Journaling - A wonderful habit to acquire
Journaling with a twist – the journal of self-compassion
Writing a journal of self-compassion on a regular basis is a really effective way to express your emotions and has been found (research again) to enhance your mental and emotional well-being.
Journaling is not writing a diary it is about writing about how we feel and have been triggered by events in the day. Journaling is about writing down things that you have felt bad about (the manager who chewed our ear off for being late with a report) …, things where you have judged yourself (I could have handled that better), experiences that have been difficult for you (perhaps you got mad at the man driving the car in front because he was not quick enough out of that junction and your fist hit the horn at the same time as you shouted a rude comment). Afterwards you may have experienced shame, embarrassment, guilty, anger. People are often surprised by how many emotions we can experience, even a subtle change in the external experience can change out internal response.
As we move forward in these blogs, I am going to suggest you start a journal.
Tip 1 – You don’t have to keep a paper journal
Now I like to start with a nice new book and a new pen – but I’m old fashioned and this approach may not suit everyone. Perhaps the feel of a keyboard is better for you. Some people cut pictures out of a book, some people draw and colour in (art journaling) – really let’s be honest it does not matter how you do it – what matters is doing it with hope and optimism, the researchers are right and you get an enhancement in your physical and emotional well-being.
There are also some great gratitude apps which will give you daily hints of how to get started.
Tip 2 – it does not have to be completed at the SAME time every day but it should be every day
The only best time rule to do your journaling is the time that suits you best. I like to journal last thing at night, that way I can try to end my journal on self-kindness reflection -acknowledging what I have felt and letting it go. The question to ask is what you want to get out of journaling and make the time suit this aim.
Journaling needs time and, let’s be honest, when things are going seriously wonky the last thing the majority of us want to do is take up the Jane Austin poise and start writing. BUT it is exactly at times like this we need to journal. Difficult events make us feel unmotivated and down. Journaling makes us do something, even when we least want to. It releases the stuff we have inside onto paper. This process alone helps us to start making sense of the world around us and how we are reacting to it. I will let you into a little secret I don’t want to really do this at the moment, as I am really down however, I am doing it and this small act gives me hope and something to occupy me at a time when I could easily get lost in my sorrow.
Tip 3 – you are not alone
Lots of people journal and sometimes it can really help to find a group of like-minded people. Connecting to people who may be strangers but have a shared interest with you is helpful as well as energising. As we move on with this series of blogs, we will look at the concept of common humanity and how it can sometimes help us move forward by considering the fact that others may also be in the same situation. Look for local writing groups and join in.
Tip 4 – Rome was not built in a day – nor will your journaling skills!!
I found journaling really difficult to begin with, it was a record of my day. Trying to access my emotions was really demanding. I had got some fantastic coping strategies mainly involving pushing things away and just allowing my judgements to be accepted as ‘true’. Journaling is not always easy, writing down what has upset you in the day can be that something that has happened or something you have done in hindsight you wish you had done differently, it can be draining. Just at the moment you want to forget it and move on you need to write it down. As time goes on it is getting easier. I am able to be less judgemental on myself and how I have reacted often reflecting that I am not the finished product, I am and always will be a work in progress. My biggest challenge is not letting the views of significant others become my world truth and by journaling I am learning how to have a different, more healthy perspective. In summary start small and keep your expectations realistic.
Tip 5 – I have an mental block – I can’t think of anything to write.
When you start to journal, you realise not every day brings you a wealth of material for you to reflect on. Some days are relatively smooth. If you get days like this, it’s not really important what you write – rather it’s important to keep the habit going. Pick things you are grateful for, try to fill your journal with these thoughts. I have learnt to try and ask questions like despite all the bad what can I learn from today? Or my partner has really hacked me off – but what is it about them I value and respect.
Tip 6 - Change the vibe
Try to change where you journal, especially if it seems really difficult fo you. It could just be the place is not right for you. I am typing this as I sit at my dad’s in Spain looking out across the mountains. Its chilly, I have a jacket on but the change of location has helped me really focus in on my place in the world it has helped me think about how and what I write in a different way. So if it seems tough get up and try another place, there will be somewhere you feel comfortable and at ease and this spot will become yours to own.
Tip 7 – Make the journal easily available
Your journal can be a great replacement for scrolling your smart phone flicking through tik-tok videos. The photo of the bag opposite made me smile - now that is taking journalling to the next level !!
It can be incredible rewarding to write down your sensations and feelings as you experience them. Ok so starting to write in the middle of a dinner party is not a great idea ‘smashing party, love the starter !!’ but at times when you have that unexpected space and time use it to your advantage.
Tip 8 – Stress management
Journaling is a really effective form of therapy and its absolutely free … happy days.
If I am feeling frazzled, overwhelmed and exhausted it helps to get it out – its cathartic. Often I can be several pages in (ok my writing is quite big) when I realise things have started to feel easier and a bit clearer. There is a separation from me and my difficulties and I always try to work around to how can things can be viewed in a different light? I do not re-read my journal but others do. For me journaling represents a moment in time however, for the people who do read their journals they say it can help them realise things are not quite as bad as they seem.
Tip 9 – Don’t allow your journal to be a place of self-indulgence
Journaling is something that should be beneficial and help you move forward. If you wallow in your problems or constantly blame yourself for what is happening this is unlikely to be beneficial. I have found it a wonderful way to get things down on paper and to let off steam however, after that there needs to be a way forward to your difficulties, solutions can be found or even in the darkest moments you can go back to ‘gratitude’ until a way emerges out of the darkness.
Tip 10 – For your eyes only
Journaling is wonderful but it relies on us feeling safe and secure in being able to write down exactly how we are feeling and therefore it is really important to keep your journal private.
There are real dangers in allowing others to read your journal for example it may become harder to write truthfully and express your emotions, you may not write for self-awareness rather you write to impress others or to make a point.
Now I am not suggesting a spell bound Harry Potter charm box to keep your journal in but I would advise in keeping it secure and safe, especially if it is a notebook journal.
So journaling – it can be a really beneficial way to start self-care and self-kindness. Its power comes from being able to get things down that are bothering you or feelings you may be experiencing and then working through how you can re-process your thoughts in a gentler more forgiving fashion.
In the next blog I will start looking at the three main areas associated with self-compassion namely self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness until then happy journaling
Have a wonderful week