Journaling is a passion of mine for many reasons and also is my preferred method of self-care. I began to journal when I was in middle school. At this time in my life, I really struggled with expressing my emotions to others and even understanding what I was feeling. Journaling provided a safe outlet for me to let my thoughts and emotions flow freely. As I became more comfortable and familiar with journaling, I discovered that not only did it help me understand what I was feeling, but also, revealed to me many underlying emotions and connections I was not aware of. For example, let’s say you are journaling about a fight with your significant other. You may begin by describing the fight, even including some dialogue and what you were thinking or feeling at various points in the argument. Soon, your pen is flying across the page and you are no longer consciously thinking in a linear manner. What I mean is, you stop focusing on providing a detailed and accurate description of your fight. Instead, you find yourself writing about your fear of rejection, or something an ex once said that still bothers you, or maybe even about fights between your parents that you witnessed as a child. All of a sudden you realize why this fight impacted you so much. The self-discovery that comes with journaling is invaluable and you’ll find yourself thinking “I didn’t even know…” 

Journaling is also a wonderful way to decide what you want to say to someone. For those moments when you feel angry but not sure why, when you’re nervous about how a conversation is going to go, or maybe you are someone who feels as if they never explain themselves correctly. In this case, it can be very helpful to write it out beforehand. This will help you feel more prepared and also ease some of the anxiety we feel before an intimidating conversation. Additionally, this is a way to guarantee that you say everything you feel is important. Ask yourself what do you really want the other person to know? Is there something you want done differently in the future? What is really worth saying and will help achieve the outcome I want.

The best advice I can give to someone about journaling, is to truly make it your own and go in with an open mind. In other words, don’t set any rules!  A common misconception of journaling is that it has to be a daily record or your life and many people set a goal of journaling every single day. When we approach journaling from this mindset, it becomes one more item on our to-do list and increases our level of stress. This is setting yourself up for failure because it is inevitable that you will miss a day. Then, the next day, when it is time to journal the idea of it, is exhausting, because now I have to write about two days. Two days becomes a week, a week becomes a month, and so on. In doing so, we lose some of the potential benefits of journaling. So, make your journal whatever you think would fit your lifestyle and your needs the most. If journaling every day is a realistic goal for you, great! Just know that it doesn’t have to be. 

Here are some examples of things I have incorporated into my journal:

  • When a memory from my childhood pops up and I want to record it
  • A dream I had
  • When I have a really great day or a really bad day. 
  • Going a first date/starting a new relationship
  • My career: things I like about my job, when I have any kind of success at work, what I want in the future…
  • A fight with someone: how I felt in the moment, what I wish I would have said, what was holding me back and how I feel now.
  • To decide if how I am feeling now about something or someone is worth a conversation (is this still going to be bothering me a week from now?)
  • Where do I want to be in a month? A year? 2 years?
  • Things I learned from my family
  • What kind of parent I want to be in the future
  • Writing letters to people (someone I never had the chance to thank, someone I miss, someone who really influenced me but may not know it, someone who inspires me, and even my future self)
  • The stories my grandparents tell me, that I don’t want to forget
  • Moments when I felt embarrassed or shy
  • Things I regret and what I would have done differently
  • Making goals and breaking them down into small achievable steps
  • Writing down quotes I really like
  • A place to store letters, cards, photos and ticket stubs. 

Whatever you write about, however, you do it; make it meaningful for you. When we free ourselves of expectations, rules, and guidelines, we open ourselves up to a limitless experience that can change and adapt with us; providing us with what we need and want at any given moment. Your journal can take on a new form every single day or stay the same; make it whatever you want, but make it something that works for you.

Want weekly journal prompts? Check out Instagram and Facebook @acceptingtherapy for journal prompt Sunday!