The contents of a Journal is a glimpse into your soul or heart, keeping a journal can be a way of giving your feelings an outlet like no other, a place where your deepest thoughts can reside without fear of judgment, blame, or need of justification. Journals allow you to be just who you REALLY are without the ego (The ego is your self-image; it is your social mask; it is the role you are playing. Your social mask thrives on approval. It wants control, and it is sustained by power, because it lives in fear), and are a place where you can travel through life’s emotions with gentleness, compassion, and deeper understanding of who you are and what your true passions are.
A journal is a personal journey, determined wholly by your own thoughts, ideas, and meanderings. If you haven’t tried journal writing yet, or you have but let it slide, there is no time like the present to start one and to let your consciousness flow through your writing, connecting you with your deeper thoughts and ideas.
Find a journal medium that’s perfect for you. Decide how you want to keep your journal, either on paper or in electronic form. Both methods have advantages and drawbacks, so you’ll need to weigh up what works best for you. For example, a paper based journal can be taken anywhere, never needs electricity, and can be highly personalized with drawings, collages,theater-tickets and mementos. However, typing can be faster and easier in the electronic format, and an electronic document can still be personalized in different ways. Both journal types can be found if measures aren’t taken to hide them well, but it’s probably easier to hide an electronic file than a paper book. My personal favorite is the paper-book, this way I can have all my ideas flow without being consciously aware of typing the correct key.
This is quite interesting because when you Journal, you are using the Limbic system of your brain to work, whilst giving your neocortex a well deserved break, the problem is your limbic brain doesn’t communicate very clearly (note in my previous post), so writing by hand may help engage that Limbic into gear!
- While there is no need to get a fancy journal, for some people the stationary used is a large part of the sensory experience of keeping a journal. You don’t have to buy expensive or fancy versions but if they are something you really want and they’re a treat to yourself, then work it into your budget.
- Decorating possibilities are endless for cheaper journals and it’s fun to personalize a journal rather than rely on someone else’s idea of good design. Just keep in mind that it’s not about using a fancy book; it’s about tapping into the stream of thoughts and writing them down.
- Decide on your writing implement if using paper. Choose a pen that feels good to you and works for your own aesthetic needs.
Decide what kind of journal you’d like to keep. There are different possibilities open to you when developing your journal theme or approach. Like what I do, simply use your journal to write down all the thoughts that come to you at any particular time, randomly, or you could make your journal more focused on a specific theme to draw out something that you’re trying to develop more of in your life. And there is nothing saying that you can’t keep both a random and a specific journal at the same time! Some ideas for themed journals include:
- A gratitude journal – in this journal you record all the things for which you feel grateful each day, week, etc. and note the people, animals, events, and things that really matter to you – incorporate a tab within my journal for gratitude, I call it ‘Sunshine’ where I can go into that attitude of gratitude before I write my journal, this way I appreciate my previous day, week or month and therefore recall areas of learning.
- A vacation journal – in this journal you record more than just what you see on your vacation; you also record your feelings, impressions, and emotions as they are challenged, changed, and illuminated by your travels.
- An ideas journal – in this journal you record all the ideas and inspirations that flash into your mind at any time without warning, providing a place that you can come back to as an idea-storming resource when you have the time. The ideas can be for writing, for business, for play, for inventions, for anything at all!
- A child raising journal – in this journal you record all the things that you think are special, wonderful, lovable, and memorable about your kids at different ages and stages. This is a great way to keep a record of those funny words, phrases, and comments made by kids as they grow up and see the world anew.
- A transition journal – in this journal you record the transition you’re going through, such as job hunting or loss, becoming a parent for the first time or again after many years, starting a business, going on a special journey, etc. This type of journal can document changing patterns in your life, and it is useful to ask yourself such questions as “What do I enjoy and not enjoy?”, “What do I expect for the future in what I am doing now?”, “Which people can help me as I transition?”, etc.
Find the perfect place (or places) for writing in your journal. Journal writing is a time of deep reflection and often requires solitude, peace, and no interruptions. It’s important to feel relaxed, at ease, and not worried about someone else barging in on your reflection time. It’s also important to feel comfortable. Select your favorite journal writing spot or spots keeping in mind all of these essential needs and experiment by writing in different places to see what happens to the content of your writing.
- Take a seat in your chair by the glowing fire or lie down underneath a blossoming apple tree.
- Find a quiet part of the house where you know you won’t be disturbed.
- The suitability of a place can change with the time of day. Keep this in mind when selecting your writing nook; for example, the kitchen might be hubbub and bustle all day long but come 10pm, it might be the quietest and most enjoyable part of the house.
I often put in the day, date and place before writing my entries so I can keep a log of my moods, dependent on areas or days or even dates. For example I used to play football once a week with a particular crowd of traders whom I used to work with at a time in my life, I often found on them days of the week my journalling would be very aggressive and the writing be almost a scribble, I also realized within my entries that those were the days when I’d be in a place of ignorance. I then decided to stop going as this was not the person I wanted to be, it was too much of my false ego coming out. As soon as I dumped the football crowd, I was back to writing well again and my mood was far calmer. I was very pleased with the result and it was within my journal that I realized this development need.
