”
- Problem solve. With life, comes problems and difficult decisions. A journal is a good place to write down all our options, the consequences of each option, good and bad, and how we feel about them. Then we can take a step back and choose the right decision for us in this situation, this conflict with our partner, etc.
- Release and let go. The main reason journaling is suggested by therapists. Journaling is a place to say anything and everything you want to say without having to hold back. No worries about hurting someone, being judged, criticized, or embarrassed by what you’re feeling and believing in the moment. If verbalizing your emotions is too hard and scary, then writing it in a book nobody will ever see (unless you want them too) is a safe place. And it’s better to get it out on paper than to hold it in and have it come out later in a way that only causes you more anxiety, shame, or embarrassment. It’s normal to become tearful when you’re journaling, and this is good! It may not feel good, but it’s just another way to release. You’ll get some weight off your shoulders and be able to breathe again.
- Create Ideas. Journaling doesn’t have to be only for negative or difficult situations. Maybe you have a vision and need to put it down on paper. A great idea came to mind and you need to write it down before you forget. Sometimes you can get to the idea by just starting with smaller ideas.
- Express gratitude. Taking time to write down a list of what we are grateful for in our life. Big or small. When we can see on paper all the things that we have in our lives, it helps to wash out the negatives and allows room for happiness and appreciation. Things suddenly don’t feel so bad. (I can suddenly here Julie Andrews singing in my head, “a few of my favorite things,”).
According to Amy Morin, “Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.”
Now I often get, “How do I journal? I don’t know what to write about.” Stay tuned for my blog on “How to Journal.” For now, if you like to give it a go, have fun with it. You can find journals on Amazon, at Dollar Tree or any book, art, or craft store. Pick one that goes with your personality: color, flowers, geometric, leather bound. Choose a writing or coloring tool that you like best. Recall coloring books as a kid?
Some even like to put their favorite quote, lyric, or bible verse on the inside of the front cover. Maybe a collage of your favorite things. This is a good reminder when you’re having a bad day and it lifts you up. This is just for you!
One more tip:
Handwriting is best. Many like to use their tablets or laptops, but the way our brain processes information is through thoughts, emotions, THEN sends it to the body. Handwriting is a physical movement and part of the brain’s communication. Notice when your journaling, if your handwriting or pressure with the writing tool changes. We often will press hard with escalated emotions or more, sloppy as our hands try to keep up with our thoughts. All this is part of the communication process within the mind and necessary to come to a resolution or healing.