I can’t think of anything more powerful than your journal. If you are in counseling, this little tool will kick it up a notch. Journal between sessions, journal about your sessions, journal about dreams you have had, journal about what triggers emotion for you, journal about not having any emotion when you think most people would have. I think you get the idea. Get a notebook, or anything you can write on , and a pen or pencil…..and begin writing.
I am of the belief that healthy people have therapists! So, if you are in therapy and don’t go every week (maybe once a month or every few weeks), this is ideal for you and your own mental health and well-being. And if you are between therapists or don’t want to be in therapy, journals are beneficial on their own.
Most of my information is anecdotal. From my own experience and from so many of my clients who came to me already writing in journals or who took me up on the suggestion to start a journal, I have seen some incredible results. But if you want to read more about the research showing how powerful journals can be, I recommend Dr. James Pennebaker.
For my own self-care and well-being, I do my journal “projects.” Here is a list of things I have tried in the area of journal projects:
1. Journal for self-care–I try to journal at least once a week, and I shoot for at least 3 pages. I make it a moment of self-care, which for me usually means heading to Starbucks with a journal and a book. I order a latte and sit and enjoy the ambiance, journal for a bit, then enjoy reading a book.
2. 100 Days of ________–the first time I did this was 100 Days of Spiritual Journaling. You could plan it out by the finish date or just start. I would head each entry with the number of the day, such as “Day Eight” and include the date. And I didn’t have a guide, other than my own internal guide which would reveal itself through the journaling. Another time, I did 100 Days of Gratitude and wrote 3 things I was grateful for each day, and I tried to make one past, one present, and one future. And I am currently in the middle of 100 Days of Emotional Journaling. I intend to journal anger for 30 days, fear for 30 days, and sadness for 30 days…then see where I take myself on the last 10 days. Each of these were inspired by myself in the middle of a journal session. Lead your own self on a journal journey and see what you need and where it takes you.
3. Daily mini-journaling. I have had great success at journaling daily, answering 3 questions….the same 3 questions… every day. Here is an article with a great set of questions. (While you are at it, bookmark Rosie’s site and visit often. She has lots of good inspirational and educational content!)
4. Creative journaling. DO NOT overlook this one. Not too long ago, I was in a funk. I had lots of adjustment going on in my life and was having a hard time muddling through. I was doing my mini-jounraling, asking 3 questions….the 3rd one being”what do I need right now more than anything else?” My answers over a period of a couple months were sad. Over and over and over, I was saying, “I need to rest” and “I need to breathe” and “I need to be inspired.” I decided to switch things up. I didn’t answer questions for awhile. Instead, I did something….ANYTHING….that would fit in the creative category. I doodled. I drew pictures. I wrote poetry, sometimes silly….sometimes not. I designed a coffee mug (drew it in the journal). I designed pajamas (again….I drew it in the journal). I wrote a haiku about chocolate. It was transformational. I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I went back to read over it….I saw depression in the time where I was answering the 3 questions. And you could see the depression lift through those creative moments.
5. Write your story! There is so much power in telling our stories. And no one else has a story just like yours. Even if no one ever reads it, write it….something almost magical happens when we give a voice to our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Now, I will say this….I am a big believer in old fashioned writing…I think the “magic” takes place between the brain and the hand. But I have heard of many who have had success journaling on their computer and keeping it in a password protected file. See what works for you and by all means, if it works and feels right, it probably is! And….here’s a valuable tip: KEEP WRITING! Even if what you are writing is, “I don’t know what to write. Is this journal writing all it’s cracked up to be? Seriously, this seems silly.” If you keep the pen moving, even if you write nonsense over and over and over….what often happens is something clicks and stuff starts to pour from your mind.
Tell me about your journal experiences. Any tips or other project ideas you could share?