The freedom to express your thoughts and emotions doesn’t mean you have to do it out loud. There’s tremendous value to creating a journaling routine to explore different feelings and release what no longer serves you. And there’s a wonderful art to making the process work best for your style and purpose.
Journaling—That’s a Diary, Right?
Well, sort of, but it can also be so much more than that. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a diary is “a book in which one keeps a record of events and experiences.” Some famous individuals created remarkable diaries that provide insight into a particular period or a series of circumstances. Consider the impact of:
- Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, where she detailed her hidden life in an attic with her Jewish family during Nazi-occupied Germany in World War II.
- Conversations With Myself by Nelson Mandela, which features his unsent letters, book drafts, and even doodles during his 27-year imprisonment as an anti-apartheid resister in South Africa.
- The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait, in which the famed Mexican artist details her depression and deteriorating health along with poems and illustrations.
- The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages, by Lily Koppel, which is based on the diary of Florence Wolfson, a young New York teenager who spent five years writing about life during the 1930s.
The public places value on these and other intimate musings because they help explain who we are and what we go through—which might serve to share our humanity and better connect us with each other.
Do you need lofty literary goals to journal? Not at all. But you still might discover that journaling can be both a creative and therapeutic outlet.
How Might Journaling Help You?
The most important thing to remember about writing down your thoughts and feelings is that there are no rules. None. You don’t have to share your journal with anyone unless you want to—you don’t even have to keep it. In fact, while many individuals re-read their thoughts for introspective reflection, others burn their completed journals in a cleansing ceremony to let go of the past.
This freedom of expression is often just the permission some people need to unlock areas that might be too closed off due to pain or grief. Or they need a place to set purpose and intention. Or they want to explore creativity, gratitude, and their healing journey. Again—no rules.
- Have a tool to better manage anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.
- Help alleviate stress and create better grounding.
- Track mental health symptoms to recognize triggers more quickly and control them more effectively.
- Process negativity more healthfully and create tangible access to positive self-talk and affirmations.
- Allow for dreaming and visualizing.
- Provide a means to prioritize concerns, fears, and problems and work out solutions.
The Greater Good Science Center offers a few additional advantages, such as:
- Sometimes, when you have an outpouring of emotion, it’s easy to feel unsettled in the short term. But over time, as you move through the “hard stuff,” you have a better understanding of life and, as a result, feel stronger.
- Confiding in your journal can make talk therapy a little easier. Many people process the initial negative thought or emotion this way and then, with a therapist, have a calmer frame of mind to consider solutions.
- Journaling allows us to process emotions, assign a name to them, and move forward with observations and goals instead of overanalyzations.
As the diary examples above demonstrate, you don’t have to follow any particular structure. Your journal is a reflection of personal expression. Draw, paint, write, tape in quotes or pictures—whatever allows you to move through and beyond your feelings in that moment might surprise you in its effectiveness.
Types of Journaling
In addition to self-reflection, outlining your day-to-day, and planning for the future, here are some other journaling ideas.
- Morning pages. Popularized by Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way method, as soon as you wake up each day, you write three pages in your journal. Doesn’t matter how large the notebook—just three pages right off the bat. The point is to clear your mind, tap into creativity, and center yourself for the day.
- Gratitude journal. Practicing daily gratitude awareness has a supremely positive impact on our perspective, improving your sleep, and reducing stress.
- Meditation and introspection journal. Noting how you feel after meditation is a powerful method of exploration. Spiritual practices might also be enhanced this way.
You also don’t have to literally put pen-to-paper if you’d prefer to use an online tool or just type notes on your phone. The goal is to make journaling an essential aspect of your self-care.
Holistic Solutions at Cottonwood
Life as we chose to make it doesn’t have a roadmap of certainty. But you’ll manage your health more effectively with techniques that are easy to master and readily available. Holistic care options give each individual valuable choices to craft their wellness with purpose.