Writing of the past is a resurrection; the past then lives in your words and you are free.
Journaling never held much appeal to me - I felt because I was a very “verbal” person and had no trouble communicating my feelings, I didn't think it was necessary. When I created My Blog for Heal With Hope, I made a commitment to write at least once a week...six months later I can tell you that I have discovered that the written word can be very powerful, and writing has become an important component in my healing process. Taking the time to really look within, to really explore what you are feeling…and then committing those thoughts and feelings to paper has been extremely therapeutic. I wanted to share this experience in the hope that you will also find it a helpful way to reflect, express, and release your innermost thoughts and emotions. If you are having a tough time deciding on a topic to get you started, look for the Journaling Topic of the Week on the Homepage of Heal With Hope.
WHAT IS JOURNALING?
Doreen Clement, author of The 5 Year Journal, describes a journal as “the telling of your story – a record of your experiences, dreams, ideas, desires, and thoughts for reflecting on now and in the future”.
And according to an article on journaling for About.com, Elizabeth Scott, M.S., said, "Journaling is a term coined for the practice of keeping a diary or journal that explores thoughts and feelings surrounding the events of one’s life. Journaling, as a stress management and self-exploration tool, is not the same as simply recording the happenings in one’s life, like keeping a log. To be most helpful, one must write in detail about feelings and cognitions related to stressful events, as one would discuss topics in therapy.”
Essentially it is a written account of your thoughts, feelings and ideas about any topic or subject you choose. You can find a journal at many stationary and book stores – it is a book with blank pages, or use something as basic as a notebook or just basic paper and pen. Today you can even maintain an online journal through websites such as www.livejournal.com and www.tribbit.com.
Oprah often speaks of her gratitude journal - each day she records all of the events and happenings of the day for which she experienced thankfulness, joy, and gratitude. I have heard her say that this has had a transformative effect on her life, and one can not help by wonder if this is one of the reasons she continues to attract so many blessings into her life.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF JOURNALING?
According to AppleSeeds.org there are many benefits to journaling: http://stress.about.com/od/generaltechniques/ht/howtojournal.htm
- Reduces the scatter in your life
- Increases focus
- Brings stability
- Offers a deeper level of learning, order, action and release
- Holds thoughts still so they can be changed and integrated
- Processes your stuff in a natural and appropriate way
- Releases pent-up thoughts and emotions
- Disentangles thoughts and ideas
- Bridges inner thinking with outer events
- Detaches and lets go of the past
- Allows you to re-experience the past with today's adult mind
- Heals relationships
- Heals the past
- Dignifies all events
- Is honest, trusting, non-judgmental
- Strengthens your sense of yourself
- Balances and harmonizes
- Recalls and reconstructs past events
- Acts as your own counselor
- Integrates peaks and valleys in life
- Soothes troubled memories
- Sees yourself as a larger, important, whole and connected being
- Leverages therapy sessions for better and faster results
- Reveals and tracks patterns and cycles
Know yourself and your truth better:
- Builds self confidence and self knowledge
- Records the past
- Brings out natural beauty and wisdom
- Helps you feel better about yourself
- Helps you identify your values
- Reads your own mind
- Aids in connecting causes to effects
- Reveals the depths of who you are
- Reveals outward expression of yet unformed inner impulses
- Creates mystery
- Clarifies thoughts, feelings and behavior
- Reveals your greater potential
- Shifts you to the observer, recorder, counselor level
- Reveals your processes - how you think, learn, create and use intuition
- Creates awareness of beliefs and options so you can change them
- Reveals different aspects of self
- Helps you see yourself as an individual
- Connects you to the bigger picture
- Is a close, intimate, accepting, trusting, caring, honest, non-judgmental, perfect friend
- Accesses the unconscious, subconscious and super consciousness
- Finds the missing pieces and the unsaid
- Helps rid you of the masks you wear
- Helps solve the mysteries of life
- Finds more meaning in life
- Enables you to live life to the fullest
- Is fun, playful and sometimes humorous
- Expresses and creates
- Plants seeds
- Starts the sorting and grouping process
- Integrates life experiences and learnings
- Moves you towards wholeness and growth, to who you really are
- Creates more results in life
- Explores your spirituality
- Focuses and clarifies your desires and needs
- Enhances self expression
- Enhances career and community
- Allows freedom of expression
- Offers progressive inner momentum to static unrelated events
- Exercises your mental muscles
- Improves congruency and integrity
- Enhances breakthroughs
- Unfolds the writer in you
- Maximizes time and business efficiency
- Explores night dreams, day dreams and fantasies
- Measures and tracks what is important
Easier problem solving:
- Eases decision making
- Offers new perspectives
- Brings things together
- Shows relationships and wholeness instead of separation
It’s flexible and easy:
- Can be applied to clarify any issue in your life
- Takes so little time to stop, pay attention and listen to yourself
- Meets your needs, style, processing methods
- Caters to left and right brained people
- Has no rules - messiness, typos, poor writing are all OK
- Is often self-starting and motivating and supplies its own energy
Enhances intuition and creativity:
- Improves self trust
- Awakens the inner voice
- Directs intention and discernment
- Provides insights
- Improves sensitivity
- Interprets your symbols and dreams
- Increases memory of events
- Captures your life story:
- Teaches you how to write stories
- Soothes troubled memories
- Captures family and personal story
- Stimulates personal growth
- Improves family unity
From Elizabeth Scott, M.S. for About.com
Buy a Journal: This seems like the obvious first step. However, what kind of a journal you purchase is important. You can choose from the most beautiful blank books you can find, to a more functional notebook, to your computer. If you go with the blank book option, you can decide between lined or blank pages, with a variety of pens. Use your book to reflect your creativity, or go with functionality first. It’s all up to you and your tastes.