Find a time that’s right for you. Some of the advice on journal-writing tries to turn it into an effort by suggesting that you should commit to daily writing, or to some form of regular writing. This misses the point in keeping a journal, which is that it is an extension of you and how you’re feeling. And if you don’t feel like writing in your journal even though you made some commitment to yourself to write in it, it’s possibly going to turn into something that you resent. Better than making a commitment to regular writing is to make a commitment to yourself that when you feel like using your journal to be creative, to vent feelings, to write down ideas, etc., then you will. And if that’s daily, then good for you; if it skips a month or two or even a year here and there, then so be it. Many journal writers have journals spanning years with gaps of entire years between and pick them up again from where they last left off whenever they need the journal. I myself at times left it for months before coming back to it again, it was no harm done, I’d just pick up from where I left off.
- Keeping your journal by your bedside can be helpful if you find yourself forgetting to write in it. Often thoughts come before sleeping time and writing in a journal can be a helpful way to wind down at the day’s end, provided it’s a comfortable place for you.
- Remind yourself whenever you feel inspired, un-centered, antsy, brimful of ideas, etc., that your journal is the perfect outlet.
Remember to relax. Every person differs in what helps them to relax and feel contented, and it is no different when getting in the mood for journal writing. Some people enjoy having music to get them in the mood, others need total quiet, while others need the constant drone of city life to stimulate thinking. Choose whatever methods aid your escape into journal writing and doesn’t make it feel like too much effort. I like coffee shops and at other times I like complete quiet dependent on how I feel at the time.
Don’t fuss about grammar, spelling, or other perfection in your journal. This is your place, and if there’s a slip-up, then so be it. Wanting to erase errors while working through deep issues of feelings or having a wellspring of ideas can hamper your flow and also tends to suggest that you’re trying too hard to control the situation you’re writing about rather than to learn more about it and to find new ways to perceive it.
Find your inspiration. It’s often easiest to start with your current feelings. Transfer them to paper and see where this takes you next. There are no rules at all about journal writing and you may find that your starting points vary every time you begin a new entry. Sometimes it is easier to begin with a narrative about something that happened to you during the day, something that is burning right through you and that you want answers to but feel confused about. Writing down the mundane facts and events can open up a whole stream of consciousness as you’re writing, leading you to insights you would not have been able to bring forth without arranging your thoughts in the journal. Other spurs to writing can include:
- movies, books, or TV shows as a starting point sometimes: I often consider the Philosophical implications of a movie, or write an essay about why I found it to be or that character compelling… or not.
- Pretend you have an audience and you are the professor; give a lecture in what you want them to hear. Sometimes writing down events in your life that have taken place or writing down questions and answering them can waken the creative juices simmering in your mind.
- Discuss something you bought or made during the past few days. Is it something that you’re going to use for a new hobby, to help you complete an essay, to woo a person with, to decorate your home, etc.? Take the reason for buying or making it and proceed to write about the motivations behind it.
Use a journal to work through the hard stuff. Journals come top of the list when venting your troubles; many therapists (including myself within my coaching sessions) rubber-stamp the journal as a key part of recovery from emotional distresses that clients are seeking to work through.
A journal soaks up your anger, your rage, your vengeance, your jealousy, your whole plethora of negative emotions and doesn’t judge you, doesn’t shout back at you, doesn’t curse you, and doesn’t tell you to get a life. It sits there passive in one way but very revealing in another. Getting negative feelings off your chest and into a journal can liberate you from having to vent the feelings anywhere else, and can give you the necessary breathing space to try and see the facts beneath the emotions and to stand in the shoes of others involved in your feelings to see whether or not they have a point.
- Feel free to curse, to call people names, and to let it all out. It’s better here than anywhere else and it is a way of giving vent to frustration, anger, and attitude that needs an outlet somewhere safe.
- Keep writing until you feel spent. This gives you the best chance of freeing yourself from the feelings that are haunting you and preventing you from moving on to more positive feelings.
- Write about the guy you never think you’ll get to date, write about the girl next door who keeps telling secrets about you, write about your parents or parents-in-law, or your family in general, write about your ambitions, your callings, your skills, your favorites; the list can go on and on.
The above are solely for you to gain an external perspective and for your emotions to be placed aside and you to see the real issue without the baggage or it being dressed up, so you realize how trivial this issue is and just move on.
Fill your journal with whatever you like. Of course, doodles are totally acceptable. Lyrics to songs, poems, book excerpts and newspaper clippings are also encouraged. It’s sometimes fun to glue in little tidbits of your life, like the ticket stubs from a movie or play you saw on Friday night or the picture you took of a breathtaking sunset. The journal is the real-life manifestation of your mind, so make it something that’s completely yours!
Reflect over what you’ve written now and then. It’s not all write and no read; comparing where you are now with where your were several weeks, months, and years ago is a beneficial exercise in growth. Think about what things have become clearer to you from one journal entry to the next, and think about what hopes and dreams once written in your journal have now turned into reality. Think about the things that are yet to still happen and whether there are signs or patterns you can discern that are somehow blocking your intended progress. Use your journal to assess your life’s journey.
Keep your journal safe and by your side at all times.