Journaling is one of the tools we can use to get back to things that matter, engage in tasks mindfully and connect with the people who influence and impact our lives.
Why would we want to practice the age old technique of writing down how we feel? You may wonder whether technology has surpassed and improved upon this outdated practice. Journaling affords many things that a plastic case, a lithium battery, and an internet connection do not.
How to Journal
Journaling is an opportunity to tell your personal truths, your subjective views, and express your emotional responses. You don’t need to hide how you feel, what angers you, or when you feel ashamed or guilty. Journaling provides acceptance, understanding and belonging – blank pages that yearn for ink, imagery and creativity. Whoever and whatever you present will be sufficient as you impart your personality and your emotions.
Journaling is whatever you want to make of it. You can write in pen or pencil. You can scratch out, reword, or erase what you choose. You can draw, paint, or stick whatever appeals to you. You can use quotes or song lyrics or clippings of what speaks to you and describes what you wish when your words fail to translate your meaning.
Writing it down, on some level, makes it real. You can cross it off, but unlike hitting backspace, it doesn’t cease to exist – and that is what technology cannot replace. Although you may wish to erase what has hurt you or what has contributed to you feeling disillusioned, you can’t move forward without acknowledging something was uncomfortable, hurtful or difficult. It is through understanding the difficult situations that you can grow, learn about yourself and come to accept what may be.
A greater part of journaling is the undisclosed experience of re-reading a journal entry, or looking over a page. There is a tendency to focus on the initial act of doing, and getting it out, but so much growth and reflection can happen in the aftermath.
Looking over an old page when you were in a state of despair or a moment of enjoyment gives you the opportunity to look with a fresh pair of eyes at how the experience really played out. You can ask yourself:
Were my thoughts rationally or emotionally driven?
Did I see the bigger picture, or did I just hone in on the tiny, possibly insignificant, details?
How did the experience feel?
Would I respond or react in the same way today?
Therapist tip: collect items from everyday life to represent a “time capsule” – something that may not reflect a good or bad moment in life, but simply as things were, such as a train ticket, a till-slip, or a post-it note
Sometimes an item can show you how life progresses and how, even though you may have once been feeling stuck, life continues to move forward. These items may help to capture an experience, or even remind you of a moment of gratitude.
Journaling doesn’t only have to be about working through difficult emotions and uncomfortable situations and decisions. It can be about enjoying the present and acknowledging what was right.
So find a quiet place, with a moment to yourself, and write it down (the good, the bad and the ugly). This is for nobody's eyes but your own. It doesn't have to be perfect; your writing or drawing doesn’t have to be neat, and you don’t have to feel that anything is unacceptable. It's your experience and your opportunity for growth.
Lauren Leyman, Occupational Therapist, Akeso Randburg – Crescent Clinic