A journal, it is said, is a 79 cent therapist; a friend at the end of a pen. Journaling is a proven way of healing past traumas and also achieving success. It is not only therapeutic but it can also help you achieve personal growth. Journaling has helped thousand of people overcome stress, anxiety disorders, depression and other emotional issues. This self improvement technique can help you understand who you are and could give you deep insights into your true inner self.
Here are some easy ways to journal successfully for anxiety, depression or for success and personal growth.
1. Know different forms of journaling
Journaling can mean different things to different people. Some might conjure up images of a locked tiny diary with a secret romance within its pages. Others might see a journal as a ship’s log with records of progress through a particular journey. Both methods are examples of personal journals but their purposes are different. The similarity in both methods is to regularly write down personal reflections. The keyword here is regular. You can journal anything: be it a teenage romance, your experience at summer camp, your job search or even about your vacation in the mountains. There is no right or wrong way to journal. The right way is your way! When, why and how you do it is all up to you. Never let anyone tell you how to do it. Whatever form it takes: journaling is journaling. You can even journal in divergent ways like day time or night time, drawing instead of writing and so on. Making changes can help keep things interesting.
2. Decide why you want to make this commitment
Once you know the ‘why’, you will know the ‘how’. Ask yourself why you want to journal? Has a therapist asked you to? Perhaps you feel it will bring you closer to your inner self. Maybe a journal is a friend when no one else is around. Whatever your reasons for keeping a journal may be, it might help you to understand that it has amazing benefits as follows:
- Helps you make important, positive changes
- Enables you to look at the glass as half full – optimistically. The practice can bring positive change in your attitude.
- It can help enhance emotional intelligence.
- Journaling can help you find something to believe in
- It can help you find out positive changes and avoid making repeat mistakes. It can also help you change negative thought patterns that serve no purpose.
3. Keep a focus on your handwriting
When you decide to start a journal, whether for anxiety or success, it is important that you keep a focus on your handwriting. You may not think this to be important but it is. Keeping a focus on handwriting helps bring a connect between mind and body and increases mindfulness. It also helps in hand, eye and mind coordination. Often, the movement of the pen takes on its own will and that can reveal many insights. With regularity in mindful writing, you can reduce anxiety, depression and stress. Here are some more tips to help you make handwriting a focus:
- Select different color pens
- Use a fountain pen and enjoy the process of filling up ink in the pen from a pot!
4. Make it a priority
Often, we start journaling with zest only to forget all about it within a short time. There are always going to be other things that will demand your attention. However, if you truly love yourself, you should make journaling a top priority. Once you set aside a time to journal, you will make sure you do it. So make it a priority and keep it at the same time every day.
5. Select a place for writing
Some people have a special place for writing their journals. But you can even do it at a café, a cozy nook in your house or simply in the garden. You will find that writing in different environments will give you different results. So if you are journaling for success, you could try changing your place each time you write. Also, if you are writing for overcoming depression or anxiety, you can change the place to open up your life and break out of routine. Some people who have thought they could not write anyplace else than their home have actually found that they wrote better on trains and other public areas! Many stay-at-home moms even journal in their cars, just before picking up kids from school. Here are some more ideas for creating a journaling niche:
- De-clutter and make the place a cozy, clean and inviting ‘writing haven’.
- Don’t forget to add special lighting, music, temperature etc. If you like, diffuse some essential oils.
6. Select a good journal/diary
Decide on what kind of notebook/diary and pen you need for this process. A journal can be something you like but should also be affordable. You need not get too picky in this area but you need not even deny yourself some indulgence. When you become miserly or careless in the selection process, your journaling tools can result in disappointment with the process. On the other hand, there are people who spend a ton of money on a beautiful journal with fancy trims only to go ‘I bought this beautiful journal four years ago waiting for a right time to write in it that never came…’ Leave the gilt-edged tomes for the museums. For journaling right away, sometimes, an old notebook could be the best option.
7. Pay attention to privacy
When you keep a journal to write down your secrets, innermost thoughts, past trauma or desires, then you may want to pay attention to privacy. In these cases, you could consider using a word processor and type down your journal in a password protected folder. However, writing is often more therapeutic than typing. So you could consider a diary with a small lock. Better yet; keep the diary/journal in a locked closet that no one else has access to.
8. Know how much time to spend on it
There is no fixed time for how long you write. If you are journaling for anxiety then you can write until your thoughts no longer overwhelm you. Some people like to write throughout the day for short time intervals such as 5 minutes. Many people do not like any timing restrictions at all when it comes to journaling. But fixed time intervals can actually help you when you are overwhelmingly busy. Most of the time, we do not have time to be with ourselves. And that is time to do a five-minute journal entry. Another thought that is worth remembering: the day when you do not feel like journaling at all is when you need it the most!
9. Analyze the changes in you
Just like you measure yourself up after a few days of exercise or a new diet plan; you also need to assess the changes in you post journaling. Are you walking a tad bit too lightly, with a smile on your face? Perhaps your diary entries have sobered you up. Whatever it is, note the changes. You could even discuss them with a therapist. These changes can go a long way in helping you with self improvement.
10. Ignore your inner critic
No one is grading your journal. So silence your inner critic. You can even write the same things over and over. It is simply important to keep moving the pen on paper. Remember: every word you write is a step towards progress. As you write, learn to observe your thoughts. Are you always talking negatively to yourself? Perhaps you are looking for a career change but your inner critic keeps bringing you down. As you start keeping a journal, you must also start talking back to the Inner critic and ask him to ‘shut up’. Take a moment to also think of the sources that have fed that critic. As you learn positive self talk, and write down positive affirmations, very soon you will find success in every aspect of your life!
11. Ideas of things to journal about
There are many things you can use a journal for:
- Use it as a ‘dear diary’ or Agony aunt – Address the journal. Ask it for guidance or solutions to a problem. For example, you could write: dear Diary, why do I not have the time to journal? You will soon find that all the answers are within you and journaling will help you find them.
- Write a letter – It could be a letter to your younger self or a future, older self.
- Write about a difficult time – This is especially beneficial for people with anxiety or PTSD. Write about a difficult time to assess what you learned from it and how far you have come. Include as many details as you can.
- Advice – you can also advise your younger or future self. Be gentle, forgiving, loving, kind and funny- choose a style!
- Write down your dreams – if you remember them.
- Thank yourself, your Inner critic and your Inner coach – at the end of each writing session, Then say you will keep an appointment soon and follow up with it!