Can we agree that life can serve up challenges and sometimes we are just trying to get through the day, only to do it all over again tomorrow? I think we all find ourselves on this kind of treadmill at times, but experts agree that there is a way to find more meaning through self-reflection that helps us be more present and aware. Keeping a journal will foster personal awareness when we recognize and are able to express feelings, even just to ourselves. Writing out our thoughts is known to enhance clarity and boost creativity.
Journaling may sound like a chore or an old-school homework task, and that is all right — I won’t pretend that everyone will connect with this exercise. It’s one skill in the tool box of life management practices that can help you identify feelings, process experiences and notice improvement over time.
Diary-style, memoir or even rote reporting are ways to document your thoughts.
Personally, what makes its way into my journals are the events of my day along with how I feel in the moment or what I’m longing for. When an experience, conversation or message captures my heart, I want to memorialize that by noting it in my journal. To be authentic, do not write for an audience; instead, let your heart flow freely and begin to process your inner mind. Self-reflection provides a way to unfold our experiences, challenges, goals and accomplishments. We can let go of pent up emotions, grieve losses or identify things we realize aren’t healthy in our lives. Journaling releases stress and helps us work through emotions as we untangle our mix of feelings.
I don’t make myself disciplined in writing every single day, although there are seasons where that happens. I write when an experience, good or bad, moves me. I write when I come to understand someone in a new way. I write to remember my values while in the middle of struggles. Mostly, I write because my thoughts become more clear when I put them to paper.
I have been keeping a pen and paper journal of some form for decades. Journaling is a key element for me when a decision is needed and I’m having a difficult time knowing the best direction to take. My journals have helped me track thoughts, feelings and patterns over time. I’ve been able to observe progress and identify pitfalls that lead to repeating negative patterns. I’ve seen where difficult changes have produced more of what I desire, and so I’ve been inspired to endure new difficult challenges with confidence that the outcome is worth the effort. The process of change is more trusted when I have a record of past success.Journaling has evolved with technology. Personal blogs and chat rooms often act like a journal, with the addition of feedback from readers. Apps that encourage a photo-a-day create a visual journal that can trigger so many memories when looking back through the images. Bullet-journals are a quick and simple way to mind-dump and provide structure, or not, depending on what works for you.
If you’re looking for a way to express yourself and become more mindful of your own thoughts and experience, give journaling a try. It might help to talk with a friend and agree to write once a week, then keep one another accountable. Start with a Gratitude Journal, where you can focus on the positive.
Some other prompts include:
What is your favorite thing about yourself today?
What was one thing you wish you had done differently today?
Who in your life makes you feel safest and why?