Around my birthday in October of 2008, I started a blog to keep track of the cute things that our 17 month old daughter and 4 year old son were saying and doing since I didn’t want to forget any of it. A month later my husband was killed, and my blog turned into an outlet where I could purge my deepest grief and darkest thoughts.
Back then, I didn’t even know that it was called “journaling” and that it was a mental health tool recommended by psychologists. All I knew is that I had all these overwhelming thoughts and emotions consuming me and I couldn’t sleep unless I got them out. I didn’t know who to talk to that I wouldn’t make uncomfortable with my pain, and the therapists I had seen only seemed to make me more angry somehow, so writing turned into my best form of therapy.
As time went on, I realized that parts of me were revealed through writing that I didn’t know existed, and I was learning quite a bit about myself. I also noticed a pattern with my writing - after getting done with a rant, I always seemed to end the entry with a piece of gratitude. It helped so much to remind myself that there was always something to be grateful for, even in my darkest times. As the years go by, I’ve gotten to see how I’m growing and evolving through what I’ve written. I’m not faithful about writing every day like I wish I was, but when I do write, I feel the difference.
The beauty of journaling is that it can be completely private, so you don’t have to worry about grammar, punctuation, spelling, or about how you sound. You can say whatever your heart and mind desire, and it doesn’t get graded or evaluated. It’s for your eyes only if you prefer to keep it private, and you can use it however you choose. Journaling doesn’t always have to be in a little book on your nightstand- a keyboard works beautifully, too. I prefer typing on a laptop because I can type much faster than writing longhand (and my handwriting is awful).
I found that when I turned off that filter of worrying about how I “sound,” I was able to let my thoughts flow freely enough that something unexpected would sometimes pop up from the far recesses of my mind. Profound revelations were discovered, and there were little nuggets of wisdom I didn't even know I had. I even realized that some things from my childhood impacted me more in my adulthood than I was consciously willing to admit. Like meditation, it helps me to peel away layers, and it’s a creative outlet that has so many benefits.
Journal to record your dreams upon waking, your thoughts on life, your most painful memories, your goals, some mundane thing that happened throughout the course of an ordinary day, an adorable comment your child made that you want to remember, an embarrassing moment that made you laugh (or cry). Right now, we are going through unprecedented times living through a pandemic and some other pretty historic events. How is this affecting you personally? Professionally? Your family and friends? What are your most honest feelings about everything that’s taking place that you don’t dare say out loud?
If you’re not sure what to write about, take a quiet moment and allow your mind to wander, and see if you can identify your most dominant thought. How does it make you feel? Write about it! You may have emotions you’ve been stuffing down for so long you don’t even know they’re there until you start writing. Holding those things in or denying their existence can literally create illness, even if you don’t think it’s affecting you. A study was recently performed that showed test subjects who wrote about their negative emotions having better immunity against the Epstein-Barr virus than those who didn’t express their negative emotions in writing or speaking (https://doi.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0022-006X.62.1.130). Writing it down, acknowledging it, and subsequently releasing it is incredibly healing to mind, body and spirit.
There are endless topics you can touch on, and it’s a wonderful way to unwind and empty your head from the day’s events before closing your eyes for a good night’s sleep. In a year from now, you’ll look back on some of those entries in awe at yourself and what you lived through, and maybe you’ll even notice how your thoughts have evolved and how much you’ve grown!
Tune in on Monday for another helpful tip!
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