As a writer (and long time aspiring writer), journaling is something I’ve always done. Even as a young child, I had journals to use as diaries, some to use just to make lists, some to write short stories in, and some to come up with ideas for exercises and choreography for dances, just to name a few. It was rare to find me walking around the house without a journal tucked under my arm. And my mom could never take me to the store without my begging for a pretty new journal I happened across.
I stopped journaling sometime in college (because it wasn’t cool enough), but began again a year or two ago. Since then, I’ve changed my thinking and worked through different situations in my life. It helped me to tap into my creativity, find clarity, and sometimes just practice writing. There are many different ways to journal. I’ve tried, and still use, many versions of journaling. They all serve a purpose at different points in time. Three types of journaling that have really had an impact on my life include:
Stream of Consciousness
I began regular journaling again as an adult one summer on a family vacation. I still had the horrible habit of going to bed with a television. But the house we were staying in had only one television and it was in a communal seating area – not really conducive to sleep. So I pulled out my big journal I was using to just take notes, make lists, pull out paper, whatever. I put the date at the top of the page and began to write. That first day, I figured out where the problem in my budget was and ended up laying out a whole new one. The second day, I started to understand my relationship with certain people in my family and came up with ideas to try to begin to mend them. And on and on. (I now journal on a regular basis.)
Stream of consciousness writing simply means just that. Just pull out paper and start writing. Whatever comes to mind, put it on paper. Sometimes, you will find yourself writing gibberish and sometimes you will find yourself addressing major stressors in your life. Just the other day as I was journaling, I found myself doing just that. Venting, rephrasing the question, and brainstorming solutions.
The entry went something like:
“I love my kids so much. Why am I getting so frustrated and stressed out around the same time as when they get home from school? I don’t want to yell at them. I hate when I do that. What is wrong with me??? Wait no bad questions get bad answers, let me try again. What can I do to alleviate the stressful feelings I experience in the evenings?”
Then I started brainstorming solutions. The next day, I worked on implementing many of the ideas I came up with and now, I’m still not perfect, but I am much calmer.
Stream of consciousness journaling has allowed me to work through many issues in my life. It has given me so much clarity and allowed me to sleep so much better. I’m able to clear my thoughts and get everything out of my mind and onto paper. This is my #1 type of journaling that has had the most impact on me and my life.
Visualization journaling involves picturing a future event or a future you and writing about it. You can write in any fashion or as broadly or as specifically as you would like. Picture your future – where you will be when you accomplish your life goals or doing the tasks that you need to do tomorrow (or today depending on the time of day you journal). You can write about how great you feel accomplishing your biggest dream (even if you haven’t yet). Or you can write about how good your morning routine will feel.
“The buzzing sound penetrated Valerie’s ear drum. She sat up and smiled knowing that today she would get one day closer to her goals. It was one more day to experience life. It was one more day to hug her kids and fill their hearts and her own with love. She plodded to the bathroom, put her hair up, and washed her face before beginning her morning workout…”
Visualization journaling helps to keep me on track and keep me motivated. It makes me excited for the future and for accomplishing my goals and dreams.
Gratitude journaling is simply writing down things you are grateful for. I did a post on it last year. Simply get out a journal and write down 3 things you are grateful for. The first few days are easy. I was able to rattle off things like “my kids, my health, my kids’ health, etc” no problem. But I challenged myself to name 3 different things every time.
Gratitude journaling can easily be done at night or in the morning. I like to journal at night before bed. It calms me and puts me in a good mindset for calming sleep. Doing my gratitude journaling at night, slows me down, and gives me a chance to really think through my day, and all the beauty and happiness it has brought me. Some people (including Tony Robbins) advocate for gratitude in the morning because it is a good way to start the day off on the right foot. My opinion is that the best option is whatever works best for you. Either way, feeling grateful and feeling miserable cannot happen at the same time.
No matter what time of day it is, thinking about things you are grateful for will retrain your brain to search for the positive in any situation. I often find myself searching for the good in any given situation, not only because I’ll need something to write in my journal that night, but because my brain is now trained to find the good now.
Do You Journal?