Journaling… that’s actually just writing in a diary, right? Not quite!
Keeping a diary is wonderful, but journaling goes a bit further. Usually journaling has a specific purpose: to gain more clarity about some aspect of one’s life, to stop the carousel of thoughts, to cope with grief, or much more.
As a form of writing with healing properties, it was already used as a therapeutic method in the 1960s and is still used today; either individually or as part of coaching or therapy. Many different variations are used, sometimes working with journaling, sometimes using free writing to tap into the unconscious. If you want to get a first overview of journaling methods, have a look here.
So why is journaling so healing?
Contact with yourself
Unfortunately, many people today have forgotten to listen to themselves and their inner voice – outside influences have become too loud, especially through increased media consumption. By allowing yourself a few minutes with yourself every day and regularly asking yourself what’s on your mind and giving your thoughts and feelings space, you stay in touch with yourself. This makes it easier to distinguish whether what you are feeling at the moment really comes from within or is rather an “I should” instilled from the outside. Knowing your own authentic needs is the important first step on the path to more self-care.
It’s a funny thing about our brains. The amazing machine in our head can play many tricks on us. You see, the brain is designed to keep us safe – not happy. Therefore, our attention is automatically more receptive to negative impulses. We are supposed to be able to react quickly and thus keep ourselves safe. Unfortunately, this well-intentioned mechanism only ensures that in situations that can be interpreted both positively and negatively, we tend to pay more attention to the negative aspects and often see risks rather than opportunities, problems rather than solutions. With journaling, we can train ourselves to focus more on the positive. By regularly writing down what we are grateful for or what was beautiful about a day, we develop a sharper eye for the positive aspects of our lives.
Oftentimes, a racing mind underlies the fact that we have difficulty concentrating. There’s a movie on TV, but we’re still checking our social media and stirring the cooking pot at the same time. Our mind is overwhelmed! With journaling, i.e. concentrated writing without distractions and external influences, we give it a break and help it to focus. A method called Brain Dump is particularly suitable here, whereby you write incessantly for a period of at least 15 minutes without putting down the pen. If you can’t think of anything else to write, that’s exactly what you’re writing – that you can’t think of anything right now. With regular practice, your mind will become less erratic and therefore take you to places you want to avoid less often.
Now, if you feel like getting more involved with journaling, but you’re still at the very beginning, feel free to read on here.