Why journal, you mutter to yourself, while you consider both the mundanity, absurdity, and general patternlessness of your life. There’s several objective benefits to the practice:
- Provides some of the benefits of meditation. It enhances the ability to be mindful and aware, and has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression.
- Conflict resolution.
- Goal-setting, accountability and achievement tracking.
- Over time, it helps you see what serves you, and what doesn’t. Certain behaviors, certain places, people.
- “Reframing your personal narrative”. This is a psychological term meaning that actively reviewing your past helps you change how you view yourself, others, and the past. We all get stuck in these weird storylines about ourselves, really. You know how in dysfunctional families there’s a “golden child”, “scapegoat”, “lost child”? You’ve, over the years and unintentionally, largely, have taken on a persona in your head based on relatively random events, it may not be serving you… Journaling, depending on how you do it allows you to move out of the role of how you immediately perceived a thing, to a calmer, more analytic stance. example:Let’s say you realize you’re in an unfilling relationship, and then you realize that bam! you’ve been doing the same thing with completely different people, in completely different places for over ten years. Now who’s the asshole?
- Healing. While the primary help of journaling is untangling yourself from free-floating head garbage like unprocessed events, anxiety, depression, and getting clarity. You know what a mental loop is? Just a pattern of thoughts that repeat themselves until you want to ameliorate your ability to be conscious and aware, even? You know, that everyday occurence? :p
- Lightens memory load. Humans have terrible short term memory. Instead of trying to keep track of x things accurately, write it down to par down the amount of crap floating in your head…it reduces anxiety.
- Anti-gas-lighting device. While we all can argue about intent and motivation, a written record of events helps. It reveals patterns in relationships with others, patterns in your own behavior… additionally, I’ve found that I remember events better if I write about them.
- Non-performative youness. An additional benefit of journaling is the unjudged and unheard ability to dump feelings and thoughts on paper. While it’s not quite the same as a best friend or therapist, maybe you have some sensitive information that you’d rather not worry about getting out.
Different Types of Journals
Not all journals need to be wordy, life focused tomes. Here’s some options:
- Gratitude journaling. You know what? This is the lamest sounding crap I have ever heard of, but listing 5-10 things you’re grateful for, everyday, no repeats, will change how your mind works and how you perceive reality.
- Quotes. Keep a list of inspiring or just plain interesting quotes culled from reading, life, and other sources.
- Learning. Sort of like taking notes on school, but it helps you by forcing you to restate what you’re learning and forming further associations to your life.
- Morning pages/stream of conciousness. Probably the easiest to start with, this requires you only write what’s on your mind for a set amount of time/length. To do the “morning pages” (from Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”) properly, you write down what random craps in your head for three pages each morning. It also has the effect of calming your nerves and helping you focus for the day.
- Exercise/food journalling.
- Lists. Useful lists, meaningless, funny lists…go for it!
- Idea journal. Good for writing/poem ideas, ideas for art, random life plans? Keep all your potential and schmatta here. Sort and refine ideas here, etc.
- Poetry, your own or others. Separated, dated, etc. Used to have a collection of meaningful poems and a selection of my own finished wares….digging for that, lol.
- Values. Ascertain your values, and document trying to apply them to your own life. A Stanford study was done on this, it helps you be less of an asshole and reduces illness and depression.
- Recovery/Daily Reflections. You know those books that have a daily meditation in them? Write it down and write about your reactions, its relevancy to your life, how you can fold that little snippet into your day.
- Internal dialogue. Create names, roles, and voices for the different parts of your consciousness and let them converse with each other.
- Stuff to do. Kinda like a bucket-list, but less intense.
Aims & Objectives
A lot of what you get out of journaling depends how you do it, as well, and if there’s a weakness with a lot of information on journalling, IT’S THAT THEY NEVER TELL YOU HOW THE HELL TO DO IT. There is definite room for freedom here, obviously, but there’s not enough focus on what aims and objectives you
With my own journalling, I focused too much on conflict, contradiction, emotions, etc. I’m a very internal person, so I’ve ingrained a lot of bad “thought habits” over the years, don’t know how much can be blamed on journalling itself, but I feel (incorrect mental habits) with this practice encouraged passitivity and a negative focus on self.
My advice is to go into this practice with a focus on finding solutions and being kind to yourself and others. We’re all learning. ❤
Scheduling and Ritual
Depending on your personal ability/interest here, setting some kind of scheduled time or frequency helps before this becomes an ingrained habit.
A new idea for me is intentionally writing in different places, say a park or a coffee shop vs. the usual. It does change the state of mind, and it’s interesting to have your focus changed while writing.
The concept of lighting a candle, pouring some tea is quite nice and might be a worthwhile endeavor. Writing after exercising and toward the end of the day are both quite nice. The mind state is more relaxed, a little worn-out and also calmer, generally.
Music is important, as well. Depending on if lyrics bother you or not, or what you’re trying to convey, it’s worth-while to explore different types of ambient music and classical.
Go-tos for me are Mogwai, autechre, Brian Eno…
The Ultimate Guide to Journaling by Hannah Braime. How-to, prompts, guides..