Journaling, they say, is good for the heart and soul. For years I have kept a journal. When in deep therapy mode, I have scribbled every sob and angst. As a gift to one of my therapists, I once photocopied what I had written out verbatim from the audio recordings of over 35 sessions—a journal and half of emotional stuff. I crack it open when it serves me, on average two or three times a week. Journaling can indeed strengthen your personal resilience, and bring comfort to your heart, mind, and soul.
Most of us are familiar with Ann Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl but did you know that comedian Red Skelton also wrote in a journal, albeit in a different way than Anne did.
Anne used her journal as a diary, a friend in which she could confide her worst fears and her sacred hopes. The journal did not judge and was available any time she was free to write.
Red Skelton, in his later years, wrote a story a day and I heard that throughout his career, he recorded on a daily basis five facts he learned, five funny experiences, and five appreciations. Remember his over 100 characters including Heathcliff, the seagull? Heathcliff and his other memorable characters may have been conceived through thoughts captured in his daily journal writing.
There are as many ways to journal as there are reasons. First the reasons.
You may decide to use a journal for the following reasons:
- To record your brilliant ideas, words, thoughts and inspirations. They seem dazzling at the time.
- To document the progress and stories of your children. Perhaps you will create a separate journal for each child. Some of my greatest stories of my children, Kelly, Ben and Katie are recorded in my journals. Here is one of my favorite family history stories: One spring day, three-year-old Benjamin asked me about what he saw in the garden. I told him it was a crocus, which meant spring was here. 15 minutes later I could not find him around the house. I went looking and found him going door to door down our street. When the neighbor opened her door she was faced with a little boy joyously yelling, “News! News! Spring is here!”
- To capture key points of lectures, articles, and books.
- To write prose or poetry. Here’s one of mine:
You are so hard on yourself
Harder than any blackard could be.
Please be kind to yourself.
See yourself as deserving
A life as equal to the one
You would so willingly and caringly wish to me.
- To collect quotes, jokes or trivia.
- To record your goals of what you want to do, to have and to be…and then to track your progress. Remember the story of the young man who at 16 years of age wrote down the 100 goals he was going to achieve by the time he was 40? He did, including paddling down the Amazon River and making a million bucks. He became famous, but not famous enough for me to remember his name.
- To serve as a confidant or friend where you can reveal anything.
- To provide a therapeutic focus for your internal world. Sometimes this is called “pouring your heart out.” To get in touch with feelings you can write, “Today when (event)…I felt…” Another technique is to write to one part of yourself such as the vulnerable child and then write back to yourself in dialogue. Usually, the non-dominant hand represents the child ego state.
- To allow words to come through you like Emmanuel or Neal Donald Walsch did in Conversations with God.
- To glue bits of paper and, perhaps love notes. Darn! I wish I hadn’t thrown away the dozens of sweet messages my husband, Les sent me from the days of our youthful and romantic glow.
- To sketch, doodle and give form to creative images.
How to Journal
Now for the many ways to go about keeping a journal.
The primary way to journal is to put your thoughts and feelings on paper!
I have recorded tender conversations from which I want to learn a lesson for myself. Other entries are inspired from watching TV–Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Phil McGraw, and sometimes the educational channel. I glue in little fact and editorial bits collected from Time magazine, Psychology Today, and the Calgary Herald. My journal goes with me to workshops, church services, and lectures.
Sometimes I use the contents to write an article like this. I operate with a working journal. My Joke Journal is separate with jokes that fit my personality and I can tell with some effectiveness.
For a half a year, I followed Julia Cameron’s suggestion in her book The Artist’s Way and wrote morning pages every day whether I wanted to or not. I must say the frustration of writing pages of words when I really didn’t want to led to some interesting prose.
I also practiced as Oprah suggested keeping a Gratitude Journal. I did that for over a year in concert with my other spontaneous logs. Recording five gratitudes every night did brighten and lighten my outlook.
You can print, write, scribble, doodle, draw, paint, and glue!
Journal for YOU!
Ultimately, journaling is for you and about you.
- Do you want it to be practical by using a wire-ringed notebook or do you want to invest in an exquisite and beautifully bound product?
- What about your pen—a workhorse or an elegant quill? Do you want to exercise discipline by making an entry every day or do you want to be more spontaneous writing during creative bursts?
- Do you want a special, perhaps sacred place to write or do you want to record when your life takes interesting turns?
Dating your pages provides a useful reference. If it is a private diary, consider how you will keep it safely out of others’ hands.
Write on! Do it your way! Go for it!
If you journal, in what ways have you found it useful? If you are struggling to get started, leave me a comment or question and I’ll be sure to respond.
Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.