Whether used as a creative outlet or an emotional release, journaling is a powerful self-improvement tool that anyone can harness. Many influential people throughout time detailed their lives in journals - the struggles, the joys, the steps taken to reach their dreams. In the end, journals can tell life stories, help us understand breakthrough moments in the creative process, change habitual patterns, and track goals.
Journaling is not to be confused with writing in a diary. Diary writing is often a record of your everyday life as it happens, while journal writing is a method to explore and shape ideas. Using a journal can involve more than writing and it doesn’t have to be a linear process - the pages don’t even have to be dated!
Writing in a journal, also known as journal therapy, has many benefits. These include:
- Reduced stress
- Reduced anxiety
- Improved mental clarity
- Increased understanding of self
- Improved problem-solving skills
Journaling can be used in a variety of ways, depending on your goals. Using a journal is helpful whether you are an artist brainstorming your next project or a busy schoolteacher who needs to let off some steam! The purpose of journal therapy is to focus on internal experiences rather than to repress or ignore them.
Here are some methods of journaling to consider:
Journaling for Healing
The use of journaling as a healing modality is beneficial to anyone recovering from physical or mental health issues. It has proven to be an effective tool in helping those undergoing cancer treatment to deal with the effects of severe illness and going through recovery. Additionally, journaling can help with depression and anxiety, as a means to process negative emotions. Studies have shown that 15 minutes of journal writing 3-5 times per week improves the mood of those suffering from mental health issues.
Journaling for Stress Relief
Writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal allows you to process stress from work, relationships, or other pressures you may be experiencing. How you write in your journal makes a big difference, too. When you recount negative experiences, it allows you to deal with them in a healthier way. One way to do this is to go beyond the emotions entangled in what has happened. Be objective about the experience and write down your thoughts to release the associated stress.
If you wish to learn more about your dreams and subconscious, then starting a dream journal is the way to go. This fascinating daily practice works by recording your dreams immediately upon waking – when they are fresh in your mind. Through this practice, you will begin to notice reoccurring themes that can provide insight into your psyche.
For the creative types, journaling is more than just making sentences on paper. It is a way to let ideas out and is often one of the first steps in a project. Building structure into a creative process helps artists to problem-solve, organise, and discern various thoughts - from the simple to the complex.
Used in the creative process, journal therapy is helpful in breaking down complex ideas into something more tangible, so that small steps can be made towards a larger project.
Journaling for Your Career
You don’t have to be creative to keep a journal. Journaling is also beneficial for tracking progress at work. In a career journal, you can create a list of goals, tick-off your accomplishments, and take notice of any mistakes you’ve made.
It is an important learning tool – to learn from your mistakes. If you notice any patterns or habits that affect your performance negatively, you can take note of them and work to change them. It works in the opposite way too. If you notice what’s working well, you can incorporate more of these positive habits and see more of the results you desire.
Journal Therapy in Counselling
Journal therapy can also be utilised in counselling. One effective use is to journal after a session, as a way to reflect. However, the therapeutic benefits of a counselling session should not be limited to the session itself or even just shortly after. Many insights and observations happen in between sessions, so noting these allows for effective introspection. This is useful for both the therapist and client, as these insights can be articulated with more ease during sessions.
Journalling may take the form of a few words to a full-on stream of consciousness in written form. It can be a reflection of your day or the steps required in a project. Whatever it is, new windows of opportunity will open every day you sit down to journal.