ART OF JOURNALING
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
Following are selected examples to get your creativity
flowing. Be sure to add your own style and make up your own rules.
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
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.
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.
up questions to ask yourself and write what comes to mind.
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.
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.
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.
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
a gratitude list and expand it until you get a feeling
that you have obtained whatever your goal is at the moment.
inspiring literature and write your reaction.
9. Record your dreams and write your reaction.
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.