As a counselor I always encouraged my clients to journal during the entire counseling process. There were several reasons for this as well as several different ways this could be accomplished, even for those who were not normally writers.
There is just something about writing that brings things to our attention — things that would have normally remained hidden without journaling. This is especially true when one free-writes, which is the process of writing without worrying about sentence structure, grammar, or train of thought.
Many times it’s difficult to get the actual journaling process started but usually, within one to two minutes of starting, words, images, and pictures begin to flow. As they are released, puzzle pieces begin to fall into place and insight is gained that helps the individual proceed even further in their life journey.
Release of emotions
Some of us aren’t criers. We probably should cry, but we don’t. Writing can release the emotion that crying would normally release, and sometimes, it even releases the tears that need to be released.
Journaling is also great for anger. It is so much better to direct anger into words on paper than it is to throw it towards other people. I have journals that have holes in the pages because I was pressing my pen down so hard, as I poured out intense anger over certain situations.
Writing in a journal is like a soul cleaning. Once the journaling session is wrapped up, it can feel as if the weight of the world has lifted off of your shoulders and suddenly there is clarity about the situation at hand.
Although I’ve been doing it for years, it never ceases to amaze me when I go back and read through old journals. I am amazed at some of the things I have lived through and marvel that I had the courage and the strength to keep going. I laugh at stories I recorded. I sit and wonder, “Did I really write that?” as I come across a really expressive passage or an entry with this incredible insight into something I read or saw.
When I look through my journals I see growth and maturity. Sometime I struggle and I feel like I’ll never be where I want to be. The best remedy for this is to sit down and read old journals. When I do that, I quickly see that I am much more advanced in life than I give myself credit for. Things that once made me break down now hardly affect me.
I still struggle with eating disordered thoughts and I beat myself up for that, but then I journey back in time and read of the fourth or fifth day of eating only apples or an entry after which I binged out on three fast food meals and then took a box of laxative and 5 diuretics — and I see that today’s struggle is nothing compared to the actions I once participated in.
I also leave my journals as a memorial to those who will come behind me. I want to leave them for other women who think they are alone in the nightmare of the aftermath of sexual abuse, and in their current state of cutting themselves and wishing for death and punishing their bodies with anorexia and bulimia. I want them to read the entries, knowing they are not alone and that someone who was there made it past all that.
I long to leave these journals behind to my children. I want them to know what life looks like. It’s a journey of lessons, a journey of steps forward and falls backward. When my children struggle with self-esteem issues I want them to read and know that their mom went through it, too.
If my daughter goes through infertility and/or postpartum depression, I hope my journals can be some sort of lifeline for her to hold on to in her own struggles. But most of all, I want my beautiful children to read of victories and life lessons and the joys of being their Daddy’s bride and their Mama.
Journaling is more than writing
When the word “journal” is used, most of us think of writing. Reality is, some are not writers. The very thought of writing makes them cringe. It’s boring, it takes too much effort, and hand cramps want to be avoided at all costs.
Computer journal or blogging
For some, it’s not so much the issue with writing as it is writing by hand. In this case, you can journal using your computer or even a blog platform like WordPress or Blogger. Just remember if you use a blog as your journal, the whole world has access to it and that includes people you may not want reading it! Check if the blog host you use allows you to make certain posts private, or password protect the blog.
Up until this past year, I was pretty much a just-write-it-all-out kind of journaler. Lately, however, I have been adding a few more creative elements to my journaling process. Once in awhile I use my very minute artistic talent and draw something with colored pencils. Sometimes I might record a quote or thought with a calligraphy pen. I love the scrapbook sections of Walmart because there you can buy whole sticker packs that tell a story! Some days, my journal entry revolves around these sticker packs. Little by little, my journal is turning into a multi-dimensional record of my life; pictures, magazine pictures and titles, newspaper clippings — just about anything can be used to create your journal.
Art and Music
Some people may create a journal with songs they write, or poetry, or painting with oils and watercolors and framing those pictures. If you aren’t a writer but you are a creator of certain art elements, journal using your talent. No matter how journaling takes place, the benefits will always be the same and will reach beyond your lifetime.