“If I can write it, I can cope.”
I discovered as a teenager, many years ago, that journal writing was an outlet for my emotions, my thoughts, and my soul. I would come home and write out all my teenage problems, angst, disappointments, victories, everything in my journal and then move on with my day. As I grew older, I still found myself drawn to my journal over the years to help me get through stressful and hard times.
Today, it is a crucial part of my self care practice. I make sure that I write in my journal every night before I go to bed. I keep it in a drawer in my nightstand and it has become a much needed habit for me. Sometimes I just write everything that is going on and sometimes I write letters to God or to people that I need to forgive and make peace with but won’t be contacting.
For example, I went through a forgiveness exercise to write down all the times I have felt wronged or perceived I was wronged by others in my life. I started at childhood and worked my way up through my life until now. For some of those people, I could just say that I forgive them and move on but some I needed to write out the emotion and forgive them, such as my ex-husband. Though they will never see the words that poured out of my heart, the peace that I felt by doing it greatly improved my life.
So how do you get started writing in a journal when you have never done it before?
Purchase a pretty journal that reflects your personality.
I find that when I pick out a journal, I want it to be reflective of my personality and something that I will want to look at daily and write in. I prefer lined pages, but you may prefer unlined to have more freeform to your writing or to draw at times and sketch. One of my favorite notebooks that I use for journals can be found at Erin Condren. There is just something unique about putting pen to paper. It makes it more “real” in my mind versus typing my thoughts out on a computer. When typing, the ability to edit and delete are much easier than when you write with pen on a sheet of paper. To me, a handwritten journal is more personal, more real, and more honest.
However, if you are one that prefers to be paperless, you can find some great journal writing apps and programs here.
Make it a habit!
This can be the hardest part. One thing I suggest is if you are new to journal writing and aren’t so sure how you want to use the journal as of yet, try starting with creating a 5 Year Journal. This is a way to writing down a little statement each evening in response to a different question every single day of the year. As you continue writing the answers down, you will eventually answer each question 5 times and have all 5 responses to reflect on and see how life has changed over the 5 year period. I’m starting year 3 of my 5 Year Journal and some of the questions such as “who you admire” to “the price of gas” seem to change as I move through out my life in different directions.
Once you are in the habit of answering one question every single night, then start utilizing your own journal to write about your day, your emotions, your dreams, anything that you want to get out of your head and on to paper. I have some journal prompts to get you started. I have even used a timer set for 5 or 10 minutes and just written out everything that was going through my mind for that specific amount of time. You can then go back and see what is bothering your most or what you are excited about the most and find some real insight to your thoughts and emotions.
It’s your journal!
Experiment and see how you like each type of writing – guided prompts, brain dump, letters to yourself, God, or others, even list out things to remember to do the next day. There is no right or wrong way to use your journal – it is for you! All of these things will clear your mind so that you can have a restful night of sleep and your mind won’t be racing or going over those emotions while you are trying to sleep. I’ve even written prayers in my journal to help me focus on what I’m praying about and what I want to talk to God about. You can use it however it is the most beneficial to you. The great thing about it – it will make you feel much better and the more you do it, you will really miss it if you happen to skip a night. It will be a part of you.
What is your favorite way to utilize journaling in your life? Let me know in the comments below!