Journaling is a practice I recommend for many of my clients. When I make this suggestion, I sometimes get a wide-eyed “oh, no!” look in return. I quickly try to take the fear out of journaling and explain the benefits of a regular practice of keeping a journal.
First of all, journaling does not require you to be a great writer. The personal experience of keeping a journal only requires a bit of discipline and a few minutes of quiet time. The important thing is to simply begin. The words that make their way on to paper or the computer screen are for you alone. If you feel blocked and nothing comes to you, begin by writing “I don’t know what to write,” or “I can’t think of a thing to say,” or whatever comes to mind. I’ve even started my personal journaling entries with “blah blah blah!” An interesting thing happens when you just start writing something…anything. You may remember that dream you had last night and begin to wonder what it might mean. A work frustration makes its way on to the paper and you may find a resolution or a reduction in stress by being able to get it out of your mind. Feelings of anger, or sadness, or happiness, or gratitude can surface spontaneously as your write, and then you can write about those feelings. As you continue the practice of journaling regularly, it becomes easier, less intimidating, and I find that many people look forward to the time devoted to journaling. Some may include poetry, sketches, or diagrams with the thoughts expressed in words. A journal is whatever you want it to be. It’s a way to process thoughts, feelings, and emotions which can lead to insights, problem-solving, creativity, self-discovery, reduced stress, and inner peace.
In the book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron writes about a journaling exercise she calls “morning pages.” She instructs readers to write two pages of something upon waking each morning. The content is not as important as the exercise and discipline of writing every day, because the content will come. I even suggest to clients that if two pages sounds like too much, start by writing one page. You might set a specific amount of time to journal and not define journaling by the number of pages. Set a timer and write for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, or whatever amount of time fits your schedule.
Journaling can provide these benefits and more:
- Stress reduction
- Increased focus
- Improved mindfulness
- Clarifying and processing thoughts, feelings, and emotions
- Knowing yourself better through personal insights and self-discovery
- Increased creativity
- Defining dreams and goals and plans to attain them
Journaling is a personal experience and there is no right or wrong way to go about it. Just grab a pen and paper (or your computer) and give it a try.