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By: Betty Hughes, Ph.D., LMHC

The art of journaling as referred to here is the free-form writing about thoughts and feelings as they flow from the mind. Grammar and spelling are not important. Staying with a particular subject is not important. It does not even have to be completely legible. What is important is allowing your inner world to communicate in whatever way seems to work at the time you are writing. No criticism is allowed unless the purpose of that writing is to become more aware of the criticism and the role it plays in your life. Journaling is not the same as keeping a diary, although diary-like items may be written in a journal.

Journaling is frequently recommended as an adjunct to the process of psychotherapy. It can also be used as a general self-help technique. Please note, however, that journaling may bring up feelings that need to be shared with a psychotherapist or with a trusted friend.

There are as many ways to experience journal writing as there are creative ideas. Find the one that works for you. Find a time that works for you. Find a place to write and writing materials that are comfortable and private. If privacy cannot be assured, you might consider keeping your journal in a locked cabinet or you might consider shredding the material as soon as it has served its purpose.

Following are selected examples to get your creativity flowing. Be sure to add your own style and make up your own rules. Get creative!

1. Write Morning Pages (detailed in The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron).
Write at least three pages first thing every morning in order to empty your mind of any negativity and/or to jump-start your creative process. Write in the form of free-association where you capture on paper as many thoughts as you can. Sometimes thoughts will come faster than you can write. That’s okay. Jot down as much as possible, even fragments. If morning is not a good time for you to write, then choose any other time that works for you.
Notice how you feel after you write in this way. If you feel more centered and connected to your inner guidance, if it makes you feel happy or inspired, then continue the process. If you feel anything negative, then tweak the process until you make the right fit. You could try ending the morning pages with something positive or you could add your own creative flair. Remember, this is only one way to write in a journal. If it does not work for you, then find something that does work for you.

2. Write about positive aspects (detailed in The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent by Esther and Jerry Hicks).
Choose a few topics and write as many positive things as you can about each. For example, write all the positive aspects you can think of regarding your house, your body, your relationship, or your work. The idea is to deliberately choose to focus your mind on as many positive things as you can, ignoring the negative completely. This exercise can be helpful when you find yourself becoming overly critical and want to turn your thinking around.
Notice how you feel. Remind yourself that everyone and everything has the full continuum of aspects, from negative to positive. Notice that when you focus on the negative, you tend to become more critical and unhappy. When you focus on positive aspects, life seems just a little more pleasant or more fun. You may be able to relax more when you deliberately choose to think of positive things. Continue writing in your journal about the impact of deliberately choosing to think about positive aspects.

3. Make up questions to ask yourself and write what comes to mind.
Examples are:
a. Who are you? Write about your roles, your history, your sense of your inner self. What is your culture and how do you fit in? What are your beliefs or your goals? Write about as many aspects of yourself as time allows.
b. What inspires you or motivates you? When was the last time you became energized by a project or excited about anything in the future? What do you remember about how that got jump-started?
c. What job would you choose if money or education were not an issue? What do you think you would like most about that job?
d. Write about your present job. What do you like about it and what changes would you like to make either now or in the future.
e. What is your purpose in life? If you cannot think of a purpose, make up a purpose and notice how you feel about your fictional purpose. Is it something you would like to keep as a purpose?
f. Make a list of your top twenty priorities in life. Notice how these priorities change over time and circumstances.

4. Use your imagination to dialogue with your inner child (or any earlier part of you). Write it as a conversation, where you first write a sentence or a question labeled as your role; then write a sentence or question labeled as your younger self. Go back and forth in writing until you get a sense that you are expressing some creative aspect of you. If this creates negative feelings, then put it aside until you have emotional support. If the result is a feeling of respect and reassurance, then continue the process.

5. Use your imagination to dialogue with your inner guidance or soul or higher self. Ask and answer questions back and forth. Writing an imagined dialogue is helpful in many ways and can bring about a sense of resolution or peace. However, if the dialogue feels negative in any way, that is your guidance telling you that now is not the time for this practice.

6. If you are in conflict about something, try writing each side of the conflict. Remember that there is an “up” side and a “down” side to everything so be sure to include both.

7. Write a gratitude list and expand it until you get a feeling that you have obtained whatever your goal is at the moment.

8. Read inspiring literature and write your reaction.

9. Record your dreams and write your reaction.

10. Write a script of a perfect day. Be sure to focus on happy thoughts and feelings that would result from your perfect day.

In conclusion, for some people, personal journal writing can deepen their therapeutic process while they are in therapy. It can also provide a deeper understanding at any time. But it is not for everyone and does not work at all times. It is simply a tool to try. Use it only if it makes you feel better. Only you can decide.




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