Benefits of writing in a journal
Journal writing can help us deal with positive and negative emotions in life. I now wish I had written in journals more often. Some of my life events were immortalised in blogs. However, years have passed since I privately wrote candid accounts of my deepest fears and joys.
New perspective when seeing thoughts on paper
Our thoughts can get the better of us. We can view situations by categorising, generalising and turning memories into stories. Are particular thoughts right or wrong? I can only say a thought is just a thought. It just exists. It also could be momentary. Try writing down a thought and revisiting it a few days later. Do you still have the same perception as before? Writing helps me to view things differently with the power of hindsight.
A journal can immortalise positive memories that we want to hold onto. Life is full of colourful experiences. I adore the possibility of recording special moments. Then on a less than perfect day, we can revisit those memories to potentially evoke positive emotions.
Celebrate Good Times
We all experience very special moments that should be treasured for their uniqueness. These moments appeal to our values. A journal entry can embrace that life event and hold onto it as a memory. It could be meaningful family changes – birth, wedding, birthday and any celebration. If you value careers, great milestones could be worth savouring. If you have a bucket list, record the details when boxes are ticked on the list. Whatever matters most to you, try writing about it.
Habits of Gratitude
There’s journalling and then there’s a gratitude journal. The practice of expressing gratitude can contribute towards positivity. Be thankful for more than the big spectacular events. Find a grateful attitude towards the small things in life. Then write about it. I currently feel grateful for the bar fridge that I keep upstairs at home. There’s great convenience when getting refreshments without having to walk downstairs. I always feel grateful for the little things my husband does – be it a helpful chore around the house or a romantic night out. We can feel great when staying grateful for aspects of normal everyday life.
A journal can also help on a bad day. It’s one of many coping mechanisms. When I’m allowing time for my emotions to come and go, there are different ways to release these emotions. Sometimes I feel really energetic and walk it off. Some people have a dance off. Other times, I want to make a creative work that expresses the mood of the moment. Then I just want to write about some experiences. Therapeutic writing can take many forms. During the most difficult times of my pregnancy, I drafted some blog articles that never got published. I could whine and complain. That writing served my own needs more than an audience. So I didn’t publish it. Years ago, I wrote in good-old-fashioned paper notebooks. But now I type faster than I can handwrite. Typing gets my thoughts out quicker. You can find a journalling technique that suits your needs.
Venting emotions and opinions in private
Sometimes we just want to vent our feelings. Get it all out. Don’t keep it bottled in. There are many ways to express our feelings. Writing is one way to articulate those words that circle around in the mind. I do enjoy other forms of emotional expression, although there’s a difference with journalling. I play a piano with the goal of moody creativity more than perfection. Being talkative, I often feel the urge to talk for hours about a problem. But writing in a diary or journal does something else. It’s an opportunity to express a one-sided view and then later reflect on that view. It’s not like a conversation where a friend tries to ‘fix’ or swap stories.
Alternative to sending that email
A diary or journal entry is an alternative to directly sending that email. You know the one. It’s the moment when you’re feeling ready to give someone a piece of your mind. But you don’t because you shouldn’t. Maybe you’re leaning towards an emotionally heavy response. Perhaps you have an ‘objective’ and ‘factual’ view. Either way, the other person could react in a negative way to whatever you say next. Maybe the situation needs more time. That recipient could misinterpret your intentions. Even if you’re detaching your emotions from a situation, perhaps the other party still has an emotional perspective. I used to think saying something is better than saying nothing. I used quotes instead of generalisations. I asked questions to clarify, instead of assuming people’s intended meaning. But the response was surprising. It seemed as though my messages were returned with a response of fight, flight or freeze. An alternative was available. I could write in a journal and then contact people when more time had passed.
Although journalling can be therapeutic in some circumstances, I prefer not to write during deeply traumatic moments. It’s for this reason that a journal can help in for some negative situations but not all. I could feel more ready to mentally process an event much after the occurrence. When it seems like my world is crashing down, I don’t feel better by dwelling on it.
I will always remember a very good-intentioned suggestion back during my early adulthood. A life event happened that was so unexpected and unusual, my mind just didn’t know how to respond. Some friends suggested I could write in a journal diary after a catastrophic change. I eventually did write about the event. But that was after a much-needed delay. The world seemed too grey for my former black-and-white perspective. My identity had been questioned through circumstances outside of my control. I could no longer comfortably categorise myself. Who was I without the labels in which I stereotyped myself? When I asked that question, I only found negative labels that worsened my self-image. I didn’t know how to rethink my identity. I felt constantly confused. The last thing I needed was to write down a generalised labelled view of my life. Instead of accepting life just as it was, I would see the world and myself through a negative view. I still believe nothing would have been gained by writing that on paper or screen.
That’s the ugly side of journal writing. It’s the side where our deep dark thoughts bury us further down, instead of lifting us up. I believe there’s a right time for writing about an emotional experience. Some people want to preserve that raw moment. I cope better when reflecting afterwards, by getting a bird’s eye view from outside of the whirlwind. Then I can see an experience for the colourful life-lesson that it is.
Greater constructive reflection starts when I see beyond how low I fell, start seeing how high I can rise afterwards.
Featured image: Pixabay creative commons edited