Set Aside Time: One of the most difficult aspects of journaling is not the journaling itself, but finding time to write. It’s important to block off about twenty minutes each day to write. Many people prefer to write in the morning as a way to start their day, or before bed, as a way to reflect upon and process the day’s events. However, if your lunch break or some other time is the only window you have, take the time whenever you can get it!
Begin Writing: Don’t think about what to say; just begin writing, and the words should come. If really need some help getting started, here are some topics to begin the process:
- Your dreams
- Your possible purpose in life
- Your childhood memories and surrounding feelings
- Where you’d like to be in two years
- The best and worst days of your life
- If you could have three wishes…
- What was important to you five years ago, and what’s important to you now
- What are you grateful for?
Write About Thoughts and Feelings: As you write, don’t just vent negative emotions or catalog events; write about your feelings, but also your thoughts surrounding emotional events. (Research shows much greater benefits from journaling when participants write about emotional issues from a mental and emotional framework.) Relive events emotionally, and try to construct solutions and ‘find the lesson’. Using both aspects of yourself helps you process the event and find solutions to problems.
Keep Your Journal Private: If you’re worried that someone else may read your journal, you’re much more likely to self-censor, and you won’t achieve the same benefits from writing. To prevent the worry and maximize journaling effectiveness, you can either get a book that locks or keep your book in a locked or very hidden place. If using a computer, you can password-protect your journal so you’ll feel safe when you write.
- Try to write each day.
- Writing for at least 20 minutes is ideal, but if you only have 5 minutes, write for 5.
- If you skip a day or 3, just keep writing when you can.
- Don’t worry about neatness or even grammar. Just getting your thoughts and feelings on paper is more important than perfection.
- Try not to self-censor; let go of ‘shoulds’, and just write what comes.
What You Need:
- A journal and pen or a computer
- A few minutes of quiet privacy each day
- That’s it!
TIPS FROM CHRISTINE HENNEBURY, JOURNALING FOR SELF-THERAPY
Have you ever considered using your journal for more than just recording your to-do list or daily events? With a commitment to write honestly, journaling can be a unique method of self-therapy, a means of exploring your feelings and motivations — and an excellent tool in your decision-making process.
Buy the book (and the pen)
While many people use weblogs (“blogs”) or computer programs to record their thoughts, putting pen to paper can be therapeutic in itself, and using a notebook and pen lets you write anywhere that you feel inspired.
Be sure to select a notebook that you feel comfortable writing in. Some people enjoy the prestige of recording their thoughts in a leather-bound book, while others who might be intimidated by expensive notebooks write more freely in an ordinary notebook. You may wish to avoid using loose-leaf paper, however, because the urge to crumple your pages and start over may be too great. Perfectionism may hamper your self-discovery.
It is also important to pick the right pen. Make sure that the one you choose is comfortable in your hand and that the ink flows smoothly onto your chosen paper. You may find it useful to use specific ink colors for different purposes (writing about anger in bright red ink can be very appealing).
Once you have your materials in order, it's time to get started.
Put pen to paper (and keep it there)
Once you have decided on the type of journaling you wish to do (see below), pick a good time and place and begin writing, committing yourself to going with the flow (of ink, that is!). Don't stop to censor your thoughts, just keep writing — no matter what ends up on the page. If you constrain yourself to "acceptable" topics and feelings, your self-discovery will be minimal.
If you are nervous about what you might uncover or you are simply afraid that once you start writing you'll be unable to stop, choose a time limit or curb the number of pages you will cover in a single session.
There are many approaches you can take when participating in therapeutic journaling, but three of the most common are writing about the past, writing for decision-making and free writing.
Writing about the past
You may want to begin by picking specific topics such as your saddest or happiest moment, your greatest regret or greatest success or five major turning points in your life. Or you could pick specific life events and write about those.
Once you've finished, give yourself some time to gain some distance from what you have written and then re-examine your journal entry. Some people find that the act of writing itself is very healing. Others find that the re-examination helps them to see events in their past from a new perspective.
Writing for decision-making
When you are faced with a difficult decision, writing about it can help you determine what you really want to do. You may find it useful to write about the pros and cons of the choices available, or you may prefer just to write about the decision you face. Either approach should provide you with more information to use in your decision-making process — but you may find that as a result of writing, you've already made up your mind about the issue.
You could also choose to make a daily (or weekly, or monthly) habit of writing in your journal, allowing yourself to write about whatever occurs to you without censoring yourself. The topics you end up writing about, especially those that you return to often, will help you to know more about yourself and the direction you should take in the future.
While it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the thoughts and emotions surrounding important life events, keeping a journal can help by providing you with a therapeutic means to keep things in perspective. Making a commitment to journaling is making a commitment to your own mental health.
Note: Would you rather type than write by hand? Check out these websites if you would like to learn more about online journaling: www.livejournal.com or www.tribbit.com.