Journaling With a Purpose

How many of you journal?  If you do that is great because if you are journaling in the right way it can be very cathartic.  Have you ever wondered why most people journaled in antiquity?  It was because they understood the merits of getting thoughts on paper.  Journaling for them was not just a way for them to get a history of what happened through out the day like a Captains Log is on a ship.  It was their way of making sense of what happened during their day, what decisions they made, how they felt about those decisions, why they made the decisions they did, or what they wish they would have done.  This proved to be helpful for them both psychologically as well as with their problem solving.

As time has progressed many people do not journal as much as they once did.  With the advent of technology and how hectic life has become it appears journaling has fallen to the way side.  In session I will often suggest to clients to keep a journal.  More often than not this suggestion will quickly be responded to with disdain or groans of agony at the mere suggestion.  One would think with technology advancing at the speed of light that people would be willing to type their thoughts into a digital journal.  Using some variety of typing input you would think that journaling would be so much easier and faster paced, and would lend itself well to the fast lifestyle that so many people are living in this day and age.  However this suggestions still falls on the groans of meany of my clients.

This article will hopefully help to encourage some of you out there to journal.  In the end, like most things in life, you will get what you put into it.  If you fail to make journaling a routine you will most likely see little effect in your daily life.  So it would be easy to come to session and say that journaling is not helping you.  This is much like expecting to lose weight just because you have a gym membership, but you fail to go the gym on a regular basis.  The gym loves you for that, but your scale is going to show little net progress, while your gym is gaining profit with no expense or loss on their end.  So number one thing, if you want to see progress in journaling you are going to have to dedicate time each day to complete entries in your journal.

The next thing to think about when is a good time to journal?  In the movies they show people journaling at the end of the day.  They sit normally at a desk or in their bed writing.  That is fine if it works for you.  However I personally think that you can journal anytime of the day.  Scientifically it is still unclear as to when it is best to write.  It however appears that creative thinking is at its highest when a person first wakes from sleep.  According to MRI studies it was shown that there is a greater amount of connections in the brain at the time period just after waking.   It was also shown that as the amount of time one is awake the more analytical a person’s thinking can become.  So it may be beneficial for you to brainstorm ideas and be creative in the morning hours of the day.  Then as time progresses it may be easier for you to process the brainstorming of ideas in a much greater analytical capacity.  If you are limited on time, it may be necessary for you to pick a time that works best and just stick with that time.

The next issue that many people ask is how should they write in their journal.  This is an area that can be really custom tailored to you and your writing style.  I personally do not ask to read your journal, but I will ask to the see the journal and ensure you are actually utilizing it.  If you want to share your journal with me then by all means I would encourage you to do so.  I will not physically read your journal but you can share your journal with me verbally.  This is especially important if you are struggling with ways you could have possibly handled the situation in a better way. I know that after listening to many journals it often is apparent that many people will write in their journal in a very detached manner.  They will often talk about what happened that day, what they missed out on, or struggled with.  They however often appear to fail to apply the connections of their life into their actions or emotions.  In order to get the most from your journalling you need to make emotional connections to what you experienced in the moment.  If you include what calming technique, or coping skill that you utilized to assist you in that situation or event.  You should include information in the journal about the effectiveness of your intervention or coping skill utilized.  If what you utilized was not effective then what was your next action.  This is all valuable information for yourself as well as your therapist.  If you journal regularly you will gain insight into your daily life and emotions.  This can assist you in identifying patterns of thoughts, emotions, or situations in your life that you find to be troubling or distressing.  So try these additional techniques when you utilize your journal.  It can become very helpful in your daily life.  If you don’t journal it is something to consider and if done right can be very beneficial for you.