Years ago I began journaling out of sheer desperation. I was overflowing with painful and conflicting emotions of which I had no earthly idea how to contain. Acute panic attacks were becoming a normal part of my daily life. Before journaling, I turned to self-destructive coping strategies simply because I’d never learned self-serving alternatives. Though they worked in the short-term, I was harming myself each time I used them. And after a while, my primary ways of coping became less effective. This layered panic on top of panic.
Eventually I made a choice to try this journaling thing my therapist suggested. I mean, it kind of sounded stupid. Plus, I didn’t even know what to write! But as they say, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
I’ve been journaling ever since!
My first journals are from right around the time of my bipolar disorder diagnosis. And, they’re frightening. I was abysmally ill. Thankfully I left proof on paper because my memory is dreadful.
You may be wondering why I’d want to keep a record of something so self-incriminating and painful. It’s because I don’t view it that way. I see my old journals as self-growth tools, just as I do my current journal. I use them in different ways, but they continue to help me grow. They remind me of how far I’ve come, an instant mood booster on bad days. They also remind me of the mistakes I made. This may sound negative, but I’ve found that once I forgave myself, I was able to use these memories in a positive way. They act as a preventative measure when it comes to taking actions and making decisions that may lead me to a similar place.
Always store your journal(s) in a secure place, so that only you can access them.
JOURNALING vs. A DIARY
Journaling is different from keeping a diary. A diary is more of a daily record and fact-keeping book. Wherein you jot down things you believe to be noteworthy throughout each day. A journal, on the other hand, is a place you go to gain understanding, clarity and insight — through consulting yourself. It’s a place where you reflect on your feelings, emotions surroundings, situations, events and the people in them. But you also investigate your motives and take on others’ perspectives.
In a way, journaling is like self-therapy.
The thing is, your journal is yours. You can make it whatever you want and use it however you want. There are no rules, unless you create them.
Journaling is an ideal coping tool for introverts. Not to say that extroverts don’t journal or that they’re incapable of receiving its benefits. It’s just that extroverts tend to think out loud, while introverts prefer quiet. And many of us find it easier to express our thoughts through writing, rather speech.
When I feel discontent, I write. Sure, I often tear it up and throw it away (or delete it), but who cares? I’ve still received its therapeutic benefits! And sometimes the act of tearing up the paper is icing on the cake.
How To Get Started
You want to feel that you can write freely, so make sure you have a secure place to store your journal. You don’t need a fancy journal, though sometimes it’s a good motivator. Nor do you need a fancy pen, but I highly recommend it 😉
Remember that there is no right or wrong. Try not to edit yourself in any way. Don’t correct spelling or grammar. Just write! Start with the first thing that comes to your mind, even if it’s “journaling is the dumbest thing ever!” Be honest with yourself while not judging the thoughts and emotions that emerge. Writing quickly seems to produce the best results.
Just be patient with yourself and trust the process. The words will come. As will insight and self-understanding. When I sit down to journal I usually have no idea what I’m going to write. But if I just push myself to write one word, one sentence. . . then it all just starts to flow. When I use pen + paper, you can always tell if I’m angry by my handwriting style. It starts big and sloppy. But the longer I write, the more clarity and control I gain. And it shows.
I personally like to keep my journals so I can look back, reflect and have a somewhat tangible way of gauging my progress.
See, it’s not so much about how you do it, or even where. It’s simply that you do it. Just write! Or type.
Isn’t self-discovery The Best?
Do you already journal? Or are you new to journaling? Do you have any helpful tips for getting started? Would you like to share a few journal prompts? – We can never have too many! Write on!