“It’s very strange, but the mere act of writing anything is a help.” —Katherine Mansfield
As long as there has been something to write on, humans have been keeping journals. You could even say that the earliest cave drawings were journals—capturing the events of a hunt, drawing pictographs that related stories, creating images of the sacred.
A journal is a way of recording and reflecting on your inner life. It is a way of expressing yourself freely, trying out outrageous ideas, tapping into inner wisdom, clarifying thoughts and feelings, recording your dreams, venting emotions, tracking your personal growth, and delighting in unexpected “Ahas”!
A journal is a safe haven, a non-judgmental friend, and a trusted confidante. What’s more, research shows that journaling helps expand our emotional intelligence by reducing our stress and helping us feel more in control. It offers to provide us with a better sense of self-awareness and offers a clearer perspective on the issues that we are confronting. Journaling has also been shown to help reduce the symptoms of depression as well as helping people dealing with the effects of trauma.
There’s no right or wrong way to keep a journal. You don’t need expensive equipment. The tools are a notebook—whether a special blank book, a composition book from your local drugstore or loose-leaf pages—and a pen you enjoy. You can use a computer but writing by hand is more physical; it keeps you in touch with your breath and your heartbeat.
The only rule about journaling is “Allow!”
Guidelines for Journaling
Write as regularly as you can—at the same time of day, if you can. It is not necessary to write every day, but the more frequently you journal, the easier it will become and the more productive you’ll be. If you can set aside twenty minutes or a half-hour every morning or evening, or during lunch break, and simply begin writing, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll discover.
The morning is an especially good time to write: your mind is fresh; your dreams are still alive. Practice writing your dreams down whenever you can. Then journal about the images.
Keep your hand moving. Write quickly and freely. Don’t stop to edit or re-read what you’ve written until you’ve completed the session. If you get stuck, write, “I don’t know what to write,” or “I’m stuck.” Repeat the same phrase or sentence, if necessary, until something else comes. Writing from wherever you are will move you to the next place.
Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar. Don’t worry about it being “good,” or “right.” There’s simply no wrong way to do it.
Go deep. Writing about what matters most will give the most benefit.
Leave your censor outside the door. This is free writing. Simply allow the words to come and let yourself be surprised. In the words of Julia Cameron, author of The Artists’ Way, “The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” Have fun!
Suggestions for Getting Started
Begin with a few chosen words. “Today I…,” “I feel…,” “I want…,” “I don’t know…” or “I remember….” Just follow your pen. It won’t take you further than you want to go.
Be imaginative. Write about what color you like and why, your kitchen drawer, or your mother’s hair. Describe the weather, your room, or the sounds you hear. Let it lead you somewhere.
Explore the positive along with the negative. Celebrate yourself and your life as well as venting your emotions.
Date your entry. This will keep you grounded in the present and help you reference entries you may want to find later.
Journaling as a Communication Tool
Using a journal to communicate with people or things can provide insight and lead to the transformation of a challenging situation. Here are two ways to do this:
Letters. Write a letter in your journal to anyone: family members (even people who are no longer living), pets, bosses, or your future longed-for mate. Write a letter to Love, to Anger, or to your past or future self. Write a letter to yourself from one of these people or aspects.
Dialogues. Have a written dialogue with people, situations, an aspect of yourself, such as the Hurt Child or the Workaholic, or a part of your body. Next to your name or initials, write a statement or question. Write your dialogue partner’s name or initials, then allow the answer. Simply trust the process and write down whatever comes to you.
Journaling teaches us to both trust and nourishes our inner lives. If, in your writing, you discover some feelings you’d like to explore further, don’t hesitate to ask for help.
For today’s EQ exercise if journaling is coming new for you, I encourage you to be putting aside even 5 minutes a day to write some words either in the morning as you begin the day or in the evening and the day comes to a close. I promise you that you will be surprised by what arises within you.