Questions and Answers
Q-“Why would I keep a journal? My life isn’t that interesting.”
A-Your life is probably more interesting than you think. (And I am not suggesting that it has to be published.) It’s for you and nobody else. Keeping a journal is a way to support yourself through all the racing thoughts and worries you have. It can be a pep talk for yourself when you need it. Maybe you are worried about a job interview or a confrontation with a boss or a loved one with whom you have been having a misunderstanding.
Keeping a journal helps you prepare for difficult situations or make decisions.
When you journal you can work on being your own best friend. Are you your own ally or your worst critic ever? You can catch yourself being self-critical and talk back to those thoughts.
Q-“What if someone reads it?”
A-The question of what if someone reads it is an important one.
If you have had someone read your journal you know that can feel like a terrible violation. While I prefer to handwrite my journals, a lot of people use their devices and in that case, create a strong password and change it often perhaps. Unless your journal stalker is a hacker, you are probably okay. Other than that it is about finding a safe hiding spot. And if you have someone in your life that can’t be trusted, there’s a relationship you really need to reassess.
Q-“I kept a diary as a kid, but wouldn’t it be silly now?”
A-More and more we are realizing that things we did as kids were actually pretty great. Adults now try very hard to find creative ways to cope with life and a journal is a great coping strategy. It isn’t any sillier than endlessly feeling overwhelmed about decisions you should make and how you have created this very serious life for yourself.
Q-“I’m bad at it because I don’t write in it every day.”
How often you write in your journal is entirely up to you. Part of why it is so great is that it isn’t graded and there’s not one way to do it. You get to decide what sort of paper and pen, what style you will write in, whether you write or type. It’s all up to you.
Q-“I don’t have time to write in a journal.”
A-Like everything else this is a matter of finding the time. If you decide it has value to keep a journal, you will find time.
Some people journal at the beginning of the day. It may help them organize their thoughts and uplift their mood. It can be part of their morning ritual. Some people take time for quiet meditation and prayer, maybe a cup of tea and some daily inspirational readings, even some yoga if that’s your thing.
Some people prefer the end of the day to journal. It can be a nice recap to the day. It can be a time for venting about stress that happened. It might be a good way to just unload some things onto the paper so that your brain more easily let you go to sleep.
Suggestions on What to Write
Automatic writing Just let your stream-of-consciousness flow. Set a 5 minute timer and don’t stop to think about punctuation or what you’ll write. Just keep it flowing.
Letters that you don’t send
Letter to someone with whom you have unfinished business. They might be angry letters or sad letters. Let all the words you would never really say out loud spill out onto the paper.
Love letter to someone you are stuck on.
Letter to your Higher Power, God/Goddess or Higher Self.
Letter from your Higher Power, God/Goddess or Higher Self.
Letter to deceased loved ones.
Letter from your deceased loved ones.
Letter to your Inner Child.
Letter to your future self.
Letter from your future self. There is a website that people use for this, too. futureme.org
Purposely list what you are grateful for. Nothing is too trivial. This is a way you will offset some of the negative emotions and heavy focus you may be giving to how so many things are really hard in your life right now.
You might decide to keep a dream journal by your bed and record what you remember right as you wake up. If you wake up foggy it’s okay to just write fragments. You might decide to draw little pictures instead.
Words of Advice from a Long Time Journal Keeper
There’s a time to journal and a time to do grounding instead.
If journaling is increasing your sense of upset and feeling overwhelmed it is best to get grounded in the present moment again and not be writing about the past or the future.
Be careful reading through old journals.
It can be very interesting to go back and see what you were thinking at a particular time in your life. What people don’t realize sometimes however is how much grief might be elicited by doing this. I am not saying you cannot re-read your journals but be very aware that strong feelings may surface, so only do so with support.
Do Not Store Old Journals Under Your Bed.
I know this sounds like a crazy, old witch telling you a superstition, but it’s true. (And I am a crazy, old witch, so I should know.) There is probably a rule in feng shui about this, too, but I can’t really speak to this. I just know that when I had journals under my bed I had the worst insomnia ever and when I thought to move them to a secure location out of my room I was once again able to sleep restfully.
Journaling is not enough sometimes.
I am one of the most ridiculous DIY people you will ever meet. I cut my own hair before the pandemic, okay? Well, I have kept a journal for about 40 years now. It has helped a lot, but sometimes I just needed more help. You may really need a friend or family member to talk to or a professional for therapy. And writing in your journal before seeking help from someone else might actually improve that situation as well because you will have gathered and organized your thoughts ahead of time. As I say often, it’s hard to do but there is no shame in reaching out for support.