Did you hate writing in school?
I mean, really hate having to write? As in, the test asked for a short answer essay in 2-3 sentences, and you'd put down maybe 4 words just to get past it? Does the idea of sitting down and writing a letter really annoy the hell out of you?
Maybe writing has always been a drag to you?Twitter and Facebook are great outlets for you, because length and depth aren't expected? My daughter loves writing... when she doesn't have to do it for an assignment. She'll sit and work on narrative writing for hours, on her own. But the second it's something that has to be graded? She dashes through it without a care for all the skills she's learned in school.
So, why the heck should you keep a journal?
Keeping a journal is great for the soul. You can use it for sorting through your thoughts, diving deep into what's hidden in your subconscious, finding out what you have to say, working through past or present hurts and traumas, keep track of events, or just make lists of things you are grateful for.
But maybe there's this idea that's rattling around in your head. Or a problem.
I have several journals I keep. Some are for spiritual work. Others are for deep emotional work. And one or two are simply records of ideas and inspirations for stories, art projects, books or things I'd love to have someday (think of it as a verbal vision board).
When I was going through the worst of my depression, I'd sit and journal for hours about what I was feeling and thinking about. It's the only way I could work through what was really at the heart of the depression and sort out the best way to solve it.
Really solve it through writing.
1. Think it through on paper.
When I'm working through a problem on paper (and not the maths kind), I do a lot of scribbling, crossing out, going back on myself and saying, "This is what I thought I wanted, but now that I'm looking at it and seeing what that thing would get me, I'm not so sure. But realizing the potential results leads me to think that maybe this other thing might..."
2. You can make it a habit, and teach yourself to set aside what's on your mind so you can sleep.
I used to make a date with myself at 9:00 every night to sit and journal for 20 minutes. This is an especially great habit if you are one of those people that lay awake at night, your mind turning over issue after issue.
Now, I pull out the journal throughout the day just to make some notes, or jot down a thought or 5. If that works better for you than setting a reminder, do that instead. There is no truly "wrong" way to do it.
3. You can burn it later.
Personally, I've burned a few journals to help me release old hurts and traumas. Things that I've realized I've let go of enough to release the memories. Not all of my journals are burn-worthy, but some definitely will find their way to the ash pile at some point in the future.
4. U can B U
I personally find free-writing (a process where you set a timer for a certain amount of time and just let go of the inner editor and write whatever pops into your head) around an emotional issue can help me untangle even the messiest of issues.
5. You can make it fun.
I had so much fun writing and researching this blog post about ways to journal. Bullet journals, collages, drawing... make it uniquely yours!
6. You can see where you need to love up on yourself.
When you've been keeping a journal for a while, you might notice that you seem to be really hard on yourself when you've made a mistake in a certain area. Or maybe you start recognizing your inner critic when you go back and re-read some of your entries. That's not cause to stress out further. It's just a signal that you have an area that you need to work a little more on.
7. You can practice gratitude.
Don't know what else to write? Spend 5-10 minutes a day, just making a list of the things you are grateful for in your life for that day. Do this nightly. Some nights, the only things you might come up with are having a roof and food for dinner. Other nights, you might be celebrating a big win at work, or finishing a project you've been dreading.
It's all good, and it has myriad health benefits!
8. You have a record for your health care provider.
Let me make this super clear: Keeping a journal is not a replacement for qualified medical or mental health guidance. If you are having thoughts of suicide, or are having a genuine medical emergency, for heaven's sake, get appropriate help!
That said, a pain journal, a food journal, or simply keeping a journal about your emotions can be a helpful tool for the medical and mental health professionals that you are working with, as you can track things that triggered pain, when are you the most depressed, what are you eating that might be making you sick.
But please, talk to your doctor first, and make sure you're getting the help you need.
9. You can follow your progress.
When you've kept a journal over a long period of time, you'll start to see your cycles, your ups and downs, and where you've come a long way, either for the better or for the worse.
It's like a road map of where you've been.
10. You can see how much you've grown or how far you've come.
Maybe you'll go back through it in 20 years and see how far you've come. Maybe your kids will read it someday and realize that the stuff they're dealing with isn't new or, at the very least, you weren't as perfect as they thought.
Bonus: Celebrate your big wins (and your little ones)!
Journals don't have to be just for the rough times. Gratitude journals are great for recording milestones and accomplishments, too, but you can really use any kind of journal for those big (and little) wins.