Journaling for Beginners and Seasoned Writers

Journaling is a simple and very effective way to release the events of the day. It helps clarify where more work needs to be done, and sets the stage for a great night’s sleep.

Journaling is a powerful activity to gain insight into ourselves and othersJournaling is a powerful activity to gain insight into ourselves and others

The thought of journaling for many people seems like a waste of time, if not downright impossible. Finding the time to journal, much less something to journal about, can be daunting. And, why journal at all?

At the very least, journaling can be a way of unloading the day’s events and at best, it can be an aid to healing trauma, both emotional and physical. Studies show that the people who benefit most from journaling are those that not only acknowledge events and emotions, but also derive meaning and understanding from these events. Also, by helping people manage and learn from negative experiences, writing strengthens their immune systems as well as their minds (1).

The following are two prompts to use to get started on a daily journaling practice. And if you already journal, you can use these even on the busiest day.

The Five Gratitudes: In the morning and/or evening write down five things for which you are grateful. Sometimes, I have had an ordinary day and not much stands out, so I have to pick some ordinary things for which to show gratitude.

For example, today’s gratitude list: the salmon colored daylily outside my window, the person that washed my windows so that I can see my daylily, my Daisy Dog who nose-prints the windows, Tulsi tea to sip as I contemplate the weather outside the windows, and the rain that waters the daylilies and my windows, again!

Other days, there does not seem to be anything at all worthy of gratitude, so I say thank you for the challenges that I faced that day: “thank you that the traffic was so slow that I had time to listen to my favorite songs in the car”. And some days, I just have to mention chocolate…twice.

Although the actual number of basic emotions continues to be debated, I have found that there are five basic emotions into which I can categorize all of my feelings. These five are fear, anger, sadness, joy and love. All other emotions are a combination of these five. For example, disappointment might be a combination of anger and sadness. At the end of the day, take a minute to jot down when each of these emotions have made an appearance that day.

For example, I am not really an angry person, but get me in the car and everything little thing annoys me, some days. Even these little flashes of anger get acknowledged. When I do so, the emotion does not have a chance to hang around and cause problems later.

Fear can take the form of full blown anxiety or just a little “what if” voice that causes some worry. Sadness comes often just reading the news, or when a memory of my mom floats up. Joy usually arrives as a bit of a surprise, a funny comment from the grocery clerk, watching kids play, or good news from a family member. I don’t have to look far for love because that is in everyone and nearly everything, if I pay attention.

If you have more than a couple of minutes, you might choose to write a bit more about any of the above things that catches your attention. For example, if sadness makes a heavy handed appearance day after day, get curious about where that originates. This makes it easier to let go of the emotion rather than hold on to it or stuff it down.

Journaling is a simple and very effective way to release the events of the day. It helps clarify where more work needs to be done, and sets the stage for a great night’s sleep.

References

  1. Murray, B. “Writing to Heal”. American Psychological Association. June 2002, Vol 33, No. 6 (54).

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