What is Journaling?
Journaling has been around for centuries. You may have read the journals of famous people for a class. Many historians use journals to develop an understanding and get firsthand accounts of historical events. In the 1960’s, people began to recognize the therapeutic potential of journaling; that it can help us to process our thoughts and feelings, rather than only serve to document daily life or important events.
Journaling allows you to take a moment out of your day to write down your thoughts, feelings, or anything you’d like. Some people prefer to type on a document or use a website to journal too. An electronic journal can be helpful if you have concerns about keeping your journal private. You can also password protect files on your computer or use a journal website with a login function. It may take some time and practice to get comfortable with journaling, and that’s okay!
How do I Journal?
If possible, begin by finding a quiet space to journal. You can also use headphones or listen to music if that helps. Take a few moments to reflect on your day and how you’re feeling in the moment. Sometimes it can be difficult to start journaling, especially if you have a lot of thoughts and feelings or you don’t know how to put them into words. Remember to be gentle with yourself. Journaling is just one form of self-care and expression; it does not have to be perfect. You can journal however often you would like. Some people find a routine to be helpful, like journaling every morning when they wake up, and others just journal when they feel they need a cathartic space to express their thoughts and feelings.
Different Types of Journaling
There are many different types of journaling. Some of these you might enjoy, and some you may not. You might also enjoy a combination!
- Stream of Consciousness/Brain Dump: This type of journaling doesn’t have to be chronological or orderly. Sometimes it can be helpful to get all the things in our brain out and into our journal. This could look like making a list, just writing whatever comes to mind, or anything that feels helpful.
- Prompts: Some people benefit from having a prompt, whether it’s the same prompt every day or a different one. There are journals you can purchase that have daily prompts, or you can find some online and choose what interests you.
- Art Journaling: When it’s hard to put things into words or you’re someone who really loves art and feel like that’s the best way to express yourself, art journaling can be a great option. You can draw, sketch, or paint in a way that expresses your thoughts and feelings.
- Scrapbook: This is another type of journaling that can serve as a creative outlet. You can cut out images, quotes, use stickers, or anything inspiring you find and stick them in your journal. Whenever you’re looking for inspiration, you can reflect on what you’ve gathered and created.
- Quotes: Have you ever read a quote that really resonates with you? Adding in quotes, their authors, and where you found it can also help you to connect with books, movies, tv shows, blogs, and other forms of media that are affirming and validating.
- Habit or Emotions Tracker: This helps to track habits, such as making a note of each day that you practice self-care. You can also track your emotions. Some people do this by choosing a certain color to represent an emotion and then filling in a calendar square for how they felt that day. This can be helpful if you want to reach a goal and become more mindful of where your emotions may be stemming from. For example, you may notice that you have a pattern of feeling nervous before a certain class, and you can begin to think of self-care and coping strategies to help with that.
What is Self-Care?
When we are busy or feeling overwhelmed, we can take some time out of our day to take care of ourselves. We can also do self-care even if we are feeling really good. Self-care is a practice of taking care of ourselves, replenishing ourselves when we need it, and maintaining our care when we are feeling good. Self-care can also involve setting and honoring our boundaries. Self-care doesn’t have to be something big and time consuming. It can be as simple as taking a few moments to ground yourself, breathe, and take care of your immediate needs.
How can I use Journaling for Self-Care?
Before you begin journaling, you may find it helpful to practice some grounding techniques. For example, grounding yourself by describing in detail a few items that are around you. You can also say out loud a few things you are grateful for. Another helpful grounding technique is to use positive affirmations. You can try taking a deep breath in and when you exhale, think of an affirmation in your mind such as “I am enough.”
Journaling can help bring awareness to your thoughts, feelings, and the present moment. As a form of self-care, journaling can help you understand what worked or didn’t work for you while managing the day. Reflecting can help you gain some insight as to what’s going on around you and decompress some of the stress or anxiety you may be feeling. Journaling can help to identify triggers that lead to stress and how to better plan for managing that stress. Journaling can also help to increase your tolerance of distressing or ambiguous things. It can also help to identify things that you enjoy, and in doing so, you can jot down future plans to meet with a friend or watch your favorite show. Journaling helps us to recognize what we have control over and what we don’t. It can also help to recognize our strengths and support systems.
We’d like to note that it’s important to feel your feelings and give yourself the space to address them in a way that feels best for you. Or even to not address them in that moment. We want to be mindful that a drawback of journaling can be that it has the potential to reinforce the difficult or negative things we’ve experienced or are thinking and feeling about ourselves. If you find that your journaling efforts start to make you feel worse instead of better, it may be helpful to take a break, reach out for support, and try different forms of self-care. You can choose whatever is going to be the most supportive for you in expressing your thoughts and feelings.
If you want to learn more about different forms of self-care or if you find that your journaling practice starts to bring up things you would like to talk about, SSAC is here to support you. You can Request Support on our website, ssac.gmu.edu.
- Microsoft Word – LearnAboutJournaling.docx (ummentalhealth.info)
- 7 of the Best Types of Creative Journaling You Should Try (lemonyfizz.com)
- Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal (berkeley.edu)