Any form of writing, including creative, academic, or otherwise, can serve as a form of self-exploration that help us make sense of our thoughts and feelings, and discover our deepest desires.
Writing can be a very therapeutic endeavour. Keeping a personal journal is one of the ways in which we can incorporate the therapeutic benefits of writing into our lives.
After writing my very first-ever recorded online journal entry in 2009, I would only manage to write thirteen entries for the next four years. Although I would always promise myself I will, for sure, start writing more regularly moving forward, it wasn’t until 2014, five years after my first journal entry in 2009, I seriously immersed myself in keeping a daily journal. Since then, I have written a total of 1,128 journal entries, or about 280 entries per year.
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Throughout the years of keeping a daily journal, I have found that there is no right or wrong way to keep a diary.
Some days, my entries are really short. This happens, for instance, when I want to briefly note something interesting that happened that day or an idea that spoke to me greatly.
Other times, my entries are long and elaborative. One time, I journaled for two hours because I needed to make sense of a specific problem I was dealing with at the time. I took my time writing about it from different angles and perspectives to gain a better understanding of the problem.
Sometimes, I don’t write for a long while. One time, I didn’t write for over a month. I was going through a very transformative period, and I was preoccupied with dealing with the transformation. Other times, writing is what carries me over, and I write in my journal three to four times a day.
As you work to incorporate journaling into your life, remember the elephant is best eaten one bite at a time. Patience and consistency are crucial in forming new habits. Begin writing perhaps three days a week, first thing in the morning or before sleeping.
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“To write is to think.” — Jordan Peterson
Keeping a journal can help us manage our mental health by giving us a healthy outlet to unpack our feelings and emotions.
Writing is a great tool for self-exploration. It brings a wandering mind to attention by moving us from passive thinking to actively engage with our thoughts.
Journaling can be used to process our emotions and increase our self-awareness. It is a very powerful tool in helping us identify our stressors and work on a plan to resolve our problems and reduce stress. Keeping a journal also helps us get to know ourselves by revealing our innermost fears, thoughts, and feelings.
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Journaling is a simple and easy way to invest in our mental wellbeing, and there are many ways to keep a journal to process our feelings and emotions.
My two personal favourite things about keeping a journal are:
- It gives me a bird-eye view of my problems and woes. It is harder to have a logical approach to our thoughts and feelings when they are all jammed up in our head. By putting it out on a piece of paper, or a screen, it gives us the ability to dissect it from a different perspective and come up with better solutions. When I first started keeping a daily journal, I would write about whatever problem was bothering me at the moment, and then I would go back and read it. This exercise allowed me to look at my problems from a different point of view.
- It is a great way to document that it, indeed, does get better, life goes on and all the other clichés.
I really enjoy going back to older entries and seeing the progress I have made in many areas of my life. It’s very empowering to see how some problems that used to torment me are now a thing of the past.
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If you are looking to incorporate journalling into your daily routine, below are four journal techniques I use and find useful.
Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing where you write down anything and everything that crosses your mind. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, and prioritize the day at hand.
Grab a notebook and a pen, or an electronic device, and write longhand for three whole pages. Stream-of-consciousness writing brings out thoughts and ideas you never knew you had in you and loosens up your expressive muscles.
I have mentioned this method in an earlier post. It has helped me manage my anxious thoughts immensely, and it is extremely simple.
Grab a notebook and a pen. First, divide the page in two. On one side, write down everything which is on your mind as a sort of idea capture. On the other side of the page, write an equally simple list of potential solutions for each problem. Once the first page is full, take another to write a detailed, step by step plan for each of the biggest problems.
Journaling on your planner
This is something I started doing very recently. It’s useful for those days I don’t have the time or energy to write in my journal. The idea is to write down a sentence or two of how my day was.
It’s usually to keep a reminder of small moments that happened that made me feel good or made the day special, so I can refer to it in the future and remind myself there have been some amazing days.
If you want to write more, read more
This is so so important. Reading exposes us to different ideas and expand our thoughts. Whenever I read a lot, especially good novels and well-written non-fiction books, I write better. When I write better, I enjoy the process of journaling so much more. Plus, I get more ideas to ponder and write about.
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It’s never too late to start keeping a diary.
It can be a simple as jotting down a couple of sentences to commemorate a specially good day, or it could be an hourly endeavour to unpack a specific problem.
While there are many apps and online resources to keep a journal, a simple notebook and a pen work just as well.
I could not think of anything else that has helped me manage my mental wellbeing as effectively and as efficiently as keeping journal. Journaling has helped me clear the crap out of my head. It is also a great way to capture our lives, no matter how mediocre and ordinary it may be.