Journaling

Sarah Brinkley,

MA, LPC, COACH

Laptop and Diary Topview

Morning, Alone.

This is when you can figure out who you really are.

No expectations, no image you're trying to portray.

Just you, your thoughts, your breath.

Take this time, your time.

At one time or another, I think I’ve talked about journaling to almost every one of my clients. The majority of them hem-and-haw, avert their eyes, and mumble something about “trying it once for a while, but then I kinda forgot about it”. My response: Journaling is awesome! They roll their eyes when I say that, but when I start explaining the benefits, and when I give them a concrete plan of how to do it (with minimal time commitment), most of them are willing to give it a shot. And more than a few find great benefit in it.

 

In a nutshell, journaling helps you articulate your thoughts and feelings. People use journaling in lots of different ways, but I encourage people to simply transfer the thoughts in their mind to the paper. Sometimes people get caught up using journaling simply as a way to purge their anger. Certainly there’s a benefit to releasing pent-up anger, but what I often see is that without direction, that anger-writing feeds itself and the person ends up feeling worse than when they started. If that’s been your experience, please know that there are other ways to use journaling so you end up feeling refreshed and calm, not revengeful or victimized.

Transferring thoughts to paper is a way of practicing mindfulness of current thoughts. Non-judgmental awareness of what you’re thinking, writing it down, and moving on. Benefit: Some distance between those thoughts and the feelings they provoke.

Stressed? That’s your brain reacting to a situation that it thinks you can’t handle. Is that true? Maybe, maybe not. Enter: Journaling. Journaling when you’re stressed helps you break overwhelming situations down into more manageable parts. Is this situation a threat, a loss, or a challenge? Do I have the physical, social, psychological, and material resources to cope? By taking the time to write down each worry, question, concern, and fear, you’re able to take a step back and more clearly see problems that you can work to solve versus situations that need to be accepted.

 

Gratitude is a quality you can develop and journaling can help. By taking five minutes each morning to write down three things you are grateful for, you’re priming your brain to be on the lookout for other positives throughout your day. Ending your day with a gratitude practice helps you feel calmer and can make for better sleep. As gratitude becomes a more natural part of your life, your relationships can improve, you’ll become more optimistic, and feel better about yourself and the world around you. Seems like a good use of five minutes, doesn’t it?

“The days are long, but the years fly by.” Journaling regularly helps you tune into your life, to slow down and notice your thoughts and feelings as you go through your everyday. You start to understand what makes you tick, what excites you, what worries, you, how other people influence and affect you, and what your decision-making process looks like. When you know these things, you can start to be more intentional in the way you spend your days and the way you respond to those around you.

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