A few years ago, I was struggling with depression and anxiety and it was suggested during a CBT session that I started a journal. I confess I groaned inside at the thought! All those years of keeping a diary through my teenage years came flooding back – hours of writing tales of teenage woe! It completely filled me with dread and I wasn’t keen. I didn’t see how writing new tales of woe would help shake off all those negative thoughts and feelings – surely, I’d just be encouraging myself to dwell on it all? However, I agreed to give it a go and I’m so glad I did as I soon realised that journaling can be so much more than just writing to get everything out of your head.
Journaling can help with so many areas of your life, it can help to heal past trauma, relieve stress and anxiety, achieve goals, make you more productive, boost motivation and even boost your immune system – to name just a few of the proven benefits! It can give you the ability to raise an awareness and learning about yourself that can help you transform your life.
Sounds easy in theory doesn’t it – just grab a pen and some paper and write out whatever you’re thinking about. It can be that easy, sometimes not so much. There can be so many thoughts rammed stuck together, or hiding behind mental blocks you’ve put up, that you don’t know how to get them out and once you do get them out, what do you do with them?
For me, the key to getting the most from journaling is reflection and feedback. Always read back over your writing, whether it’s at the time or a few days later, and make notes on what you notice. Reflecting over your words will show you any patterns, triggers or insights you may not have noticed otherwise. From here, you can see decide what to do next – take action or let go.
So, where do you start? Here are a few tips for you:-
- Use good quality notebooks and pens, especially if you want to keep your journals to look back on in years to come. Good paper won’t let ink show through and good ink won’t fade!
- Always be absolutely honest with yourself! Full on commitment to honesty! Your journal is private. The only person who will read it is you – there will be no judgements or criticism from anyone else so write with complete freedom. If you can’t be honest with yourself, then use that as your first journal prompt and ask yourself “What is stopping me from being honest with myself?”
- Make sure you are in a comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed, especially if you are visiting an emotional subject. Being interrupted will break your train of thought, so to get the most from your mind find somewhere private.
- If you’re journaling about an emotional subject, or to heal past hurt, you may need to allow for some extra time after writing to gather your thoughts and compose yourself before seeing anyone.
- Make a note of the date, time and where you are when you make an entry into your journal. This gives you the opportunity later to reflect on how far you have come, you can see progress towards goals or show up any work you might need to do on recurring beliefs and patterns.
- Journal prompts are a great way to start a train of thought. If you come across a prompt that seems too hard and you don’t want to use it, then that is probably the one you really need to answer!
- Where possible, use pen and paper as this slows down your thought processes. Plus, you can tell a lot from your handwriting. Whilst your words might say one thing, your handwriting will possibly tell you something else.
The joy of journaling is there is no right or wrong way to do it, just your way! It doesn’t have to be hours of writing, 5-10 minutes at the beginning or end of every day could make all the difference to your mind, body and soul. Find what works for you and reap the benefits!
Claire Baker is a qualified Personal Development and Journal Coach. She runs The Journal Vibe, as part of Bright Rainbows Ltd, offering a range of services including 1:1 personal coaching, guided journal workshops and a monthly membership called The Journal Vibe Club. Through all of these she combines the power of coaching with the power of journaling to help people learn about themselves, so they can embrace their own power and transform their lives.